If you’re frustrated and bewildered about why you keep giving up on your good intentions, even when they are things you really want to accomplish, read on.
First, I should tell you...
If you keep trying to do something, even after failing many times, that's a very good thing.
For starters, it shows persistence, which is one of the best indicators of success. Plus, your past failures will have helpful insights to help you going forward.
With some strategic thinking and planning added to what you're already doing right, I bet you can experience more wins!
Check out these common reasons you find it hard to change as well as some strategies to help you turn things around.
1. You Start Many Things at Once
Learning new habits and sticking to them becomes harder to do if you try to make too many changes all at once.
Unless you're off on a retreat, a contestant on a TV show like The Biggest Loser, or you're somehow taking time off from your life and responsibilities, you won't have the time or the focus to dedicate to many changes.
THE FIX: If you're like the average person, I bet there are many realities in your life (such as work, school, relationships, time, and money), that you'll need to plan any new habit/goal around.
Sticking to one new goal at a time honors the time you'll need to learn the correct form, steps, and fundamentals, plus the space to mess up and course correct, considering all the other demands on your time and resources.
2. You’re Not Ready to Change
Change is a funny thing. Sometimes it sneaks up on us, sometimes it hits us over the head. But we don't change until we're mentally ready to.
And how do you become mentally ready?
Well, it depends on where your motivation is coming from.
THE FIX: Check out these types of motivation. No matter where you start out on this chart, you can over time, tap into deeper more sustainable (long-term) connections with your goal.
3. You Don’t Get Help
Many goals and habits that we attempt will have secrets to making them easier. You could spend years being frustrated because you don’t know these secrets, or until you learn them on your own. That is why those people who find the right support group, the right coach or pro, study partner, or resource succeed at far higher percentages.
The following story about how I learned to love playing tennis is a case in point.
Ever since taking tennis for a semester in high school, I developed a love for tennis. It was one of the few sports I wasn’t terrible at and I loved the one-on-one aspect of the game.
Our apartment complex where I lived during high school, had a court so that made tennis accessible. The trouble was, my best friend who I spent every single waking minute with, sucked at tennis. When we played, we were two amateurs running after a ball all afternoon. Eventually, neither of us saw the point of continuing.
After high school, I moved to NYC for college, where, if you wanted to play tennis, you had to pay for the privilege, which I couldn't afford.
Eventually, though, I started dating someone who lived just outside the city and near a free neighborhood tennis court, and it helped that he was a decent player. Because he could return more of my awful plays, I felt the love coming back and I enjoyed playing.
He was a good player, but not a very patient instructor but that didn't matter because I could go to the court to practice my serves against a wall, and I got a wee bit better. One day as I was on the courts practicing, I met someone who was obviously an excellent player, and he invited me to hit some balls with him while he waited for his partner to arrive.
Seeing how green (but eager) I was, he graciously taught me a single adjustment. By tilting my elbow by just a fraction, I would be changing the direction of the ball ever so slightly to get it to go down the middle of the court instead of too far left or right of it, or out of bounds.
With my boyfriend, I was able to practice that tip over and over again, and sure enough, I got better at "the tilt" and began to enjoy the game even more. The next time I ran into the angel tennis player, I roped him into giving me another lesson. He showed me how to follow through with my racket, not just tap the ball, and a few other things that were so simple, but that I would never have learned on my own.
I hope you got my point: When you try to change or improve in areas where coaching or support would be helpful, but you don't get that help, it will take you multiple times longer to perfect your game.
THE FIX: Get help (even if you have to pay for it). Because, in order to stay motivated, we need to see some results. We need to feel hopeful… we need to believe that we can actually get where we want to go, and because we all get busy, having some type of accountability is one of the few ways any of us will get important stuff done.
4. You Don’t Create a System
One of the most critical (and helpful) parts of a successful change process is putting a plan or system in place. But this is not something that most people ever do.
With a plan, you will have solutions ready for "what ifs" like these that might come up.
go on a trip.
start a new project at work.
have guests at home.
have a stressful day or string of days.
And with systems, you will have some type of structure or framework to work within. By thinking ahead of what could stop you and creating systems to help you stay on track, you can overcome many foreseeable hurdles and your own human (what others refer to as self-sabotaging) behaviors.
THE FIX: Use systems and plans as tools, guardrails, and hacks to make things easier for the beginner version of yourself.
A mistake many people make is to expect the current (beginner) version of themselves to perform at a high level right out of the gate. This creates unnecessary frustrations as you're told to find willpower that you don't have... yet.
Pro tip: To help you come up with the systems and plans that will be most helpful to you, look at what caused you to quit previously, and come up with solutions in the event they happen again. Give yourself *training wheels* to help you during those early stages when you're still not quite where you need to be skill and confidence-wise.
5. You Don’t Change Your Environment
One of the simplest and most basic changes that we all must put in place when we're trying to change is to change our environment.
But it's not just the physical environment that you need to change to help you stay the course. It could be the people you are around every day too, because they are part of your environment, and above all, your inner environment or mindset.
If you’re trying to eat better but your family is having Taco Tuesdays and Pizza Fridays, your environment has not changed so you will struggle to stick to your good intentions. Because human that you are, you’re going to eventually want to eat what they are eating!
THE FIX: See #3. Set your environment up for success by willpower-proofing it. Let your family help and support you. Instead of the family's traditional Taco recipes, you can make a game of trying out new healthy tasty taco recipes. And you can do a whole lot of other things to automate good decisions.
The more that you can let your environment do for you, the less willpower you will need.
6. You Lack Self-awareness.
Self-awareness is a foreign concept to many people because we’re more likely to act on automatic than we are to live in the moment.
In fact, some people cringe at the concept of living in the moment. Most of these people are also mortgaging their futures as a result. Because without no-judgment self-awareness you won't come to the insights that propel growth and it will be only after you’ve eaten three donuts that you remember you wanted to cut out sugar!
THE FIX: Meditation is just one of the "flow" exercises that can help you develop self-awareness, but there are many others to help you. As I mentioned in #1, we need to focus when we’re learning new things. And since we naturally run on automatic, just telling ourselves to be more mindful, won’t make us more mindful.
We have to build the habit of self-awareness through behavioral activation therapy. In other words, rewire the brain through positive actions.
Meditation and mindfulness are great tools to help you build self-awareness because they help you to more easily detach from your addictive impulses. They help you slow down to the point where you more quickly notice your patterns and your triggers, in time to make the better choice.
7. You're Focused on the Results, and Not on the Journey
When you focus primarily on results, those days when you didn't do so well become more discouraging than they should be.
But change is a process, a journey. You must keep in mind (mindset shift here) that it will take time to change, and that your performance will vary from day to day. Remind yourself that it's the average of what you do, not a single date in time, that matters most.
THE FIX: Most wellness-based goals such as eating better or becoming an exerciser, will require new lifestyle changes. So, take and seat and buckle in for the journey ahead. Make it sweet, when you can, or find the joy in the benefits you're seeking.
Don't just exercise to be thin. Exercise for the confidence, cognitive agility, better sleep, and anti-aging benefits that you get from it!
There are other great strategies and systems that we teach our members in the Vurb Wellness Club. If you're looking to change your approach to change and learn wellness habits such as how to eat better for life, try the program free for two weeks.