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Why Making Changes Can Be So Hard

Posted Oct 10 2008 2:13pm
Making changes can be downright hard. You may be stuck in a rut and know you want things to change, but you keep going back to your old habits. Why can't I change, you might ask?

Part of my job as a cardiovascular nurse was to educate and motivate heart patients to change many of their life long unhealthy habits. You see many of those habits were what got them into trouble and now they needed to change. This can be very challenging, to say the least.

Often, there was a pretty typical pattern. A person experienced a heart event and they were scared. This is the time when they're most open to making changes in their lifestyle that were more healthy. But as time passes and they realize they're going to live, they often revert back to the old habits that got them into trouble to begin with. How easy we forget? Those old habits can be difficult to break.

I discovered a principle from none other than Tony Robbins, the motivational speaker. I used to listen to tapes on my 30 minute drive to work. Sometimes I would arrive at work so pumped up depending on who I was listening to on that day.Tony spoke on the topic of human behavior.

Why do you do what you do? He said that our behavior is motivated by the desire to gain pleasure or to avoid pain. And the greater motivator is to avoid pain.

Think about it. Why do you eat that piece of cake when you know that your slacks are tight and you want to lose a few pounds? Or why do you keep smoking when you've heard all the warnings about the danger to your health?

To gain pleasure!

How about avoiding pain? You have a deadline for a project and you procrastinate about completing it. The night before it's due you stay up late to finish it. Why? Because the pain of being unreliable or losing a job is more painful than the pleasure of a good night's sleep.

For real change to take place, we often have to get to the point of threshold. What's threshold? It's when you finally get to the point where not changing is more painful than the pain associated with changing.

You catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and can't believe it. How did this happen? Did you really buy those slacks last month when they fit like a glove? How can they now be so tight? Something's got to change.

Welcome to your threshold! It's actually a good place to be. To continue the same way is finally too painful.

I remember a patient once said to me that he wished he could have a tape of how painful it was after his heart bypass surgery. He would pull it out and watch it every time he was tempted to return to his old habits. The painful reminder of what he went through would be so painful and a reminder to keep up with the new changes.

Where are you at this point? Have you finally reached your threshold? Or are you still at the point of enjoying the pleasure your unhealthy habits bring? I'd love to hear from you.

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