If you’re trying to make a change and it isn’t working, its all too easy to blame lack of willpower, berate yourself as a failure or blame outside influences. We all do it! How many times have I blamed eating too much cake on somebody’s birthday in the office, or not getting a bit of work done on being too lazy. Whilst appeasing you in the moment, these tactics don’t give you the best chance of getting progress going again.
There are 3 other possible underlying reasons why you might be struggling to make a change. It could be that:
•You have an unconscious benefit to maintaining the status quo
•You have an unconscious objection to moving to the new status quo
•or, there’s a competing commitment which is more important to you
Your unconscious brain (the 92-96% of brain activity which you are blissfully unaware of) is programmed to keep you safe and sustain you. Right now, today, the best way it can do this is to maintain the status quo which kept you safe and sustained yesterday, last week, last month, last year. Conscious thinking alone is never going to override this basic human drive. That’s what you’re doing when you try to rely on willpower and why it fails. When you consciously decide to do something different you are often directly clashing with your unconscious drives.
•You decide to do Dry January. You see yourself as a sociable person, and those interactions often involve enjoying a few drinks with friends. There’s a big benefit in having a drink to satisfy your need for social company and your self image as fun and outgoing.
•You set a goal to lose weight and embark on a diet. But over the last six months you’ve bought some really nice clothes which will be too big if you really are successful in dropping two dress sizes.
•And one from a goal session I ran last week: You want to eat more healthily but your husband does all the cooking. Your desire to get involved in shopping and cooking healthier meals competes with your love and respect for him. This is a strong ritual in your marriage and to impact it…. In a worst case disaster scenario….. could damage your relationship or even cause it to fail!
Ask yourself which of these might be impacting you?
Sometimes just getting the underlying reason out can be enough…. Bringing it into you conscious awareness and starting to get the new instruction for what you now want so your unconscious drives can work for you. Sometimes we need some evidence to convince ourselves that the change in status quo or priority is not just OK, but feels good as it allows us to make progress. What experiments could you try to test this out?
Finally, sometimes the simple question ‘What’s stopping you?’ asked with genuine curiosity and listening for the deeper answer can give you all you need to know to get going again.