How to Make the Change that Lasts and that Hurts Less

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Change is the one constant thing happening around us and the one thing most of us are unprepared for. Maybe because change is difficult, challenging, and downright uncomfortable. Mediocrity is easier, but it is something that fills us with unhappiness and a lot of heartaches. In The Fringe Benefits of Discomfort, an article I published earlier this month, I shared the idea that our happiness is directly linked to our growth.

Growth doesn’t happen when we are not ready to change and when we don’t feel the absolute need to keep on expanding our comfort zone. It never happens when we stagnate.

It happens that most of us get so enthusiastic about change and take the plunge to make a complete overhaul of our life, but then what happens next is stressful and very discouraging: we find ourselves back where we started — with huge debts, mounting stress, suffocating relationships, critical and unmet deadlines, same old vices, and a lot more. And we hardly know how it went so wrong.

Change is very important and how we approach it is even more important. Whether you are paying off debt, writing a book, preparing for a wedding, making a career change, losing weight, or pursuing any other major change in life, you’ll have to break your routine, change your lifestyle and vision, and start doing things differently. So how do you make the changes that last and that hurt less? Below are simple ways to achieve the change that really matters and that can last, a change that is sync with your dream for growth and happiness and well-being

  1. Start Small and Make Incremental Changes

You can’t run a marathon if you have never run 100 meters. You can’t lose weight by completely going on fasting. You can’t pay a huge debt accumulated over the years in a single day —except if you won the lottery. You’ll be setting yourself up for a breakdown if you embark on a radical change. Radical change does happen, and it is rare. Like someone giving up on cigarettes after being diagnosed with a medical condition.

But when you start with small changes — like running a hundred meters on your first day and increasing the distance with time, like writing a page per day, like cutting down on some expenses and making small savings — you can be sure to stay in control of the changes, and that you can build the momentum required for a complete overhaul of your life — with time. Small but incremental and consistent changes can completely transform your life into what you want it to be without leaving you exhausted and broken down. This has worked for me in wonderful ways.

  1. Make a Shift in Your Language

Did you know that the way we use language can determine how we work and the results we get? How often do we approach what actually builds us as though it were a burden? You say, “I have to study hard,” or “I have to lose weight,” or “I have to go to work.” We say it as though someone was behind us with a cane, threatening to whip us if we didn’t do what we “have” to do. There is a tinge of negativity in it, and no matter how little it is, it works against us.

Now how would it feel like if you said: “I get to study hard,” or “I get to lose weight,” or “I get to go to work?” Saying you “get” to do something indicates a positive attitude towards what you have to do. It means it’s a privilege for you to do it. It means you love doing it. And this builds an attitude of acceptance for what you want to do. It allows you to bless what you are doing and to create room in your life for it.

When we shift our language, we empower ourselves and find the motivation we need to do whatever we want to do. Negative language, words, and gestures, communicate with our brain, which registers whatever we are facing as negative and communicates it to every part of our body. Negative language robs us of the energy to be committed to what really matters and what works best for us.

Use expressions that allow you to see the benefit of what you are facing and that communicate joy in doing it. Our attitude in whatever we do — our language, in fact — unlocks the mystery and open up wonderful treasures and benefits for us.

Note that your psychological disposition is a powerful factor when it comes to handling change. By using a positive language, you’ll teach yourself to embrace change as something positive, something you can accomplish, and something that moves you toward the fullness of life. Your attitude shifts with your vocabulary. You act like what you say, so be mindful of your choice of words.

  1. Choose to Do One Thing at a Time

Just yesterday my five-year-old son was reading to me. He was so happy to let me see how much he’s learned over time. In the course of the exercise, I starting looking at my phone. He stopped, and said with a pained voice: “Daddy, you’re not listening to me.” It came across as a huge slap on my face. But he was right. Was little Cael!

The incident reminded me about our distractions that get multiplied every day with the increasing gadgets surrounding us. Now, businesses require us to multitask. No wonder you find customer service representatives who talk to you over the phone while engaging other customers on chat lines. Doing multiple things at the same time can give you the impression that you’re working hard and being productive, but it’s just an illusion. You make more errors working on multiple tasks than focusing on one. You spend more time accomplishing your tasks and you don’t give each task the focus it deserves. Multitasking robs you of the joy of enjoying the process.

Just do one thing at a time. You will have more time to devote to it. You will easily assess your progress, and you will give it the focus it requires. If you are from the middle class, it won’t be ideal to pay off debts while buying a new car at the same time. The change will happen faster if it is not done at the same time you are struggling on other things. By investing your time, your money, your strength, and resources on a single change, you have better chances of success than when your attention is divided among numerous changes you want to accomplish.

  1. Think Less about the Results and Focus on the Process

Many of us give up pursuing changes in our lives because we are not getting the results we want. While it is important to visualise the end and be fueled with the image of what you want to achieve, it is wise to not allow this image to make you anxious and impatient. Measure your steps and enjoy the landscape you are walking on. Focus on what you are doing and have fun doing it. As you take little steps towards your goal, you’ll build your strength and your vision will become part of you. However, always remind yourself that what counts most is what you do now, and get to find joy in doing it.

  1. Celebrate Your Successes and Milestones

Celebrating a milestone allows you not only to express gratitude for what you have accomplished in the past, but it also creates a very positive vibration, one that allows you to connect even more intimately to your vision. Gratitude is a powerful reminder of the bigger change you are about to undertake and it reinforces the positive mindset you have about what you want to accomplish.

The above are some of the facts and steps you can take to implement the change that lasts and that is less painful. It has worked like magic in many areas of my life, especially when it comes to doing the things that matter most to me like writing a book, creating time for my family, and doffing a negative habit. It has worked wonderfully for many people and — I believe — it will work so well for you, too.

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