How to Make Change Happen and How to Make It Stick

Jan 27, 2020

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” —Socrates

To move forward, we must walk forward.

The present is in our control; conversely, the past is cemented, complete and cannot be changed.

With January nearing its end, checking on our progress as it pertains to our resolutions, is helpful because even if we have had missteps or stepped off the treadmill so to speak (or literally) more days than we had planned, it is not too late to keep the progress moving forward.

Often the change we seek is a result of reflecting upon what is not working in our lives, for one reason or another not supporting the life we desire to live. However, as Socrates reminds, when we fixate on the past or what we wish would change, we are expending our energy in the wrong direction.

There is a reason a car cannot go in reverse at a very high speed: It was not designed to be driven backward. Similar to humans, while we need to assess our progress and reflect from time to time, if we gaze too long on the past for positive or negative reasons, we cannot make forward progress. Life is designed to move forward, unless you are a character in Back to the Future.

I have been pondering this quote over the past few days, and even shared it in Saturday’s Ponderings for January. Part of the reason, I have concluded we focus energy on what we would like to change is because it is a known entity. It exists, or did exist, and so it is clear to us. It is known to us. The future, what we would like to see be a part of our life, is not yet crystalized, does not exist for us to experience and trust. And so, as humans being humans, we cling – either consciously or unconsciously – to what we know out of comfort.

In other words, we are fearful that what we hope to change will not. It is important to remind what the difference between fear and doubt are (read this post and then read TSLL’s 2nd book in which I further expand on the difference). Feeling fear due to unknowns is a very good thing and a sign that you indeed know what you want, you just do not know how it will materialize because you have never had it in your life before.

The gift we give ourselves when we focus our energy on what we want is that with each day we lose sight of what we do not want and it therefore can then become permanently a part of our past.

Think about this: Reflect upon your life 10 or 20 years ago, on a behavior that was not helpful that no longer is part of your character and/or behavior. It may take some time to home in on these behaviors because you have not thought about them for years, even decades, and that is of benefit to you.

What we focus on materializes. What we feed, grows.

Instead of trying not to [fill in the habit you no longer want to be part of your life], try instead to focus on what you do want to be part of your daily habits and way of living.

As I tried to go through the exercise I suggest above, I reflected on my life in Pendleton versus my life in Bend – so a span of five years have passed as I have called my Bend home for half of a decade. A simple positive change was how frequently and how often the boys and I walk or are outdoors. Immediately, upon moving to Bend, each day, we walked outdoors, we explored, walked further, tried a new trail here and a new trail there. Instead of focusing on the way of life we used to live – walking solely in our neighborhood – so about 1.5 miles each time, and always on leash – I focused on the opportunity provided and seized it. Norman immediately became more fit and trim (Oscar typically always has been with his high metabolism), sleep became more deep and restorative for all of us and my stress levels lessened overall as well. In no time it seemed, a positive change had become a permanent part of our lives.

The change you seek, and understanding why you are seeking it, is paramount to the way you used to do something or that someone or something you want to let go of. Since the change you seek is new, it will take more energy and more focus initially, so any distraction or sharing of energy you take to look backward will reduce your progress and speed and the cementing of the new change you seek.

Examples of shifting how you approach change:

  • Eating habits:
    • Let go: Thinking about what you should not eat
    • Embrace: Learning how to eat well
  • Minding your mental habits:
    • Let go: Dwelling on other people’s negativity or behavior that you react to in a way that you wish to change.
    • Embrace: Thinking about how you are responding and engaging with others in your day-to-day life
  • Fitness habits:
    • Let go: Looking in the mirror or measuring to determine external success.
    • Embrace: Partaking in physical activities you enjoy and that don’t provoke checking your watch while engaged even if the masses are not pursuing what you choose.
  • Achieving a long-term goal
    • Let go: Doubting that it may not happen and dwelling on the bad habits that could slow you down or thwart your efforts
    • Embrace: Focusing on the small, mini goals that will lead you where you want to go.

One last thought to ponder about realizing the change you seek. The tulips I found at Trader Joe’s this weekend (see above) reminded me that spring is fewer than two months away; however, spring is still a month and a half away. But most importantly, I am not dwelling on the fall that was (longing for it or wishing for it to still be). What am I doing during these weeks of winter? First, I am savoring the time inside my house to create, plan and put into place what I hope to materialize in the spring and months to follow because in order to put in our favor the materialization of what we want, we must understand what is in our control. And what is in our control is the present moment and how we spend it with our time, our mind and our finite energy.

Wishing you a wonderful beginning to this last week in January, and may the change you seek be realized more easily than what you may have thought previously possible.

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5 thoughts on “How to Make Change Happen and How to Make It Stick

  1. Thank you for this inspiring yet practical approach to keep practicing our new habits! “Progress not perfection” has also been helping me to move forward.

    On another note, will you be sharing the winter editions of the travel capsule wardrobes for England & France soon? I really enjoyed the autumn ones. 🙂

  2. Good morning Shannon Thank you for today’s post. I too have taken a leap of faith in looking forward to the spring and bought a fig tree. Currently indoors in a pot (it may have to remain in) I smile every time I see the shoots, imagining home-grown figs avec fromage for lunch! Wish us luck! With best wishes, Sue.

      1. I love the combination of goats cheese and figs …………delicious !
        Have you got a nice sunny sheltered spot outside for it , Sue, or do you have a conservatory ?
        I seem to remember that you live in the North East ?
        Good luck ?
        Best Wishes from the North West
        Anne

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