Lifestyle Design: Why changing is so hard. Part One

Beer Gut & Chutney

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If I had my wish,

many things about my life would change. I’d be twenty pounds lighter and in better shape. I would write effortlessly in a persuasive manner, master my emotions and relate to people easily. I would be full of confidence and attack each day eagerly and with great energy. I would be a master of my finances, spending only a portion of my income and managing a business which is growing and profitable.  And that’s just the start.

I haven’t reached any of those goals  – Yet.

I hold those visions before me each day and each day I struggle to move closer but  progress is slow. Each of those goals requires change, breaking the inertia of a lifetime of conditioning. Change isn’t easy and it takes time, commitment and effort. I have to focus on breaking entrenched habits and life-long beliefs long enough for change to happen and then be patient enough to wait for results. These kinds of change take a long time to happen and require concentrated effort. It isn’t easy to persevere, especially when it takes so long to recognize any progress.

We all want an instant solution to problems.

There are always people ready and willing to sell you something that promises a quick solution. Most of them don’t work or if they do solve your problem it is only by creating an even worse one. One of life’s lessons is that quick fixes don’t last. Without a quick fix it is human nature to just live with the problem instead of embracing a long term solution.  Being overweight is an example. I weighed 160  when I finished basic training but by the time I became a responsible family man of 40 weighing 180 was OK. As I approached retirement I was hefting 240 pounds around. It happened gradually and rather than dealing with it I adjusted my norm. Instead of making the changes in lifestyle that would get me back to ideal, I rationalized. I told myself that I wasn’t really fat.  Not fat enough to do anything about it anyway.

Inertia kept me fat and getting fatter.

In order to lose weight, your lifestyle must change. You have to break old habits and form new ones.  It is painful with no short term rewards because you are still fat. You must eat less  and more selectively every day as well as  exercising more. It’s a long term commitment to discipline. In addition, it will take a long time to see the benefit. The belly won’t disappear quickly.  For a long time it is pain without any benefit. No wonder we resist change. Dieting  is inconvenient, unpleasant and unrewarding in the short term. It is a big pain making time for exercise in a busy day.  Why should you deprive yourself of that tasty donut when  one donut won’t make any difference. Losing 80 pounds is going to take months of discipline. You suffer through all the inconvenience but until you finally get it done, you are still fat and feeling deprived.

It is the same with any serious change. 

Weight control is an easily understood example of lifestyle change. You identify the problem and you know what to do. It is easy to identify.  So why are there still fat people?   It is because they refuse to take the time and make the life changes necessary to control their weight.  They have rejected the long term discipline to change.  They are unwilling to change the inertia that made them fat and keeps them fat.

What else are you unwilling to change?

This will be a series of posts about lifestyle change and the personal commitment that it requires. Change is hard and along the way, there is little reward. But it is possible. You can learn new skills. You can improve your relatability but not without work.  If you are unwilling to manage your weight, will you have the strength to change anything else about you?  Start by thinking about your weight. Is your weigh ideal? If not, what rationalization have you used to accept it and what opportunities are you missing because of it. Then begin thinking about other areas that you would like to change. We are going there next- Why Changing is so hard – Part 2..

 

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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Blanche August 2, 2011, 1:55 pm

    Good post. As I age I think there have been changes that took very little effort. The one that is most important is intangible, it is how we view what is most important.

    Weight loss at this time of life is more of a way to maintain our health, not just to fit into a pair of jeans. At this point it doesn’t have to be a goal weight, but just a step in the right direction. Just a few pounds cuts the risk of some age related conditions. I think you fuel your intentions by taking it slow.

    A few lifestyle changes can be made that aren’t just to lose weight, but to stay healthy. If you do a few changes the pounds will come off naturally. Being a few pounds above what you think you should be isn’t a big deal. I think it is what makes up the pounds that counts the most.

    • Ralph August 2, 2011, 2:04 pm

      Blanche,
      That is exactly the point I am trying to make here. It really isn’t the endpoint that matters. It is doing the right things on the way there. The only endpoint is when you die because it is all a journey. I don’t think you gain much by focusing on that.

  • Bill Murney August 5, 2011, 9:56 am

    Ralph, through my own experience with weight and dieting the only answer is to eat less and cut out unhealthy foods.

    Easier said than done I know, but as they say – no pain, no gain. Having said that, I still need to shift 10lbs.

    Bill
    A-U-L, UK
    Bill Murney’s last Blog Post ..A Postcard From Madeira – 1

    • Ralph August 6, 2011, 6:23 am

      Bill,
      We are pretty much on the same page. Modify eating and keep active. If I like something that isn’t considered healthy, I just moderate. I want some pleasure.

  • Chuck Rylant August 7, 2011, 1:35 am

    I think all change or personal development revolves around one thing, and that is coming up with a very strong and compelling reason for that change. Without a strong driving force to motivate you, it is hard to stay on track. We each have different things that motivate us, but whatever it is, needs to always be in the forefront of the mind to achieve any goals.
    Chuck Rylant’s last Blog Post ..The making of a profitable social media status update

    • Ralph August 7, 2011, 7:23 am

      Chuck, You are right. It is so much easier to just go along. The trick is what will move you to do it. I struggle each day fighting my inertia.

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