Have you ever tried to get rid of a bad habit, or change yourself for the better– quit something you enjoyed even though it was bad for you?
I tried to quit coffee a few years ago because I was drinking so much of it, and figured switching to tea might be an option. It didn’t last long. It wasn’t the addiction, really, but because I looked into my future and– get this– I didn’t like the person I’d be without coffee.
I’ve been drinking coffee for so long that I see it as an innate part of my personality. It’s something that I enjoy a lot and spend time and energy going out to find. It’s so ingrained, in fact, that I see myself as being less than whole if it were gone.
Now, imagine that I had heart problems– that I had to quit coffee entirely. This emotional attachment keeps me from making the right decision. Picture it a little like losing a significant other even though the relationship is clearly sour, or moving from your childhood home even though it doesn’t work for you anymore. You can’t imagine your life without this thing, so you keep it going even though it’s clearly doing damage. We do it all the time.
In reality, we are massively adaptable. Shocking as it sounds, I could lose a limb and be fine within a couple of months– even imagine that it was the best thing that ever happened to me. But here, in the present, we look at our lives and our habits as parts of ourselves, and we don’t want to change because we’d feel strangely incomplete.
When these massive changes do happen, however, we have no problem seeing them in a positive way. From here (the present), we look back and go “Thank God that happened in that way, or I wouldn’t have become the person I am now.” But at the time, we hated it. Seeing yourself from the future is a great way to fight this impulse; to be able to know that you’ll look back on this and recognize how valuable this difficult act was.
So the inevitable conclusion is that, no matter what happens, we’ll be pretty much ok. We can lose our jobs, change all of our habits, and even have a major, life-altering accident and be alright, and still be ourselves– assuming we can keep looking forward. As long as you think there are good things coming, everything will actually be fine.
So even if we don’t like the idea of change, we should probably do it anyway. Changing as an experiment and challenge can help you prove your strength to yourself, helping you become more confident, etc. Sometimes, it even makes sense to do it just because you can. But another great reason to do it is practice– going through something hard in order to build a habit of being able to do it when the time is right. If we’re used to our comforts all the time, and we suddenly have to go without, it’s much more difficult than if we’re used to having less.
So we’re coming up on New Year’s. A lot of us are going to make resolutions to change, but we won’t have our heart into it, or we’ll lose our resolve really quickly. How can we prevent that? Share your tips with me, I’d love to hear how you make it happen. Maybe this way we’ll have a resolution we actually keep.