Humans are known to be creatures of habit, but not all habits are beneficial or conducive to our future goals. Dr. Michael Bordieri, professor of psychology at Murray State University, visits Sounds Good to explore what makes consistency in life changes so difficult to achieve and what steps we can take to reach that goal, resolution, or new sense of self.
Routines are often created to better assist us in our professional, academic, and even social lives. Some are created out of convenience, and others are developed to promote consistency within our busy day to day schedules. However, humans' propensity for habitual behavior can often become an obstacle when it comes to breaking out of bad habits or routines -- such as quitting smoking or drinking, losing weight, increasing physical fitness, or changing diets. Dr. Michael Bordieri describes the hang ups involved with major life changes as uncomfortable self reflections: " Changing things about ourselves also means coming into contact with what we don't like about ourselves."
Everyone is susceptible to needing changes in their lives, whether it's physical, emotional, mental, financial, or otherwise. Yet various forms of quick-fixes to change, such as hyponosis or motivational pills, permeate our society. A universal desire to change painlessly and quickly, and misperceptions regarding the journeys of others around us, have created a culture that demands personal alterations with none of the stress or discomfort. Dr. Michael Bordieri suggests that this associated discomfort is the key to overcoming old habits and forging new routines.
Motivation varies day by day, and there is no specific trick to ensure speedy goal achievement. Rather than forcing oneself to develop the skills thought to be necessary for a specific goal, Dr. Bordieri suggests that a more beneficial skill would be to be realistic about change and its difficult nature. A resiliency to the tougher aspects of change, including uncertainty and perturbation, is often necessary for consistent, positive shifts in personal behavior. Honest self-reflection, including an open-minded approach to less favorable aspects of oneself, is also crucial.
Dr. Michael Bordieri suggests other methods, beyond resiliency to discomfort, that might catalyze a new or difficult change. Self compassion, or being kind to oneself even in the face of difficulty, is one of these methods. Self compassion does not mean resignation of a goal still not achieved after a certain amount of time. Rather, it involves recognizing that no one is perfect, and creating space and patience to be okay with that as the distance to an end goal ebbs and flows. Mindfulness is also beneficial in achieving change. Deliberately setting aside time each day to notice and acknowledge all thoughts and feelings, both positive and negative, can have extremely powerful effects on the psyche. Bordieri explains that consistent mindfulness and meditation can be powerful enough to change the brain itself, including the way it responds to stress and unease.
Personal journeys towards self improvement are independent and unique to everyone. Some goals require professional or personal assistance to reach, others can be obtained through slight tweaks in a day to day routine. Whatever the case, the discomfort associated with change, while at times unpleasant, is nothing from which to shy away. Digging into the more taxing parts of personal growth and change can be the springboard off of which we can enter into new phases of life, health, and happiness.