There are no limits. Only plateaus.
We all want to make changes. Maybe we want to get healthier. Maybe we are working on overcoming anxiety.
Whatever it is, it can often feel like a distant goal that we can neither live with or without. We can't picture our future as a smoker, but we also can't picture quitting right now. It leaves us in an in-between, where we aren't content with where we are, but don't feel ready to move forward.
Being stuck in this place is a perfect storm for mental health issues. Feeling unsatisfied with the present and incapable of creating a better future is what leads to stress, anxiety, and ultimately clinical depression.
As humans, we need to keep feeling like we are moving forward and making progress in order to feel satisfied and happy. Yet many of us feel stuck.
I firmly believe that the reason we get stuck in these kinds of ruts is because of our mindset, not because of our abilities. We have a tendency to allow tasks to snowball the longer we push them off, making a task fully within our capabilities seem impossible. We also procrastinate, and as a result of this, our brain tries to find ways to justify why the task was pushed off in the first place.
All of this comes from an innate desire to resist change. While there is no rational reason to resist change, especially good change that will improve our lives, we remain resolutely fixed upon keeping ourselves in our comfort zones, no matter how damaging those comfort zones are.
In order to really change our habits and our lives, we need to first change how we approach change in our attitude.
Question your attachments
A lot of times we don't take steps to improve our lives because we are emotionally attached to our vices. It's not that we physically can't withstand the withdrawal from cigarettes or alcohol, it's that we emotionally can't stand it.
If you really want to make these changes, you need to do the emotional work of recognizing your unhealthy attachment and figuring out where it is being misplaced. Are you attached to smoking because it makes you feel more accepted and less anxious in social situations? Is there a better way to deal with social anxiety?
Trying to quit an emotionally involved habit without first understanding what need the habit is trying to fill will lead to failed attempts at change.
Scare yourself straight
A lot of self help talk is all about making you feel perfect just as you are. But the truth is, if you're taking part in harmful behavior or unhealthy habits, things aren't perfect.
Sometimes the best way to spark change is to be horribly honest with yourself. Smokers who want to quit should take a look at exactly what lung cancer looks at on the inside. Those who want to lose weight need to have a serious talk with their doctor about the side effects of their obesity.
If you want to change, it's probably for a reason, and that reason could be scary enough to get you started.
Visualize in a productive way
A lot of us have images in our minds of our "better selves." If your dream is to be a successful entrepreneur, you imagine yourself in five years as more driven, more focused, and better dressed: you just launched your own business, are surrounded by like-minded professionals, and you finally have the success we have always wanted. When you imagine this, it feels good, satisfying, and reassuring.
Unfortunately, that's because this sort of visualization is really just dreaming. Picturing yourself as a the Hollywood movie version of a successful person is completely superficial and does not get you any closer to your goal.
Ask yourself: What does being a successful entrepreneur actually entail? What does it feel like day to day? It probably consists of being sleep deprived almost constantly, saying no to social events in order to stay late at the office, dealing with the stress of taking a risk, constantly staring at a computer screen, and sacrificing feeling good in order to achieve your dream.
If you want to make a change, you need to start visualizing the reality of making that change instead of fantasizing yourself in the end result. So stop dreaming, and start visualizing what you need to do in order to make your dreams a reality.
Don't take no for an answer
At the end of the day, a lot of times change comes when we have no other option. You can manipulate your brain into thinking that you absolutely must make this change by controlling your self talk. Whenever you start to think "I can do that tomorrow" or "Maybe now isn't the right time," let an alarm go off in your brain and nip those thoughts in the bud. The only real way to create change is to train your brain into pushing yourself forward. And if you can master that, you will realize how easy it is to become the person you always dreamed of being.
Photo by sean Kong