We are now four days into the New Year–heading toward a week. How are those resolutions coming? I’m not a fan of resolutions, but I am supporting several people who made resolutions to change. They aren’t having a good time. Because even when you want to change, it isn’t easy. What makes change hard? Two major factors: yourself and others. The rest is easy.
When you decide to change, you have your past to wrestle with. You choose the path to change and suddenly your inner critic pipes up. “What’s so wrong with who you are now?” “Love yourself the way you are, change is a sign of self-hatred.” “Can you really keep up this behavior?”
If you want to change a habit, you’ll have to substitute the new behavior for about two months. That’s as long as it will take you to establish the new habit in place of the old. Most people say one month, but two is more realistic.
One to substitute the new action and make it a habit, the next to overcome the pushback from your friends and family. No doubt about it, they will be the longest two months of your life. You will invent a thousand reasons to go back to the old behavior–it’s your birthday, you just started a diet, you are stressed, now is not a good time. But like having a baby, there is never a perfect time, you have to gear up, crank up your determination and get busy.
Just when you do, your friends will start chipping away at your resolve. They will give you excuses to fail. They will tell you they like you the way you are. They will whine that you don’t need to change. Why are your friends so focused on sabotage? Because if you change, they will have to change. They will have to get to know the new you, they will have to change the way they treat you . And your friends don’t want to change. It’s too much work. It is a lot less work to complain until you quit changing.
Your friends can be persistent and threatening. Most people don’t like confrontation, and they do like their friends, so they cave in and go back to being “normal.” And there goes the path to success.
If you are determined to change, tell your friends you plan ahead of time and enlist their help. Ask them to support you before the chorus of complaints begins. Often asking for support not only makes friends understand that this is important to you, it helps you be clear about what you want. And talking about the change helps you be clear about what you want for your future.
That doesn’t mean your friends will always support you, but it gives you a better start. And a good start is the best way to start toward a good finish.
—Quinn McDonald is changing. And it’s damn hard.