In our last post, we talked about the Hero’s Journey, an archetypal story pattern that typically involves three stages: departure, challenge and return.
As we noted, the start of a new year provides a fresh beginning for many people, a natural opportunity to follow a set of resolutions or embark on their own new journey – maybe one that’s focussed on exploring, understanding and addressing a set of Medically Unexplained Symptoms (conditions like ME/CFS (Chronic Fatigue syndrome), Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Fibromyalgia and Burnout, for example).
Whatever your New Year’s resolutions or intended journey for 2019, the reality is that the majority of changes/new starts – no matter how enthusiastic and confident you are – usually fail.
In fact, it is thought that a whopping 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February [source: Psychology Today].
Well, one of the reasons is because people tend to focus on delayed rewards and not immediate rewards [source: Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin]. However, there are other factors at work too…
In today’s post, we are going to look a little more into just that: why, even when we have the best intentions and a strong desire to make changes in our lives, start something new or build a new habit, we so often fail.
First and foremost, it’s important to realise that a change or a new start doesn’t (and cannot) happen in a vacuum. We need to set ourselves up well and create the conditions in which the change or new habit is more likely to embed and flourish.
Your motivation (the ‘why bother’) for starting something new or implementing a change is incredibly important and will have a significant impact on your overall success.
If you’re simply doing something because you feel you should or because it’s deemed good for you, you are unlikely to succeed.
The key to boosting your chances of success is to drill down and identify exactly why the change is important enough for you to make a conscious effort for. There needs to be a clear benefit (or benefits) that can be put into words. Furthermore, said benefits need to be compelling enough to override any existing habits or circumstances.
We tend to make changes based on two basic drives:
- To avoid something like pain or discomfort
- To gain something like confidence or being able to do something that’s important to us
By investing the time to find out why you want to make the change and identify what actual benefit or improvement it is going to bring to your life, you are far more likely to succeed in making it happen.
Put your ‘why bother’ into a sentence or two so that when your momentum wavers (as it inevitably will) you can remind yourself of why you are bothering to make the effort in the first place.
What do you need?
With your ‘why bother’ identified and written down, the next step is to ensure you have the right kit.
You wouldn’t depart for a holiday without first packing a few essentials, such as your passport, toothbrush, extra clothes, etc. right? So why would preparing for a new life journey or change be any different?
More often than not, when you go travelling, it’s also helpful to pack a First Aid Kit. After all, you never know when you’re going to need plasters, paracetamol, etc.
The same applies when you set your sights on implementing a change or beginning a new journey. You need to put things in place and it’s essential to know how to support your feelings and emotions. That’s where your First Aid Kit for Feelings comes in.
Designed to help you with feelings of overwhelm and frustration, and to ease pain or symptoms, your First Aid Kit for Feelings is one of the tools we use to help our patients and clients to set themselves up well for the journey ahead.
Like one of our previous patients observed when she embarked on a health recovery journey with our help. She likened her previous solo attempts to setting out climbing a mountain wearing flip-flops; no wonder she kept tripping over.
Who’s in your crew?
While the change you want to make will more than likely be for you on your journey, rarely do we do anything in isolation. We need people in our crew (three-to-five people is ideal), to help us stay on course and provide advice, encouragement and support when we stumble over challenges (as we so often do).
You’re the captain and as all good captains are aware, the only way to succeed (achieve your goal or reach your destination) is by having the best crew for the job. This could be someone who’s travelled this terrain before, someone who’s unwaveringly on your side and/or someone who’s got skills or expertise relevant to what you want to achieve.
It may not always be a family member or a friend. One entrepreneur that I’m currently supporting realised that her assistant was in her crew because he was able to show her that her business was stable in terms of money and cashflow. This helped her realise that she didn’t have to take every project that came her way, allowing her to prioritise time every week to focus on her body and stabilise her symptoms.
Do you know the indicators on your dashboard?
Like the dashboard in a car that lets you know if you’re driving too fast, revving the engine too hard or running low on fuel, you have your own indicators that let you know how you are doing.
Indicators like water, fuel, speed and the rev counter (which shows how hard you are working the engine or, for example, how hard you are hammering the keyboard) are shared by all of us. You then have your individual indicators which are likely to be certain behaviours (like skipping lunch), feelings (like overwhelm), thoughts (like this is too hard) and symptoms (like a headache or a cold sore).
You likely already know some of your indicators even if you’ve not consciously thought about them in this way. In addition to the four that we all share, it’s helpful to identify around five indicators that are specific to you.
Finally, do you have a compass?
Having a compass allows you to remain orientated and check if you’re still on track in terms of where you want to go. The four cardinal points on a compass (North, South, East and West) can be customised to your personal needs.
What do you want to check in with before making choices and decisions? Is it to be brave? Or to remember that spending time with your kids is more important than work? Sometimes, a cardinal point can be to remember to practise saying ’no’.
Experiment with what you want to bear in mind as you set yourself up for success. Draw your compass and write your personal cardinal points in a single word or a short sentence. Which one of them is the first one you want to check in with? This will be your North.
My personal North is always Compassion. I first check if I’m being compassionate with myself and then if I’m being compassionate with others that are involved in the situation. When you’re struggling, as you almost certainly will at times, you can check in with your compass and see how you are aligning, or not, as the case may be, with each of them.
So if 2019 is the year in which you’ve promised yourself that you’ll set off on your own Hero’s Journey, or start exploring some of the symptoms you’ve been experiencing, make sure you are fully prepared from the start.
Don’t let your own best-laid plans go awry…
There’s no better time than now to get in touch and begin your journey with our expert navigational help.