Reflection & Patterns

The Myth of Fresh Starts: How to Stay ‘On Track’

There is a culture of wanting ‘fresh starts’, usually focusing on making new choices.

Most of us have experienced ourselves, or someone we know saying “oh, well I’ll start again tomorrow / next week / in the New Year” when that person has made a choice that does not fit in line with their overall goal.

People have a few ways of describing behaviour, but today I want to think about ‘falling off the wagon.’

Firstly, we have control over our actions.

Of course we have desires and fears, but in any one moment, most of us have at least some level of choice and control over what we are doing.

Part of that decision might be about facing the fact we’re no longer a five-year-old, and that actually we know better than doing this. We can control our impulses and desires, and actually, writing that book for five minutes a day will lead to a finished book in a year or two. Walking half a mile a day will support a level of fitness that allows you to run for a bus in 6 months time.

Sometimes, the longer-term gains are just worth that 5 minute decision today. 

Equally, we don’t need to pick a specific time to get back on track — if I’ve just had a chocolate bar before lunch, I can immediately go grab a glass of water and a salad to counter some of that, and to fill me up before I let the hunger control my next eating choice. You can get back on track immediately, and in a week’s time, that chocolate bar won’t even matter.

Every single choice can move us towards our goals, or away from them.

My personal choice is to “not make two ‘bad’ choices in a row.” If I just skipped a workout, I’ll go grab an apple instead of crisps. If I didn’t write in my lunch hour, I’ll go home and write for an extra ten minutes instead of watching television. If I had a salad, I can relax about taking a sweet from a colleague for their birthday.

And finally for today, to quote a friend “just because you’re not on the wagon doesn’t mean you can’t still walk the road.”

Being Realistic

It may be that life is full-on right now and you feel your potential self is decades away. You can’t flutter from productive writing hour to salad to social evening with friends… You may not be in that flow of progress, but thinking about the maths, each positive choice adds up, faster than a negative one.

For those interested, look up “the power of tiny gains” online.

Simplified, the main number thrown around is that across a year, where staying the same is equal to 1.0:

  • getting ‘worse’ by 1% a day leads to a total of 0.03 (0.99 then 0.9801 on day 2, 0.970299 on day 3…)
  • getting ‘better’ by 1% a day leads to a total of 37.78 (1.01 then 1.0201 n day 2…)

Each tiny choice will add up. You can make a difference.

Remaining the same on your goal keeps you at 1: stuck.

Those negative choices, moving you backwards from your goals, do add up, but they can be countered with each forward move.

Any “increase” will lead to a total above 1 in a year’s time.

Life happening does not change the fact your deserve to be happy, healthy or your inherent value. You’re an adult: don’t let your inner 5-year-old or the belief that your positive choices don’t matter hold you back.

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Reflection & Patterns

Motivation to Change: Willpower and Asking Yourself Why

As a general rule, humans like things they are comfortable with. We like certainty, which is a common reason we experience worries: the unknown can be scary! Even if we know what is going to change, or have a change we wish to make, there is a massive mental block between wanting things to improve, and actually making that leap into the unknown of changing it. Motivation depends on energy, on how we perceive things improving an on what we might lose in changing.

Perhaps the very idea of a new experience excites you. Things seem better in this future – we know we can make the change, and that it will be worth it.

And yet, we hesitate.

Understanding Motivation

The first thing to bear in mind is that it’s normal and common to feel apprehensive about changes. Secondly, that realistic goals, where we can measure our progress and see the changes having a positive effect are massive for maintaining motivation.

We need to see progress – we want to know things are moving the right way, that this change is actually worth the time and effort.

But results can take time. We compare ourselves to others or past-us, or even to unrealistic versions of future-us. We feel discouraged, feel this is a waste and often, we fall back into those habits of familiarity. It’s easy – we don’t have to think and question and remember things – it’s just our natural rhythm.

And things remain; stagnant and unfulfilled; or whatever it was you wanted to be different.

Change isn’t easy, which means we need a really strong motivation, a key reason to remind you why you’re making changes.

The Why: Exploring the Deep

“Those who have a ‘why’ can bear with almost any ‘how.”
– Victor Frankl, quoted from A Man’s Search for Meaning.

We all experience that sensation of wanting to just… give in or do it later. To take an extra chance to rest or maybe even quit something. But when we re-connect with the ‘why’ of that task – finding the deep motivator can really help keep us on track.

Most people come up with some reason to begin a change – to be happier, to not feel this lethargic anymore, to avoid something bad happening (again), or because we’ve been told we should.

But those abstract concepts can be difficult to connect with. In that moment of routine habit or new choice, your Why needs to be powerful enough to guide you towards the positive choice.

The key to a strong motivator is depth.

Surface Level: “I know I should eat healthily.”

Well, so do we all. But we still remain stuck: comparing ourselves to other, unhealthier people who are fine. We feel we have time to change that later. We’re great at telling ourselves we deserve that cake. That fact alone is not strong enough for most people.

Shallow Waters: “I don’t have time to play with my kids, and I miss being with them. They deserve my time and energy.”

That’s a little deeper; you’ve made a personal connection and used another person as a reminder of why you want to make the change. But really, what is it that means you want this? What, deep down for you, is that reason coming from? Think about the beliefs that shape your world, the motivators for other changes you’ve made. What do you cling to when everything else isn’t strong enough?

The Deep: “Every day I wake up depressed, exhausted and I no longer love my life. I feel like a zombie, following the same old motions. I want that joy I used to have back, to make my mark on the world, to be a good parent, to see my children grow up and to support everyone around me. This is my calling, I just need to reach it.”

Much deeper. Specific to the person, with examples to remind them of what they don’t like now and what they will like in the future. We can see the journey this person wants to take; their current location of stuck and the destination they want to reach.

Do you have a dream that isn’t being realised?
Do you know where you want to go, or feel stuck where you are? Have a think about your Why.
What would you change if you have the power to?

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P.S. If you would like some support to look at your Why, or if you feel motivated and would like some guidance to making those changes, sign up for a introduction session, where we can discuss motivation and realistic goals.