The Secret to Effecting Positive Change in Our Lives

July 15, 2019

Note from Kirsi: This article is from a participant in a recent Leadership program I facilitated. He wrote about the first concept discussed in class - the Results Model. What I love about this is the positive ripple effect that can occur when someone connects personally with a concept. Read on...

Where do you start to fix a bad habit?

If you’re like me, your gut instinct might be to focus on changing your behavior. It seems like a simple equation; change behavior to achieve different results. But why is it so difficult to break bad habits? Why do we reach for a second (and a third) cookie from the jar when we know that this is not good for us? 

There is something else at play here. Often, we do not understand the source of our behavior. If we can understand the source of our behaviors, we can gain insight into why we are exhibiting them; this gives us a much better chance to effect long-term change in our lives and achieve the things that we hope and long for.

Focusing on the source of my behavior was a lesson that took me a long time to learn. Many of my bad habits took years to break. When I look back on the major shifts that I have made in my life, I can observe the pattern that causes long-term change.

I was diagnosed with chronic hip tendinitis two years ago. This is also known as dancer’s hip, which only makes the condition more embarrassing and ironic. I am quite possibly one of the worst dancers of all time. Although I was only 25 years old, I looked like my Grandpa when it would take me multiple attempts to get up off the couch — my face cringing from the pain. Simple tasks were not so simple anymore, such as putting on socks or reaching for the milk in the fridge. Certain positions would trigger my hips to lock up and send shooting pain down my legs and up my back.

I thought that it was just bad luck. I hoped and prayed that the pain would go away. I sought help from every kind of specialist I could think of, such as chiropractors, physical therapists, acupuncturists, and orthopedic surgeons. I wanted someone to tell me what was wrong with me and to fix me. I received multiple steroid injections. I got an MRI. I took all the Norco I could get my hands on. I had a few beers every night just to feel some relief, even for a moment. I believed that once I felt less pain, I would be able to start working out more and become healthy again. But the dancer’s hip worsened.

It wasn’t until I focused on the source of my behavior that I was able to achieve long-lasting change — a dramatic improvement in my health.

My injury wasn’t the main thing holding me back; it was how I felt about my injury that handicapped me from moving forward.

How we feel is the greatest predictor of the results we achieve.

I felt like a victim. I felt powerless. I felt like I had no control.

These feelings led me to place all my hope in doctors or medication to fix me. When these things didn’t work, it only reinforced the feeling of helplessness. My feelings led me to exhibit behavior which, over time, formed unhealthy habits, such as dependency on pain medications and emotional eating. The result was 45 pounds of weight gain. It was a loop of destruction. The more weight that I gained, the more strain that my hips were under, and the more painful my condition became.

Feelings are more difficult to change than behavior. Feelings are messy, complicated and difficult to understand, but they are the key to transforming behavior.

Feelings drive behavior. Behavior drives results. Results reinforce or challenge feelings.

It wasn’t until I changed how I felt about my hip condition that I started to see transformational change.

It didn’t happen overnight, it didn’t happen all at once, but gradually, my feelings shifted from powerless to empowered. I went from feeling like a victim to owning my feelings. I stopped trying to find a quick fix for the pain and focused on what I knew that I could control—my diet. I focused on losing two pounds at a time. I made a rule that I would no longer try to cure my feelings with food and alcohol. I stopped drinking alone. Sure enough, the more weight that I lost, the more energy I had. I started walking more and more, which led to jogging. After I lost the first 20 pounds, I noticed how much better my body felt because of exercise. My joints were under less strain and pressure from the extra weight, which led to more mobility and increased strength. Even though I still had hip pain, I wasn’t going to let it hinder my progress. I did a Google search for running with hip tendinitisand found a link to a compression brace that helped support the hips during exercise. I ordered it on Amazon, and it worked like a charm. The next 20 pounds fell off even faster than the first 20 pounds as I started running five miles a week, ten miles a week, 25 miles a week. 

I had momentum now, like a boulder rolling downhill. I had made months of good choices that led to even better choices. I felt differently, so I behaved differently, which led me to achieve different results. 

What change are you trying to make? What habit are you trying to break?

Before attempting to change the behavior, focus on the feeling behind it.

This article was first published by Aaron Blum on Medium

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