We are barely into 2017 and personal change initiatives are already losing steam. I’ve noticed the new year fitness group in the park already beginning to lose people. New habits take time to develop and supporting ourselves during this process is vital. Otherwise, we just end up reverting to the mean.
Mean reversion refers to the idea that overtime things will move back to their average or mean. In the context of habits then, we might need something extra to shift the average and make change stick.
We might already have ways of doing things that ‘work’ and that allow us to ‘get by’. And, while we may have resolved to change these ways, the process of developing new habits can still feel like a step back. This is particularly true when what is new needs nurturing before it can surpass where we currently stand. Developing skill in anything takes time and we have to be patient with ourselves.
If we have the humility to let go of what allows us to just ‘get by’ and embrace the change we desire, even if it feels like a step back, the results will flow. The hours, days and weeks will pass and new habits will begin to stick.
Why we have decided to seek change is fundamental to making change stick. It has to be something that we wholeheartedly believe in and identity with. Otherwise, we risk turning new habits into chores and that is not a good place to be. Grudgingly engaging in something risks building negative associations to it, which means we are less likely to want to engage in it in the future.
Allowing ourselves to adopt a stance of curiosity and interest in the change we seek is a much healthier place to be.
Through curiosity, we move away from being overly results focussed and into a state of experimentation and learning — an almost childlike state that is much more conducive to personal growth.
A vision or an ultimate goal is a great place to begin. However, our strong desire for a big result can become the very thing that blocks us. We can become impatient with ourselves or lose heart. Small intermediate goals can help avoid this pitfall. They can provide us with structure and allow more discipline in how we go about the change we seek.
They key is to immerse ourselves in exploring these intermediate goals with real curiosity and with the same enthusiasm that we have for our overarching vision.
Shifting the mean is not easy. If it was easy everyone would do it. Losing steam and sliding back towards old habits is a challenge that many of us will face. By believing in what we want, adopting a stance of humility and curiosity, and by working with intermediate goals, perhaps we can give ourselves a better chance of making change stick.