An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.
—Newton’s First Law of Motion
Newton’s First Law of Motion tells us that objects at rest will remain at rest unless they are action upon by another unbalanced, that is greater, force. People are no exception. I am not exception. The tendency to resist change is great, in nature and in psychology. I’ve found that if I get comfortable or situated, I tend to fall into a routine and keep doing the same things over and over even if they’re not good for me or what I really want.
Fortunately, the opposite is true as well. If you can find an impetus to propel yourself in the direction you want, then you will continue in that direction. So how do you find a force that is greater than your tendency to stay put?
Will power is one such force. Unfortunately, will power is a pretty weak force and usually requires some external stimulus to work. If you want to go to the gym, it’s a good idea to go with a friend because you both motivate each other. You coud consider buying a training package—the cost tends to be a good motivator for most people. You still have to be pretty motivated yourself and really want to change. Rather than relying solely on will power, there are some other techniques that work well.
Desire for Change
The desire for change can be a strong force and cultivating it can really add some oomph. I met someone at the bar a few weeks ago that wasn’t drinking or smoking like everyone else in the group. I asked him why, especially since he was with several close friends that were not, shall we say, the best influence. He told me he had a heart attack a few months previously. He is 42. That’s really young (hell, I just turned 39 myself). Having a heart attack—at any age—is one way to develop a desire for change. Of course, most of us prefer not to have to go through that in order to change.
You can develop your desire for change by constantly reinforcing what it is you want. Tell yourself every day, this is what I want. Put post it notes on your mirror in the bathroom so you are reminded every time you use it. It’s also the first place many of go when we wake up, so you immediately set the stage for the day. Create little reminders in your email program, and on your iPhone, iPad or whatever it is you use. It can be nothing more than a pop-up that says “Remember: You want to lose weight!” That’s it. Simple, but it will do wonders for reinforcing your desire for change and help motivate you.
Make small changes each day that will take you in the direction you want to go. Too often people try to make several big changes at once and they ultimately fail because it is just too much too soon. Resistance is too strong for this to work most of the time. Instead, make little changes. Incremental is probably a better word. Small, incremental changed are less painful and easier to maintain. For example, don’t drink six beers each night this week, only five. Next week, lower it to four, until eventually you are down to two (a more reasonable and healthier number). Small changes in the positive direction add up to big changes over time.
Develop New Habits
Habits are usually perceived as bad, like smoking cigarettes or biting your nails. But habits can also be good. They take time to form (at least four consistent days, but expect it take longer), so be patient. Consistency is the key. You need to do it every day, and preferably at the same time each day. Start with small changes and work your way up. Remove any temptations that might hinder your progress and try to find a trigger, that is something that helps remind you to take the new action.
Let’s say you’re a smoker and you light up every morning with a cup of coffee. Instead of doing that, try having a cup of coffee first before you light your first cigarette. Maybe you have a cigarette after each meal. Try waiting 20 or 30 minutes before lighting your cigarette. Instead of buying a carton of cigarettes at a time, but one pack—you make it more difficult to acquire the cigarettes. Smoke cigarettes that you like less (i.e., a different brand).
Set rules for yourself, such as you have to be outside or you have to stand 50 feet from your door. All of these are subtle tricks that make smoking the cigarette a lot harder. Eventually, you will find that you don’t light up first thing in the morning or smoke right after a meal. The important thing is that you are consistent. Eventually, over time, a new habit will form. This works for everything, not just smoking.
You have to have the desire for change, so cultivate it. Always keep reminding yourself of what you want to change and why. Start small and work your way slowly toward your goal. Develop new habits that move you in the direction you want to go, just be consistent. Soon enough you will find that you have overcome inertia and they are moving in the direction you want to go. And because of Newton’s First Law of Motion, you will find it much easier to stay on course.
Have you tried to change a bad habit or start a new habit? Share your experiences in the comments section below.