A few months ago, I found out through genetic testing that I’m highly susceptible to heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Envisioning my memory fading or having a heart attack was uncomfortable. The more I faced that possible future, the more fired up I got to reduce my elevated risk. I followed my doctor’s advice and lost 15 pounds in three months, eliminating multiple symptoms that had been plaguing me for years. It felt effortless to lose the weight. No big deal.
Now rewind to before the genetic test results. I’ve said I wanted to lose a significant amount of weight for years. I knew deep down that I didn’t feel as healthy and vital as I could. Yet I didn’t do what it takes to lose the weight. My desire for this change wasn’t bigger than my desire to eat and do whatever I wanted. Not only did I not lose weight, I gained weight. And while my clothes were getting tighter and I didn’t particularly like the amount of weight I was carrying, I wasn’t that uncomfortable.
I could tell you hundreds of stories from clients and friends over the decades who’ve said they desperately want to make various changes in their lives, yet they keep recreating the same reality they say they want to change.
Why do we do this?
I say it’s because our engines for change are not revved up enough. Lasting change comes when we have a true inner desire to create something new. There are two ways to build the desire that revs our change engines. The first is to get deeply aligned with a vision for how we want things to be. We have to really want it, with our minds, hearts, and bodies. The more we imagine the outcome and get excited as we sense what it would feel like to have it, the more we rev our change engines to create it.
But as I look around, we tend to be a lazy about making big changes fueled by vision alone. Instead, most of us wait until we start to get uncomfortable with the way things are before we begin to take steps to create a new possibility. Generally, the more the change threatens our identities, the more discomfort we require before we make a shift. This is exactly what happened for me; I needed to stare down a really uncomfortable future with memory loss or a heart attack before I was motivated to lose the weight I said I’d wanted to lose for years.
Here’s how we can use this knowledge for transformation…
If we’re willing to turn up the discomfort dial, we’re more likely to create genuine change faster. We do all sorts of things to numb our pain and keep the discomfort at bay, such as drinking alcohol, overworking, overeating, check our devices every few minutes, and so on. Identify your top three compulsive behaviors, and end or significantly limit them for 30 days. In doing so, you’ll discover the discomfort they’re unconsciously covering up.
Combine the discomfort with your current situation with a vision for what you want and it will be yours in no time. I’ve seen it too many times not to believe it. Otherwise, recognize you are not yet willing to create change; be kind yourself as you stay just where you are until the discomfort builds and/or a vision builds and you’re ready to change.