By: Lynn Carnes
It’s that time of year again – when we join the gym, clean closets, start a new diet, set big goals, and make all kinds of promises to do better in the coming year.
According to U. S. News, 80% of our resolutions will fail before February. Then we get to feel bad, like we have failed.
Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? More importantly, is true change even possible?
Yes. Change is possible. IF you can get over your inertia. This is a bigger deal than we often realize, because inertia feels like “normal”. It doesn’t seem like anything to worry about.
When we try something new, we quickly get in a groove and pretty soon we are on a plateau or fall back to our old ways. Inertia takes something that’s new and novel and turns it into a usual routine full of comfort.
Going through the motions won’t get you there – wherever your “there” is. It takes energy to overcome inertia. Otherwise, we get stuck and it’s hard to move us without something strong to jerk us to reality.
Flying home this Christmas, we boarded our flight early and happily settled into our pretty good aisle seats. The captain came on and said maintenance was fixing a little problem with a valve and we would be out of there in 10 minutes. No big deal. Then the airline system called to say the new departure time was 10:35 (for a 10:20 flight) Again, no big deal. Next call said 11:15. Next call said 11:50. Then 12:30. At this point, the flight attendants said we could wait in the boarding area if we took all of our stuff. Many people packed up and moved. Not me. My brain had already decided it was “no big deal.”
Inertia was fully settled into my entire being.
I had my headset on, my computer in my lap and the thought of packing up and gathering my bags was just too much. Waiting an hour (by that point) didn’t seem so bad. So we sat. (Not sure if my family appreciated this.)
Until the next call. 4:30. What?!?!?! It was like a cattle prod hit my seat.
We got ourselves off that plane fast – and to the counter where we were lucky enough to be able to rebook on a 3:30. Something we might have never considered before the 4:30 change. Oh, and the original flight was cancelled at about 3:00. We would have been there for another day if we hadn’t rebooked.
Inertia is the normal state of things. Even as the world around us is changing ever faster, we are inclined to stay the same.
In his TED talk, Adul Gawande talks about how he eventually developed inertia (my word) in his medical practice. After asking another physician to observe him with the express intention of helping him be better, he started improving again-after going through some discomfort.
It takes energy to move something. It takes big energy to move big things. Summoning that energy is not usually comfortable. That’s why changing by yourself is incredibly difficult.
It helps to have that wake up call – otherwise, you could be stuck here for a long time.
So how do you get beyond New Year’s resolutions? Is change really possible? Yes. And it takes energy, work, commitment, and often some help.
One of the most useful exercises I have found for myself is based on the book Immunity to Change by Bob Kegan and Lisa Lahey. I’ve created a journaling exercise based on the core exercise in the book.
I’m going to warn you though – this exercise requires you to look at stuff about yourself that you probably have conveniently put on the back burner. In fact, it will make you downright uncomfortable if you work through it honestly – and that’s why it works so well.
You can download it here.
This exercise has helped me break through inertia many times in my life. It’s not easy and it requires you to look at your own beliefs in ways that are going to make you uncomfortable. That’s when you know you are breaking through.
Done with intention, it’s like a secret sauce for true change.
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Plus, if you get stuck, I’ve got one super important trick to help you stay on track. Stay tuned or if you can’t wait, hit me up in the comments and I will share it with you.
Feel free to share it with your colleagues and friends. And let me know how it goes!
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