Keep the Change
The last three and a half decades have taught me so much about life and being good at stuff. Some lessons were more pleasant than others; especially the ones I learned by watching other people (shout out to Kate Caldwell for pioneering on this one). And I can only imagine the remarkably functional adult I would be if I could have turned all of these lessons into new ways of being. My meals would be healthier, my papers more organized, my family pictures printed and displayed. I would probably have several PhDs; or at least not a draft box full of half-written emails.
And yet, here I am, covered in pet hair, listening to the same music I did twelve years ago, reflecting on what could have been. Rather than focusing on the changes I haven’t made, what about the ones that have stuck?
I am significantly different from the lady who moved to Arkansas, started grad school, and got married a decade ago. For the most part, my meals are healthier, my life is more stable, and I am a healthier, happier person.
What is the difference between a change that we consider and a change that we keep? When it comes to making a change stick, look for the three Ps: purpose, plan and people.
Purpose: We rarely change for the sake of changing; usually it is in pursuit of a greater purpose. And not just any purpose, a purpose that really matters to us. One that connects to our values. When I started doing yoga in 2017, I was skeptical about my ability to keep it going. More than skeptical, it felt daunting to think about having to maintain any level of practice indefinitely. And yet, I kept choosing it. I wasn’t motivated to lose weight or to get in touch with my body: I was motivated to feel sane. That might sound dramatic, but I was in an intense place with work and family, trying to be the hero who could do it all and burning myself out in the process.
As I’ve stuck with the studio for more than two and half years, practicing yoga has become part of what feels like me and meets a mental (and physical) need better than anything else does. I didn’t do yoga because I thought I needed to do yoga, I did it because being a human with a functioning brain was important to me. So how do the changes you’re considering line up with your sense of purpose?
Plan: How many times have you heard a friend talk about something exciting they are doing and said out loud “oh, I’ve been meaning to do that!” Maybe it is see a movie, maybe it is get a mammogram, maybe it is going to Europe or HEB or the dentist. They have it on the calendar and you don’t. So who is more likely to actually do it?
When I trained women to run for office we talked about voter plans: walking a voter through how, when and where they will vote and having them write it down increases the likelihood they will actually do it. BTW - it’s early voting in Texas now, so if that is one of your “meaning tos” then hop on it! So pull up your calendar and take the step to plan out how you will do all the things. Or realize that you can’t do all the things and prioritize the things that are most important to do. But start taking the steps to make it happen.
People: Who is walking around with secret plans to rule the world? And how is that secret plan working out for you? Talking to people about our big dreams, goals, ideas, etc. is another way to make sure they actually happen.
First, it creates a level of accountability. If you tell your mom you are going to start cooking dinner every weeknight as part of your purpose to save money for travel, she is going to ask you how it is going. And you’re going to have to tell her. So there is an incentive to follow through.
Second, it creates the space for the people who love you to help you accomplish your goals. Friends can share recipes, send coupons for Central Market (I love you fancy HEB), or invite themselves over to help. If you keep it a secret because you are afraid of failing and looking bad, you miss out on so much potential support from the people who want you to succeed!
So let’s take this moment to adult like bosses, take those lessons we’ve learned and earned, and put them to work for us. Tomorrow I am going to vote at City Hall before I go upstairs for work. Tonight I am going to only eat one Girl Scout Cookie. And this afternoon I am going to willingly suffer the indignity of buying new pants.
Keep me posted on your life changes in action!