Change is necessary, but often uncomfortable and unpredictable. Even on journeys of intentional change, it is best to expect the unexpected.
For many of us, the problem is that we have a really hard time with ambiguity and lack of control. We set up our lives to give ourselves predictability and security - or at least the illusion of them.
Our discomfort with the change process can lead us to lose momentum, get stuck, or even backtrack despite our best of intentions. How do we overcome these pitfalls, and keep ourselves moving towards our goals and dreams?
The first step towards avoiding pitfalls is to be mindful of them. As we learn to pay attention to our experience, we will begin to recognize patterns of thinking, feeling, and behavior that are not serving our growth and well-being. Once we recognize them, we have the freedom to create different choices.
One of the most common pitfalls that I see is an all-or-nothing mindset that could be called "throwing out the baby with the bathwater". It occurs when someone gets an unexpected result, and reacts by abandoning their plan, rather than refining it.
Here are a few examples of all-or-nothing reactions:
- I have taken cookies off my nutrition plan, but then I eat a cookie. Since I didn't meet my goal, I react by eating the whole package of cookies.
- I decide to quit smoking, but in a moment of stress, I have a cigarette. Since I didn't stay on track, I react by reverting to my former habits.
- I decide to exercise every day this week, but one day I don't make it. Since I didn't meet my goal, I react by abandoning exercise altogether.
One effective strategy to address an all-of-nothing reaction is to cultivate a growth mindset that allows us to continuously "tweak" our approach. When we notice the thinking, feelings, and behaviors of an all-or-nothing reaction, we can consciously shift our mindset to a more supportive stance. Here are a few mindset shifts that allow you to tweak your wellness plan:
- Shift from rigidity to flexibility — My plan is an experiment, not a rule. I will adapt my plan as needed to find an approach that works for me.
- Shift from criticism to curiosity — Instead of asking myself "What was I thinking?!", I will ask myself, "What am I learning?"
- Shift from knowing to creativity — When things don't go as planned, I will allow myself to consider creative alternatives and fresh perspectives.
What about you? Have you ever been caught in an all-or-none reaction and if so, what did you do about it? Please share your wisdom in the comments below!