The process of change is never easy. We have built a culture that wants things to be ‘fun, fast, and easy.’ If something is not easy or others seem to be progressing more quickly than us we tend to default to, ‘well I must not be very good at this I give up.’ What we need to realize is that true change is going to be hard, it is going to suck sometimes. Yes, there will be things you change that will be, ‘fun, fast, and easy’, but fundamentally there will be more times than not that you will want to ‘give up’, and throw your hands up. Once again, this goes back to the fact that we as humans struggle with long-term thinking. We often delay our rewards, ie. I have to work for 2 weeks before I get a paycheck.
The same will be said for making changes in regards to our health.
‘I ate an apple every day this week, why hasn’t the scale gone down?’ ‘I got 10,000 steps every day this week, why am I still winded when I climb the stairs?’
Most days we will not see a change, it will just be another day and that is OK. This is why having a good understanding of our WHY and our identity is so important. We want to be able to look back on our day and say, ‘did I live today based on my WHY or the identity I am working towards?’ This process of reflecting is going to be what keeps us moving forward. It inspires us to take another step forward. To keep trudging up the mountain. As we move through the process of change there are going to be large gaps of time where we will be moving through what James Clear the author of Atomic Habits (again, if you haven’t picked up this book do it now), calls the Valley of Disappointment.
You see, the human brain expects – ‘I made a change, now X should occur.’ That change should occur in a linear fashion continually building one change on top of another. Unfortunately, life isn’t that easy. If it was, well… I wouldn’t have a job and I certainly would not need to write this blog post. Thus, we are stuck trudging through:
The Valley of Disappointment: Making changes, consistently doing them day after day and seeing no change.
Until we reach a breakthrough point…. We summit a small peak.
Suddenly, the scale might move, the jeans you wore 5 years ago now fit, you no longer have pain in your knees when you walk, you no longer have issues keeping up with your grandchildren, or suddenly you can run instead of walking. These are the changes we have been working so hard to achieve! The key though is realizing your journey isn’t over.
We must continue to progress forward and at the very least maintain the progress we have created. Solidifying these changes as part of our regular routine and habits. Life is a journey, we can never undo or destroy the neuronal pathways we have created for our old habits but we can certainly weaken them and strengthen the pathways for our new habits. That is done by looking at our non-scale victories, reflecting on the big picture of what we are doing with our lives and always looking to take another step forward.
When we take the focus off perfection, set realistic goals, and start thinking and adapting to a goal-less mindset that focuses on doing well a majority of the days then we WIN!
Now, it is impossible to say how long you will need to trudge through the Valley of Disappointment. In terms of a university degree, it might be 4 years… being able to run a marathon, it might be 6 months. In reality, it doesn’t matter if the change you are trying to create aligns with your WHY and you are properly reflecting and celebrating the small micro victories along the way, the Valley won’t be so disappointing. In fact, I know it will lead to a more whole-hearted, healthy, and happier life!
So focus on consistency and progress over perfection and take another step forward!
– Dr. Dan