It seems like it shouldn’t be so hard. I don’t like what I’m doing. But I am having trouble changing my ways. The attempts at new behaviors just aren’t working.
A lot of us understand what to do but have a hard time figuring out how to do it. Our system one is so deeply embedded and reinforced that we cannot seem to find our way to change behavior.
Change happens in the structural tension between our There and our Here. Too often, we are focused on one or the other. But change only happens when we hold both in tension, creating the vacuum for change and the motivation for new behavior.
If you see a gap between who you are and who you want to be, but cannot seem to get yourself to engage in new behavior, it is because of one of three problems.
1. Unclear Vision
The first and most prevalent obstacle is an unclear There. When the vision for our life is murky and uncertain, our behavior is not sure where to go. It does us no good to evacuate the current behavior if we do not have something to replace it with.
As we set out to ‘be better’, we might stop doing the bad things, but then we send our behavior out into a void. Without a clear vision of where to go, we will boomerang back to what is most familiar.
2. Inaccurate Here
It sounds so easy. Just name your current reality. What is really going on?
But we have a very difficult time assessing our Here. Self-awareness is an illusive trait. Our defense mechanisms, ability to deceive ourselves, and pension for self-promotion lead us to a false version of our Here.
If we are trying to get from New York to Dallas, but we think we are in California…we’re going to end up in the middle of the Pacific. And by the time we realize how lost we are, we will go back to the patterns that are familiar.
3. False There
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, a false There keeps us from being properly motivated to change.
We borrow vision from expectant parents, societal influences, and magazine covers. We draft professional sounding purpose statements to look polished, attract customers, and convince people to give us money. In the end, we are naming a bunch of false Theres.
If we truly want to change our behavior, we need a vision we can believe in. One that truly matters to us. Anything else we will abandon.
If we cannot commit to our There, it is either unclear or it is a lie. It is not born of our deepest values and passions. Naming a There that connects us to the heart of who we are will motivate us to change.
If my shoe is untied, my There is not a tied shoe. I don’t really care about that. It alone won’t motivate change. What I care about is not tripping on the lace and falling on my face. When I understand that as my true motivator, my shoelace will get tied.
There are thousands of books full of convincing concepts that invite us to change our behavior. If we guzzle these down like chocolate milk but do not actually change our behavior, it is not a fault of the literature. It is because one of these three things is off kilter.
If we have a There that is clear and we can truly commit to, and an accurate assessment of our Here, our behavior can’t help but follow suit.