I was talking to a friend over the weekend and we were lamenting how hard it is to stay in the mindset of a shift we’d like to make.
We’d read all the books, listened to all the podcasts, made some good progress, but when we stopped paying attention and let go of the external motivation, old habits crept back in and before we knew it, we felt like we were back where we started.
For my friend, it’s minimalism she’s aiming for. For me it’s been many things over the years, but the main area I’d like to change right now is to write more!
I can read books about writing, attend events that get me enthused, go through a real spate of creativity where ideas are flying everywhere and I’m writing, writing, writing…but then life gets in the way. I miss a day, then another, the ideas dry up then I fall back into a rut where I barely write for a week or two.
I’ve written about this before in my post, habit formation: time, consistency and the fuck it mentality, but the fact that here I am thinking about it again months down the line makes my point: no matter what we know about the steps we need to take to make a change, no change is linear, and the key to any lasting change is realising that it often happens in such incremental steps via such circuitous routes, that we only see its culmination when we look back over the years.
As for the question of when we’ll stop struggling to maintain that change? I think we need to prepare ourselves for the fact that in some situations the answer may be never. I know it’s not what you want to hear, me neither! But the fact is we may always need to consciously sustain the changes we wish to make, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make them.
For my friend and her minimalist aspirations, she’s already making considered choices about what she brings into her home, decluttering where she can and making more conscious choices about what she buys her children. It’s pretty hard to be minimalist with young children, but if she continues to make small changes, she may be surprised how these add up over time. I think minimalism as a lifestyle in particular is something that will always need to be consciously cultivated, because it’s so easy to allow unnecessary ‘stuff’ into our lives.
We often want change to be instantaneous, and sometimes an event happens in a person’s life that’s so cataclysmic change is immediate, but more often than not it’s slow and steady, one step forward and two steps back, with a trip or two round the merry-go-round for good measure.
One key ingredient of change that I think many people miss out is its practical application. We can read and research and think something is a great idea, but if we never take any practical steps towards doing that thing, whatever it is, then it remains firmly in the realm of imagination.
Action, however small, is key to embodying change.
One area of my life where I haven’t embodied a change I aspired to is in the home-schooling of my children. I listened to all the podcasts, read all the books, made the shift mentally and had some practical experience during lockdown schooling, but ultimately this is a change I’ve aspired to that has stayed firmly in the realm of my imagination, because my children are still in school. I haven’t taken the action necessary to make this change happen, and that’s ok. Some changes we’ve imagined we might never make, but for the ones we feel compelled to embody, we must also be prepared to put in the work to make them stick, even if this work may last forever.
How about you? Have you had any success with making changes, or are there areas of your life you’d like to change that reside in your imagination for now?
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