2018 Feels already like it is going to be a better, more positive, more energetic year in which we will all achieve our goals. The problem with big goals is that they can be overwhelming leaving us in a space of paralysis and non-action. Recently I read a book about the KAIZEN way – the word is Japanese and encompasses how to make “great change through small steps”. It’s such a beautiful philosophy (actually originating from the Chinese Tao) and was used in the depression-era in the US. Understanding how our brains respond to the actual “fear” of achieving our goals helps us learn to circumvent our brain’s built-in resistance to achieving our goals!
You may not think that there is fear involved in achieving a goal but for anyone who has ever self-sabotaged before with an exercise or food goal or any other somewhat challenging goal will have to reconsider exactly why you did that. Yes, it’s fear. So instead of setting a huge goal of coming to yoga 4x week and eating like a bird and yadda yadda yadda, why not try for one yoga class a week? Why not try just one day a week where you don’t have snacks/desert etc.? Why not have a bowl of soup for dinner one night a week instead of a regular meal? That seems a much easier thing to do and there is a real reason for that.
Once I had a conversation with a friend that tried to quit smoking. She used to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day. She gave up trying to quit after a while because she was still smoking 5-6 cigarettes a day. That was what she told me and she was very upset with herself for not achieving her goal. Therefore she decided she just couldn’t do it. It didn’t occur to her that she had actually already been successful. When I pointed out to her that by reducing her smoking by about 75%, that was a success in itself, a lightbulb went off for her. She had been all down on herself because her goal was not achieved 100%. However, she never gave herself credit for making it 75%. Anyhow, after changing her expectation and view on the whole situation she was happy and accepting with her outcome and stopped being so negative with herself.
Can you relate to this story? We set ourselves these big goals (I’ll loose 20lbs, I’ll earn x amount $$, I’ll travel the world, put your goal here) and after trying and not getting exactly what you had set out for, you give up and say “I am too old, I am too fat, I am too tired, to this to that” right. Excuses. We all know it. But it’s not our fault. Blame your brain! It is the old “fight or flight” response by the amygdala (your brains emotional center) hijacking and robbing your cortex (the thinking portion of the brain) of blood flow and sending your cortex on a hiatus. Ever experienced complete blanking of the brain? Ever done something stupid against your own better judgement? And then you couldn’t explain why you did/said it? It was the amygdala acting up creating “cognitive dissonance” out of fear. Yup, we are still controlled by that lizard portion of the brain. Yikes.
Now that you know this, you can make change using small steps for just about everything in your life. Chunk down your big goals into bit-size pieces. Make tiny, tiny changes – so tiny that you won’t wake up your lizard brain.
For example: Plan for one yoga class a week – and if that goes well and you achieve that you will have a positive happy feeling. Then if you manage to get another class in, that is like so awesome! You will be so happy and positive and excited about that, that your lizard brain will stay asleep. Over time you can sneak in more yoga classes and create that person you want to be, one tiny, tiny step at a time.
A great read: The Kaizen Way: One Small Step Can Change Your Life by Robert Maurer, Ph.D.
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