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Creating change that sticks

A reduced version of this article was published in the HKPost.

We desire change, yet for many of us, by February or March - even with our best plans and positive intentions for the coming year - we can find ourselves losing traction for changing habits.

“Butterflies struggle most, just before they emerge”

James Norbury

Our understanding of the change process has evolved tremendously, yet with all this knowledge, many of us still get stuck. It’s a vast and exciting topic but here are just 3 aspects that may help you break the cycle and create meaningful change that lasts.

1. Negative Stories

The negative stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, become problem-saturated. That is, we give much attention to what is wrong, or we perceive needs 'fixing' and very little to what is right.

Consistent attention creates habitual patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. As we process the world through our bodymind (neurology, emotions and our feeling body), a persistent negative bias creates our experience. This is a stubborn barrier to the self-belief, fresh perspectives and motivation we need for meaningful change!

2. No one-size-fits-all

Gretchen Rubin, in “Better than before”, highlights there is no one-size-fits-all approach to change. First, we need to answer the ‘who am I’ question. Breaking bad habits and sustaining new ones is possible when we cease comparing ourselves to others and work with our natural way of being.

“Sometimes I think I’m not good enough”, said Tiny Dragon.

“A cherry tree doesn’t compare itself to other trees … it just blossoms” said Big Panda.

“Big Panda & Tiny Dragon”, James Norbury

3. Practice and stamina

New habits require practice, consistency and stamina to be deeply imprinted. Our capacity to persist increases when we can work with both our mindful intentions (conscious thoughts, feelings and desires for change) and understand how our habitual bodymind (our sub-conscious, habitual memories) according to Ben Crow, mentor and mindset coach.

Reflection Time

Take some time out to answer these questions for yourself. Mind-map, write, draw or voice-record your answers. The act of writing or speaking, then seeing or hearing, provides a deeper level of understanding to strengthen your awareness and intentions:

1. Exceptions to the problem-stories

Think of a time when you overcame something difficult or implemented a positive change in your life. What unique strengths, traits and actions did you bring to that situation, how were you able to do that? Really flesh this one out.

2. Know yourself

  • What value is the new habit tapping into? For example, starting a new hobby might be about slowing down, creating space for self-expression, meeting like-minded people, or challenging yourself to learn something new

  • What makes you happy / er?

  • What creates that feeling of flow, when you lose track of time in the pleasure of it?

  • What makes your life feel meaningful to you?

  • What might an unhealthy habit be soothing, or helping you avoid?

3. What helps you keep it up?

  • Is your aim to feel less bad, or feel more

  • Do you want to start doing a thing, or stop doing a thing?

  • What is a small but concrete habit that will stimulate some change?

  • Does it help you to have a support person, or do you prefer to go it alone?

  • Are you a morning person (the lark) or a night person (the owl) – how can you work with your natural cycles of energy to sustain motivation?

Joe Dispenza puts it succinctly in “Breaking the habit of being yourself”, when he says “to change is to act greater than the familiar feelings of the memorised self”. Change is possible when we bring that which is unconscious and habitual out into the light for examination and transformation. Change happens when, with self-compassion and conscious intention, we bring our unique selves to the process of change.

“Each season is completely different” said Big Panda,

“yet each has its wonders”.

“Big Panda & Tiny Dragon”, James Norbury


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