Written by: Anthony Leake, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Everyday many people decide to make changes in their life.
Some decide to lose weight. Some decide to stop smoking. Some decide to be more assertive. Some decide to overcome anxiety.
Everyday many people decide to make changes in their life. Most fail.
Not because change is impossible. Not because of any external factor. These are just incidentals.
Of course, there may be many reasons why people fail but it can almost always be put down to a combination of 2 of the most common mistakes.
Not knowing how to make a temporary change permanent
The antidote is not difficult but it is subtle.
If you want things to change you must change
In all of the above examples, the only path to sustainable change is to change who you are as a person.
Stopping smoking. Changing a habit of lighting a cigarette is usually a short-term solution.
The long-term solution is to become a person who doesn't smoke.
Losing weight. The short-term approach is about external things such as eating less and exercising more.
The long-term solution is becoming a person who eats healthily. Becoming a person who exercises. Becoming a person who has a good relationship with food.
Being more assertive. The short-term solution is forcing yourself to stand up for your boss if they ask you to do unpaid work for the 4th time this week.
The long-term solution is to become a more assertive person.
Anxiety. The short-term solution is to learn coping skills.
The long-term solution is to become a person who doesn't get anxious in the first place.
A leopard doesn't change its spots
I told you this was subtle!
Anyone can act assertively from time to time. An assertive person always acts assertively, it's just who they are.
A person who doesn't smoke will never light a cigarette, and so on. I'm sure you get the picture.
How to self-sabotage
Short term change is easy. We start out with a lot of motivation and usually see fast results. Over time as the motivation fades a little, so does the speed of change. That decreases motivation even more, which slows down change. The downward cycle has begun.
The key to creating long lasting change is to grab onto those early results and wire them in. Many people sabotage at this stage and don't even know they are doing it.
A client said to me recently "Something really big happened last week and I stayed calm and didn't react, and that's brilliant because that's just not me, so I know I am making progress!"
On the surface that sounds very positive, and they were very happy because they could see the progress. They had acted differently to how they usually act.
Under the surface that was a disastrous thing to say. Unchecked that one simple sentence would undo all the progress they had made.
Take a few words from the middle of that sentence "I didn't react and that's brilliant because that's just not me."
Paraphrased that becomes
I am not the kind of person who responds calmly.
I am the kind of person who reacts to external things, and here is an example of one time when I acted out of character
The point is they are still thinking of themselves in the old way. Their behaviour was temporarily different but the way that they think of themselves hasn't changed.
Changing the way that we think about ourselves is the one and the only key to lasting change.
Here comes the good news...
The great news is that it's easy to change the way that you think about yourself.
It begins by changing the way that you speak about yourself.
Here is the process to creating lasting change (Drum roll please!!!!)
Start to think about, and talk about, the old you and the new you.
I can almost hear you screaming at me in frustration at this point. "Come on, Tony. Is that it? All of those words just to tell me that why are you wasting my time?"
But, it really is that simple.
Remember my client said, "Something really big happened last week and I stayed calm and didn't react and that's brilliant because that's just not me, so I know I am making progress!"
I asked them to change that to: "Something really big happened last week. The old me would have reacted to that. I know I'm making progress because the new me responds calmly to life's ups and downs."
That's it. Separating the old and new you in your words and your thinking create the change.
Each time you talk about the old me, you are putting undesired habits and behaviours in the past. Each time that you describe the new me you are bringing your desirable behaviour into the present and the future.
How to turbo charge the process
I did say this was going to be subtle and it is, but it doesn't need to be any more complex than this.
For the last decade, I've been helping people make a personal change. Overcome anxiety, become more confident etc.
None of those things happens because of one massive and drastic change. They all happen through a series of small changes, repeated consistently over a period of time.
Here is one additional step that will help you to wire in that change even faster. It's not strictly necessary but if you're in a hurry to change then this is how you do it.
When you notice yourself doing something that is consistent with the new you then make a mental note of what it was.
Then, in a quiet moment of reflection. Think about what happened and ask yourself some questions such as:
How would the old me have responded?
How did the new me respond?
What was different?
What can I learn from that?
The first thing here is that you’re deliberately compartmentalising the old and the new you in your thinking and listing what behaviour and thinking belong to which.
Then the “what can I learn?” question is very powerful. It doesn’t need to be any huge hallelujah moments but something that may be useful to you in the future.
Thinking about your thinking
What I'm really asking you to do here is to think about your thinking. Most people never do that, but those that do quickly find that the benefits far outweigh those that I've talked about here.
I sincerely hope that this has been either:
A - Interesting
B - Useful
But more than anything I hope that it has been C ‒ both interesting and useful. Feel free to drop me an email at email@example.com I'd love to hear your experience with this.
Anthony Leake, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Tony Leake became an expert in overcoming anxiety after he had to give up a successful career due to severe anxiety and debilitating panic attacks. He has since spent the last decade helping others to overcome anxiety. While he is very well qualified (certified as a Clinical Hypnotherapist and a Master Practitioner of NLP amongst others) he doesn't believe that tools and techniques are the answer. He often says that "overcoming anxiety is as much of a mindset as a skillset," and that to overcome anxiety we need to change the way that we think about it. Working with individuals from every walk of life, teachers, doctors and multi-millionaires has taught him that anxiety doesn't discriminate and everybody is just as likely to be affected. He currently consults for some of the largest companies in the UK. His message: anxiety robs people of their quality of life and it's not necessary to live like that.