The start of a new year means a new beginning. We endeavor to make resolutions stick and changes in behavior permanent. In January, the gym is more crowded, fast food restaurants see a dip in sales and infomercials run aplenty.
Particularly, in matters of giving something up, like smoking, drinking alcohol, carbs, etc., this reflective time of year makes you believe you can. Denying yourself something or someone may be the right next step in your health or growth plan. You may have identified an unhealthy relationship that needs to go. Perhaps you’re done arguing with your body over gluten. Perhaps you began saying no to environments that bring you down or encourage poor choices. Good for you!
The pitfall is the gap left behind. Typically, the “what I once did” time needs to be met with more than merely repetitive denial phrases. “I don’t want a cigarette, I don’t want a cigarette, I don’t want a cigarette” is a defensive posture, and the repetition of such a denial merely draws your attention back onto the thing you’re trying to move beyond. It’s a manic cycle and often leads to a break in resolve. You can’t just fill your mind with what you want to avoid.
This is a mental exercise as much as it may be anything else. Think about a similar tactic with managers. When a manager is being encouraged to move beyond some poor managerial habits, the success quotient for that is increased exponentially by replacing those unfavorable tendencies with those to emulate. Too often, our corrective action and coaching opportunities with management is punitive, particularly for those at first level roles. We don’t need to exert our power by merely disciplining someone. We are to help equip and encourage better. Offer other specific options to the manager. Ask the manager to try a particular tactic and then report back to you as to how it went.
The application is the same for your goals: to remove unhealth from your life. Look to equip and encourage. Equip yourself with new thinking by changing habits. Replace more than just denial. If you’re quitting smoking, take up something else. Be active in a different way so that you’re not just dwelling on what not to do; change your routine to change your mindset.
People management comes with change management. It’s unavoidable. For those in human resources and in leadership positions, learning how to manage change is a skill to learn and to refine. Just because you’re supervising others does not mean you’ve been anointed with some kind of innate knowledge of handling changes in process, habit and function. “Just do it” may work for Nike, but it’s not a real strategy for affecting long-term change. How many diets have you been on? Workout commitments? Promises to read more? To spend more time with family? Fill in the blanks with the start/stop changes we’ve tried to implement through the years.
Replace what you’re denying with something affirming. If you want to get healthier, then replace something in your schedule for an hour of working out. Perhaps you can replace the environment to achieve a similar goal. If you normally watch television at night, maybe you can walk on a treadmill while you watch. Replace the couch with the treadmill, so to speak.
The application of replacement thinking at home, at work, socially, etc., is manageable when done proactively. Set a plan at the onset of the denial desire. What will I do to change how I deal with “x”? Know that denying yourself is not an ideal strategy. Yes, for a select few, willpower might be enough. For the vast majority, it is not.
So, forget you, bad eating choices, poor communication habits and unfruitful financial decisions. A change is coming.
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