For the last three years, I’ve been going through a personal evolution. It’s been one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do—to look at myself and deal with what I see, like it or not. The thought of change or even exposing my flaws to someone else is mortifying, but at the same time, I know that it is the path to self-improvement. This is what starting a fitness program also looks like: going into a place with people that are in shape, when you’re not. The number one reason that people don’t start a fitness routine is because they are afraid. The fear of not “fitting in” in some way or another can be overwhelming.
In fitness, the decision to change comes about as a reaction to something that has happened. The doctor says you have to work out, or you’re going to die. Maybe you’re lying on the sofa watching infomercials and deciding I don’t want to live like this anymore. More often, it’s something less dramatic like looking in the mirror and hating what you see. However change may begin, it’s rarely calculated to achieve ultimate success, which means that the plan is incomplete at best, and hardly ever involves doing away with our coping mechanisms. I like to use alcohol as an example of a coping mechanism that is commonly used to take the edge off. In a book that I am reading currently, the author says we are a society of “take-the-edge-off-oholics.” We all have coping mechanisms that help us through the day or to recover from it. The problem with most of these things like a couple of glasses of wine at the end of the day is that they add up and they are hard on our system. Stopping typically results in you feeling better, losing some weight, and having more energy. But the problems that we were trying to cover up are still there, and ultimately we always come back to what we know will give us relief. So typically when I suggest that a client cuts out alcohol, I get the look of horror and definite anger, which scream fear of change. “How will I fix the way I feel without my two glasses of wine?” They face the vulnerable feeling of having to deal with what is driving the bad behavior. The fear of change can keep us from wanting to change at all, even if we know that a change can make our lives better. Most people find that working out hard gives them a rush or high of elevated endorphins that last for hours with no hangover.
Most of us also fear the unknown. Sometimes, the unknown is more than we can deal with, and it often prevents us from making change. In the event that we take the leap to change, the discomfort that we feel in the midst of the unknown and unfamiliar keep us from taking the steps that will give us lasting change. Think about how many times you’ve had a friend who has tried the latest fad diet and lost weight, but at some point went back to what they were comfortable with even though it hadn’t worked in the past. What is familiar is what is comfortable, so it’s what we usually return to.
When it comes to lifestyle change, normally it involves more than just you. Your changes affect everyone else around you. That simple fact could be good or bad. With that said, the people who are around us may fuel our fear of change and of the unfamiliar also. The fear of not fitting into our peer group or even into our family can keep us from making major changes. Sometimes hurtful words are exchanged because the other party is afraid of being left out or left behind. It often ends up that we are not just working through change, but the fears that go along with it. When you hear someone say they wish they could change but they don’t, then maybe the real question is what are they afraid of that’s keeping them from changing? There are lots of reasons not to change. Don’t let fear be one of them. In life, there is one consistent thing, and that is change. The optimal thing to do is to let it work for you instead of fighting with it. Remember if you initiate change, you can direct it instead of having to go along for the ride. I’m not change expert but I do understand that it take a community to create lasting change so ask for help and have an idea where you want to end up at and you will be successful.