Why Doesn't Change Stick?
When we desire to live intentionally, often we start out with grand plans. This time of year, many people embark on goal setting missions- evaluating and seeking to make changes in their lives, families, work, and finances. Reflection and evaluation are indeed worthy ways to spend our time.
The trouble is that most people seek to change a lot of things all at once, and end up frustrated after a short period of time because their grand plans aren’t coming to fruition. It’s not that their labor is in vein, it may just be that the changes they want to make, grouped together, are too lofty to attain. Frustrated and discouraged many give up too early to see any progress, progress which can be a great motivator to keep going with the change.
In fact, most people join a gym in January, only to go a handful of times and never keep up with the habit. Why is that? Why are big goals so hard to attain? I believe it’s due to two factors.
First, we have the wrong motivation.
When you don’t know why you are doing something it’s hard to stick with it. And when your ‘why’ for working towards the thing you’re aiming towards doesn’t line up with what you value most deeply in life, it becomes even harder to stick with.
Second, our goals haven’t been broken down into attainable parts.
In order to become intentional about your life, you must start with where you are, where God has called you, not where you’d like to be, or wish you were.
And then from there, make small, incremental changes.
As Katrina Kenison has said, “Meaning and purpose come not from accomplishing great things in the world, but simply loving those who are in front of you, doing all you can with what you have, in the time you have, in the place you are.”
The Power of the Small Tweak
In fact, the most lasting change in your life is going to take place through what I call the POWER OF THE SMALL TWEAK.
Small tweaks. Not the big drastic change, but small, incremental changes. I believe that these small tweaks have the power to make the biggest impact in your life.
Small tweaks when consistently practiced over time become habit, and habit becomes lasting change. While your season of life, and life stage may come with constraints of time, money, relationships, or resources, you still have within your actual life the agency to make small tweaks to move towards the intentional life you want to live.
Four Small Tweaks
1. The Small Tweak of Time-
One of the biggest excuses people give for not changing or not pursuing the things they may be called to do is this: “I don’t have the time.”
I’ve always wanted to write, but I don’t have the time in my schedule to. Or I know I need to take care of my body, I just don’t have the time. Or I’ve always wanted to go back to school, but with my season of life, I just can’t right now…. I don’t have the time.
This may very well be a legitimate reason. As I mentioned earlier, I’m very aware that some seasons of life bring with them constraints, constraints that we need to pay attention to. But, using the power of the small tweak of time, you can make progress towards living intentionally in an area you’ve wanted to make progress in.
The small tweak of time uses the power of 15-30 minute increments to make progress towards a goal. In this small tweak ask yourself:
What 15-30 minute chunk of time is already built into my schedule that I could use differently?
Many people have 15 minutes right after work to wind down, or 30 minutes after the kids are put into bed. Some have 15 minutes right before bed or 30 minutes right after the kids leave for school. How might you use that 15-minute chunk of time differently?
Instead of scrolling on your phone, what else could you use that time for? Clearing a cluttered space in your house? Putting down those words you’ve been meaning to write? Reflecting on your day in a prayerful way? Making that phone call you’ve been putting off?
15 or 30 minutes may not seem like a lot of time, but small incremental change happens in small incremental chunks of time.
Last year I wanted to train with my husband for a 200-mile bike ride. A lofty and huge goal for someone who had never cycled before. Most of the time the goal felt very daunting and unattainable. How was I supposed to not only do the ride, but also get my body in shape for the ride?
What I found was that the small tweak of time made all the difference. Originally, I had thought I needed to ride the bike in the mornings, which proved challenging with everything else that I needed to do during that time of the day- getting the kids ready for the day and off to school, getting to work, and making the plan for the day. But I found I had time in the evenings after work, and after the kids went to bed, to get on the trainer, and ride my bike.
We lived in Seattle at the time, and it got dark around 4:30 every evening that winter, not to mention most days it was too cold to ride outside. But using time I had, and a little creativity got me to the place where once the weather got bearable to ride in again, I wasn’t starting from scratch towards this lofty goal.
2. The Small Tweak of Triggers-
The second small tweak is to pay attention to your daily rhythm and use that rhythm to trigger or remind you of the change you want to make in your life.
Remember: small changes consistently over a longer period of time can create a BIG impact.
By paying attention to your daily rhythm, you can find things you do consistently, that either you could change slightly or that would trigger you to work towards the change you desire in your life.
For example, you may want to incorporate building relationships with your neighbors into your life, but don’t know where to start. Use the natural action of pulling into your driveway from work, as a trigger to work towards that change. Take 5-10 minutes after getting home, but before going inside, to go knock on a neighbor’s door and start building a relationship.
Or maybe the change you’d like to be more reflective on your life, hearing God’s voice and direction in a clearer way. By using daily activities such as opening and shutting doors, putting in a password on a computer, or unloading the dishwasher as a trigger to pause and ask a question of the Lord and listen for his voice, you could incorporate times of reflection into your life very easily.
I have used the time I put my kids to bed each night as a trigger to pray a blessing over them, since the time they were babies. I have also used sitting down at my desk as trigger to pause and listen before beginning to work or write.
Whatever change you want to make, listen to the wisdom of the small tweak of triggers.
What action can you attach to the change you want to make, so you're reminded of the change anytime the action occurs?
Incorporating change into something you already do every day, can make all the difference in how easy it will be to implement the change into your life.
3. The Small Tweak of Intention-
Change doesn’t happen on its own. In fact, as creatures of habit, breaking into new ways of living can actually be a hard task. Any change, will require you being intentional about implementing it.
But this intention doesn’t have to be something big you muster up- it can actually be a small tweak you make, in small moments. By changing how you think about something, you can intentionally set yourself up for working towards that change.
Let me explain.
Say you want to change the way you eat. You aren’t going to automatically do this. By using the small tweak of intention, you can make it easier to implement this change. Instead of shopping the grocery store by aisle, shop first for the things you want to start eating. You may end up winding around the grocery store to find the things on your list, but by being intentional about what you eat, you will first fill your cart with healthy options, and won’t have as much room for the things you want to give up eating.
This can work the same way with a budget.
By setting a set budget before you enter a store, you are intentionally setting yourself for sticking to what you had planned. The small tweak of intention could be implemented using a calculator to add up the prices of the things in your cart, so that you aren’t surprised when you get to the check-out line, what the total is.
These aren’t very big actions- using a calculator in the store, filling your cart with things you want to start eating first so there isn’t as much room for the things you’re giving up- but through the power of the small tweak of intention, incremental changes can be a reality in your life.
What do you want to change in your life and how might you intentionally tweak your life (remember small tweaks) to make that change stick?
4. The Small Tweak of Invitation-
Lasting change doesn’t happen most often by pulling up your bootstraps and doing it by yourself. The small tweak of invitation brings the power of relationship into the process of change.
By inviting another person into the change, you give yourself the boost of another person’s encouragement, voice, and challenge to work towards the change we have in mind.
By not inviting people into the change we have in mind, not only are we left on our own to ‘figure it out’ but, we deprive ourselves of the help and encouragement we could have if we simply use the small tweak of invitation.
Imagine that you’d like to change the way you are talking to your kids, but you don’t tell anyone about it. If you’re in the habit of using a certain tone of voice with them, it’s going to be hard to just change it by your own will power.
But if you know your spouse or a friend is going to ask you about it, you will be more likely to be reminded about it, because you have an outside voice reinforcing the change you have in mind.
Or imagine for me that you’d like to reach your goal of having a more open house, and inviting people over for dinner more. This goal, because it involves other people at the core, can be made exponentially easier through the power of invitation.
Just tell someone close to you that you’re working towards building relationships. They may even do a lot of the work of bringing friends over, helping you in the process of building up those relationships.
Who might you invite into your life to support you towards changing?
Small tweaks reveal that change can be broken down into manageable steps.
Tweak your time. Tweak your triggers. Tweak your intentions. Tweak your invitations.
And watch the power of the small tweak move you closer to living more intentionally, and with a greater sense of living the life you are called to be living.
Faithful. Connected. Full of Life.
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