So what’s the best way to change?
The best way to change individually is to ignore your feelings and do the work until it becomes “naturally” a part of who you are. This is obviously easier said than done, but there is a way to make the transition go more smoothly.
An easier way to have the change go smoothly, is by having other people around that will hold you accountable to your goals…and not your feelings.
If you have ANY inkling of internal desire for the change you say you want, then you will be in a much better place to continue that habit if you are surrounded by like-minded people. Even if that current inkling is over-crowded by your fears, doubts, “feelings,” past failures and old habits, you have the best chance for change in a group setting.
Why is this?
Two main reasons:
1 – We have a very large, innate need to “fit in” with a crowd. For almost anyone, the real world examples are simply called making friends or “fitting in.” We do this in a number of ways and I’ll only name our “mirror neurons” as one of the ways that we subconsciously learn to “fit in” by mimicking others.
2 – We also have a very large, innate need to be “consistent” with our words and actions. Therefore, if you tell someone that you’re going to do something and have done it a couple of times, then you start to back up and find justifications for those new actions and words…even if you don’t like those actions at the beginning.
In Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Exercise and Sport, Deci and Ryan (Founders of Self-Determination Theory) sums up this concept when they say:
“According to organismic integration theory, people are inherently oriented to assimilate and internalize social regulations, but that inherent tendency must have certain environment supports. Specifically, people will accept and internalize a new behavioral regulation or guiding value to the extent that they feel support for relatedness, autonomy, and competence in the context of behaving.”
In SDT those three elements (relatedness, autonomy and competence), are the three basic psychological needs.
In other words, when people feel accepted by a group (increased relatedness), learn the methods which others within the group have successfully changed (increased competence), and have a choice about the process (autonomy), they are more likely to stick to a change.
The reason they change is that they learn to internalize the values of the group. This is a very powerful way to change and if you look at it, is one of the best ways for anyone to change at anytime.
This is the same phenomenon that causes adults to go to “rehab,” join Weight Watcher’s, partake in group exercise classes, make it through military boot camp or join any of the “Anonymous” associations (Alcoholic’s Anonymous). We partake in these group settings because we are held accountable to other people. We are held to higher standards and are help guided to new levels of living than what we think we’re capable of achieving on our own.
In all of these groups, the difference-maker is that you start to identify with different parts of your personality.
These groups inspire hope and offer you glimpses into other parts of yourself. They provide you with “how to’s with change” while keeping your personal choice alive (except with maybe the military boot camp). That hope, knowledge of change and personal choice increases your internal desire, or internalization of different values, and you start to function in a different way.
You start to identify with yourself in a different way.
The key with all of this, is that you can relate to either the group as a whole or at least one of the member’s of that group. With Weight Watcher’s most of the people relate because they are in the same boat, trying to lose some weight by watching their points. Alcoholic’s Anonymous is the same in that they’ve all been individuals who have had problems with alcohol.
It’s that ability to connect, to relate that drives humans to love, to be sociable, to form friendships. It’s also these things that help us to change most effectively.
It’s not always the system or even the individual’s habits that set someone up for success or failure, but instead the way they connect (or fail to connect) with another person.
This is why this is the second step to “Ownership.” EVERY single person I’ve ever seen add exercise to their life, did so with the help of someone else. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they worked out with the individual. Instead it means someone, somewhere gave that individual either guidance, hope, inspiration or simply helped them see themselves in a different light. By doing so, that person was able to believe that they could change and started to hold themselves to higher standards.
Our relationships will always help or hinder our ability to change. For those relationships that help the individual to come into their own with the three basic psychological needs, the power for change is extremely strong.
The person is able to better integrate new habits and once those habits are present he or she can internalize them into their “identity.” Of course those relationships that seem controlling, decrease our will to learn on our own, and foster judgment, anxiety and fear will be highly detrimental to any change, including exercise.
The question is, what relationships are you fostering? Are you looking to make a change with “will-power” alone or are you looking to build relationships that can help you on your journey?
Do you see other people who are “better or luckier than you” or do you see people who have put in more effort, time and work and can act as a valuable resource on your journey of change?
The answers to these questions highlight whether you believe you can’t change or whether you believe you can and will change.
Only you have the power to choose.