‘Tis the season for all things cozy and warm. I know the words pumpkin spice latte evoke an emotional response (or maybe a Pavlovian response) from more than one of you. I’m more of a decaf-skim-two-pump-light-whip mocha girl myself, but apparently there’s not a specific season for that. Whatever, Starbucks.
We’re snuggling up to fall here in the Midwest and I couldn’t be more ready. Drag out the blankets for the sofa and my favorite slippers for my tootsies and I’m one happy girl. It’s my Northeastern upbringing that started my love affair with fall and it was my time at Cornell that solidified it. You haven’t lived till you’ve been in Ithaca, NY in the fall. A-ma-zing.
The strange thing about fall is that we love it even though it signifies change in such visible ways – I mean, it’s basically shouting “WINTER IS COMING! IT’S GOING TO BE COLD! AND DARK! FOR MONTHS!” from its orange and red treetops, and we’re still happy! Maybe we’re distracted by the spectacular leaves or the crisp cool air or all those pumpkin spice lattes, but it’s one of the few times in which we readily embrace change. Usually, we resist it at all costs. We’d rather stay miserable than risk changing something because change seems so difficult. But, is it really?
I find that intentional change has five stages and they’re not all difficult. In fact, three out of five are actually fun! (Changes that are thrust upon us operate a little differently so we’ll save those for another time.)
Let’s say, as an example, that you decide to start writing in a journal every day. Here’s what might happen.
1) Resistance – This is when you’re contemplating a change and 502 reasons why you should not or cannot make it happen are surfacing. “I don’t have a journal and I can’t just write on notebook paper for heaven’s sake. I have NO TIME to write, I mean when would I water my plants/exercise/watch TV/read/talk to my sister? And I don’t even have a decent pen. Plus I’m a terrible writer.”
2) Exhilaration – This happens RIGHT AFTER you decide to change and your subconscious kicks off a pep rally in your honor to reinforce your decision. “Whoo hoo! I am a genius! All the smartest and most successful people keep journals. You know what? These journals could be published one day. Forget pens. Maybe I should get a writing desk! ”
3) Uphill Battle – These are the days and weeks of implementing new behaviors that require conscious thought and extraordinary effort to make progress and etch new habits into your life. “I am going to set a timer for 10 minutes and write before I do anything else in the morning. I’m going to create a list of topics I might want to write about one day so I can get through writer’s block. I’m going to be late for work but I AM GOING TO FINISH THIS JOURNAL ENTRY.”
4) Momentum – This begins to pick up when those same, not-so-new-anymore behaviors become more automatic and therefore require less effort. “Wow, I wrote for 20 minutes today without even noticing!” “I’ve gotta journal about this thing that just happened!”
5) New Normal – By this stage you’re thinking “Change? What change? Haven’t I always lived this way?” And you’re probably recruiting others to your new way of living. “I bought you this journal for your birthday because I just LOVE writing in my journal every morning and I know you’ll love it, too!”
Did you notice how one of the hardest moments was deciding to make the change – fighting off all the internal dialog telling you that you can’t or shouldn’t? And did you notice that as soon as you do decide, your inner critic morphs into your inner cheerleader? It’s that cheerleader who has to stay by your side through the uphill battle until you build your own momentum.
Where are you resisting a much-needed change and letting your inner critic keep you stuck? Go get yourself a pumpkin spice latte and see if you can coax out your inner cheerleader to shift your perspective and get you moving. It’s fall. Change is in the air.