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Why is Lasting Change so Elusive?

“Change begins at the end of your comfort zone” - Roy T. Bennett

We have all, at one time or another, set out with the best intentions to make positive changes in our life. New Year’s resolutions to get fit, eat better, and learn to meditate abound. We spend time dreaming, planning, and even mentally committing to this proposed change. However, how many times have we started and failed? How many times have we broken this promise to ourselves? We then stand back and watch ourselves deflate, feeling hopeless and defeated for not setting out to do what we had planned and hoped for, something that could have bettered our lives. How do we let that happen?

It can be perplexing and frustrating, even resulting in feelings of shame. In order to understand how we fail to initiate and maintain positive change in our lives, we must take a deep look at all the barriers within ourselves that can sprout up consciously or unconsciously to divert us off our path. There are likely influences that you may not have even considered, ones not so obvious yet still very powerful in affecting our behaviors and future success. In this article, I will discuss some barriers to change to help better understand why we are often unsuccessful in achieving our goals and then discuss some remedies to help minimize their effect.

How does this tie into Perimenopause you ask? Well, Perimenopause is a time when we experience great changes, some good, some not so good. I have spoken about this being a period of opportunity to take control of our health and well-being. While I speak of it and promote it, I know making a sustainable lifestyle change is HARD and it can be especially hard for women in this age group because, for one, we have not been encouraged by the media or frankly educated by the medical field to know that we can make changes that have a positive effect. We are also bombarded with messages (that’s you again, social media) that we are to expend most of our energy on caring for others, suggesting that we are being selfish for focusing our energy on ourselves. We must learn to see beyond the outside influences and come to terms with knowing we are in charge of our minds, bodies, and actions. We face challenges, for sure, but ultimately, no one else is responsible for our behavior but ourselves. If you are struggling to make a change I invite you to read ahead with an open and curious mind and see what comes up for you.

Behavior is a product of social, physical and environmental challenges such as emotions, self-appraisals, beliefs about behavioral consequences and confidence in ability” -Albert Bandura 1997

Change Makers and Breakers

1. Your Attitude

Your ability to enact a behavior change is directly related to your attitude about that change (ie) Is it very important? Will it make a significant difference? Is the work worth the payout? What do you perceive others' reaction towards you will be if you make that change. This can be both a positive or negative reaction.

Consider how important your wellness and your vitality is to you. There is no right or wrong answer, just maybe delve into the why…why is this change so important to you or why is it not so important? Be truthful and real with yourself.

What is your belief that you actually have the power and the right to make that change? This brings up issues of worthiness, self-esteem and confidence. Heavy stuff… I know…but yet it is so important to explore where these beliefs came from. Acknowledgment and awareness can perhaps make it not so heavy after all.

2. Your Circle

Research has shown that our social circle can have a significant impact (positive and negative) on all aspects of one's health including behavioral, psychosocial, and physiological. These impacts are cumulative and can affect us for a lifetime. There is even some research showing that your friends’ friends behavior can also have an effect on your health and happiness through what's called emotional contagion, the phenomenon that we can “catch '' the emotions of others just like a cold(1).

Will you be supported by those closest to you? How much support do you think you will receive... Just an “Oh yeah that’s great, good luck with that” or is there someone for whom you could be accountable to? True support is someone who is going to lovingly call you out when needed and also shows empathy when you slip up.

Can you identify those in your circle who will be less than supportive? Those who have a hard time seeing you change or make improvements to your life. How do you feel about that scenario? Do you fear being judged or ostracized? The people who criticize your success in making a positive change are, by the way, most often projecting their own issues of unworthiness onto you. Don't let their projections stick to you.

3. Your Time Management Skills

We are ALL “too busy”. This is the unfortunate perceived reality of the modern world. However, we all have control over it. It starts with taking a hard look at the root source of our “busy-ness” and I don't mean the obvious responsibilities of work or parenting. Consider instead, what within you is driving the busyness? Is it a hard-wired expectation established in our formative years? Is it an act of distraction so we don't have to feel our feelings or accept certain realities? Is it a way to make you feel more worthy, more useful? Ladies, believe me, I have been ALL of these so, please know this is not meant to shame, it is only meant to encourage self-awareness and acceptance.

4. Your Readiness

I have brought up some heavy stuff in this list. Not everyone is ready to face some of these realities. Some will never be ready and that is OK. But it is important to consider why you may or may not be ready. Sometimes it is just fear of the unknown, fear of actually being successful, or fear of actually becoming the best version of yourself.

Tips to Institute Change that Sticks

1. Start with deciding what you want to change and exactly why

Example: “I want to be in better shape”

Follow that up with answering 2 or 3 more why questions:

  • Why? “Because I feel tired all the time”

  • Why? “Because I have been prioritizing my career or spending too much time on Netflix, Facebook, etc reducing my free time to exercise”

  • Why? “Because it has been easier to stay distracted than to face the reality that my health is suffering.”

2. Investigate your barriers

Consider some of the questions that came up in the list above. Let the questions percolate a little bit and then find some time where you can be still and undistracted to allow the answers to speak. You may want to journal about it, speak to a trusted friend, family member or professional to delve a little deeper.

3. Start small. Pick one or two achievable goals.

This may mean breaking a larger goal into smaller more achievable parts. Write the goal(s) down somewhere where you will see it often. Tell a few people about your goal(s) ( see #5). This will help make your goals “real” and provide accountability.

4. Anticipate what roadblocks will come up and have a solution or workaround ready when they do.

Roadblock: When I get home from work I am often stressed so I immediately reach for a glass of wine, thwarting any chance of productive exercise.

Workaround ideas: Exercise before you go home, reach instead for the phone and call a friend to go for a walk, don’t go into the room where the wine is kept instead go straight to a designated workout area.

You can come up with your own creative and personal ideas that work for you. The key is to expect opportunities for failure to present themselves because they will, and to be armed and ready with your defense strategies.

5. Use a calendar and schedule your wellness “bites”

It doesn't have to be large swaths of time. You can set a timer to take 10 deep breaths, stand up and stretch or walk around the block. Again, start with small achievable goals and then build on your success.

6. Find someone who holds you accountable, an “accountabilibuddy”

I cannot take credit for this term (I actually think it came from the TV show, South Park, of all places!) but I like it. An accountabilibuddy is not just someone you reach out to when you need help or someone who just enables you. It is someone who can check in on you, (gently) point out when you are making excuses, and help problem-solve with you how to get back on track. If you have those people in your life, they are gold, consider yourself very lucky.

7. Reward yourself when you succeed, be compassionate and not critical towards yourself when you miss.

The importance of this cannot be stressed enough. We are all human and we will all fail at some time or another. Failing is not an occasion to self-shame, self-criticize or give up. It is a time to accept that we have weaknesses while also acknowledging that we have some power to make the right changes and move forward. Instituting a healthy reward system encourages you to celebrate your wins. When we reward ourselves positively we neurologically set ourselves up to seek activity that fosters more reward. Win. Win.

I am here to help you along your wellness journey. I provide a space that is safe, supportive, and accountable. You can reach out to me at for a free 20-minute consultation to discuss your needs.

  1. Umberson D, Montez JK. Social relationships and health: a flashpoint for health policy. J Health Soc Behav. 2010;51 Suppl(Suppl):S54-66. doi: 10.1177/0022146510383501. PMID: 20943583; PMCID: PMC3150158.

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