Change – it gets easier

September 9, 2011

in Series

Public domain image via

Donald H. Rumsfeld at a standing desk

Change is difficult – especially at first. Our brains get into patterns and want to repeat those patterns even when we know the pattern is wrong, bad for us, or we just don’t want to go that way. Forming a new pattern to replace the old takes time – weeks, months, even years in some cases. However, over time the new pattern gets stronger, the old pattern gets weaker, and eventually the new pattern becomes dominant.

Change is also uncomfortable – it stretches us, it interferes with how we normally think and act. Many changes require adjusting thing other than the thing we want to change. Change can inconvenience those closest to us, especially at first. An alcoholic who stops drinking becomes all about that goal, and that interferes with their life and the lives of those around them. This is necessary, at first. As time passes, it gets easier.

Perhaps a recent change I made is instructive here. A month and a half ago I went to a standing desk. At first, this was not pleasant – my legs hurt, my feet hurt, and standing was a distraction. I got a tall stool to use when I was really uncomfortable, setting limits on how often and how long I would use it during my hours a day at the computer. I had to be diligent to not sit on the stool and lose track of time because sitting was more natural to me. Day by day I hurt less and was less annoyed that I was standing. Then one day I realised I had not used the stool in three days. What’s more, I really didn’t want to use it. I became less and less comfortable sitting – especially for long periods. We started our three-week journey around the southeastern US, and I found myself looking for creative ways to make a standing desk wherever I was working. For several days when I was working AV I could not stand, but fortunately I had developed enough of a preference for standing that I went back to it by choice as soon as I could. Had my forced sitting been earlier in the process, I think I’d have lost ground and had to fight to get it back.

Hotel standing desk

I was surprised to find a standing desk in my hotel room.

This change was actually fairly fast, but the same stages are typical for any change, be it physical, emotional, or mental.

Why a standing desk? About a year ago I read an article about the health harm of spending a lot of time sitting. Since then I’ve seen more and more about this, including studies which indicate that even a good workout every day does not offset the harm done by hours of sitting. I spend 30 to 50 hours week at my desk, and I felt I needed to make this change for my health. I’m not telling anyone else they should make the same change, but I warn you that reading about this is likely to scare you to your feet!

Also in this series:

The Belief That’s Sabotaging Your Marriage
Your Change
Her Change

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I think it gets easier if there is positive reinforcement. However if things don't get better, or appear to get worse, then it may appear the change is not worth it. I've previously given the example of losing weight by changing diet. I've lost 38 or so pounds in the last three months, simply by adopting a few different habits. I track what i eat, and set pre-defined limits on what I'll eat over the course of a day and week. If I were not having success, I'd not stick with this approach. As I'm reaching a plateau, I know I'll need to add more exercise soon. The same goes with relationship change. If you are making the specific changes your spouse requested and things don't get better, change doesn't get easier, it gets harder. You are not obtaining the desired results. She's not better, you are not better, yet you are doing EXACTLY what she asked for. Now what? Change is hard not because it's successful. When it's successful, it's easy. Change is hard when it fails, because such changes cannot survive without positive reinforcement.

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