Embracing a lifestyle change (in a different way)
Embracing a lifestyle change is tough: from adopting a new habit to dealing with a unique life situation or embracing a chronic condition.
I recently came across the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, which brings a special and interesting way of approaching a lifestyle change.
He writes that to adopt a new lifestyle change; there are three levels to approach it: one more superficial level that is defined by the outcome that we want to attain, like losing weight, becoming more physically active, or dealing better with emotions. A deeper level involves focusing on the process of achieving that change, like joining a fitness class, adopting a new way of eating or starting a meditation practice. Finally, the deepest level is to change our identity, related to what we want to accomplish.
Let me explain this a little bit. The outcome is about what you get, the process is about what you do, and identity is about what you believe. He writes that the ultimate motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity.
Most people focus on the outcome and the process when deciding to change. However, I find that changing our beliefs about whom we want to become (identity) about the desired change is a more powerful way to change.
Let's say we want to lose weight. The outer level is the goal; the outcome I want to accomplish is the what, like losing weight and then defining exactly the amount we want. The next level is how I am going to do it and where are the things I need to do to accomplish this specific goal. For example, joining Weight Watchers or eating different or eating less or whatever you feel is right for you, a plan that you believe you are confident to follow.
But then the most inner and transformative level to me is to target to change your belief regarding the desired change, in this example, the way you eat. At this level, an identity question is needed whenever you approach food: “what would be the way of eating for a slim person? Then you act: what you eat and how much.
How do we embrace change through identity change?
When we want to change things in life that are difficult, like living with heavy emotional patterns, a new life situation like a divorce, or the loss of someone we care about, it requires a significant amount of self-reflection about the person we want to become. Once you define the belief you want to adopt, you go back to the question: Am I acting in a way that relates to that belief? Who is the type of person that achieves the outcome I want?
I feel that his approach of paying attention right at the point of contact with life about how our beliefs shape our actions is a way of meditation: A deep observation of life. It goes beyond thinking about how it feels in your body and your gut/heart. Identity-based changes require determination, work, and an environment of silence and nonreactivity.
I feel that true lifestyle change is identity change: if you want something to stick with you, it must be part of who you are. This principle is powerful as it applies to everything: you’re eating, your physical activity, your relationships …everything.
Our habits are the way we embody our identity. At the same time, when we change our beliefs about a particular action, our behavior (repeated action) will follow until it becomes automatic, and a new habit will be born.
Our lifestyle does not change at the snap of a finger, but bit by bit, by small repetitive changes that change our self-image (our identity).
In my search for ways to deal with how it is to live and achieve with uncertainty and problems in my own life and in the life of my patients that deal with chronic conditions, I find this approach very powerful, and that is the reason why I want to share it with you.
I hope this helps you as it helped me and stirred your mind, as it did mine, into this approach to change lifestyle (the way we live our lives). It may impact how we embrace change and living conditions, including disease, and create a way to achieve contentment and balance, which is the essence of health.
See you next month
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Being forced to relocate, which involves getting rid of half or more of your possessions. I find this extremely disturbing and painful. I have traveled all over the world, have many beautiful and valuable things. I am a scholar, am still working on research and publishing and need my books, for ex. My things are NOT my identity, but they are PART of my life. How is this different from, say, getting rid of some of your knowledge?
Are you in the process of a forced relocation? As in moving from a long-time home to a much smaller place in the same community, or actually leaving geographically? For myself, the latter would be more difficult – my roots in my community span 5 generations, from grandparents through grandchildren. I travel, have always traveled, but I would be heartbroken to not have my familiar community. The house itself is just a building it doesn't mean so much, as long as I am near beloved people & places.
I understand the difficulty of getting rid of possessions for some people, but to me the difference between things and knowledge/memories is similar to the difference between community & a building. Perhaps because I grew up with few personal possessions? When I left home, everything I owned fit in one box and 2 suitcases.
Are you relocating to be with/near loved ones, or for a different reason? Is it possible to photograph those things that cannot go with you, and place them in an album you can look at?
Thanks for your reply. Not really being forced, but strongly advised, with constant pressure. My relatives want me to move closer, and I would do that, if I could find what we want. They keep telling me you must downsize. That;s what people do at your age. I have never done "what people do." My "lifestyle" is my work and related activities, including travel. We have always lived healthy, sensible, and reasonable. So I see no reason to change. My relatives are almost saying it is sinful not to give away possessions and scale down the size of the house etc etc.
Consider the title here, and the lead: "Embracing a lifestyle change is tough: from adopting a new habit to dealing with a unique life situation or embracing a chronic condition."
I think, at the core of the concept of mindfulness, is the message to be AWARE of why we do what we do, WHETHER we need to change, and HOW. Not everyone downsizes, or needs to. Not everyone changes their lifestyle. But, we must also understand that the decisions we make will affect our family, and be mindful of not creating a burden or distress for them. For my husband and me, after caring for numerous family members, we are mindful that our choices will affect others in the future.
Here are some decisions we have made, or are in the process of making:
If we downsize and give away possessions, it will be easier for our children and my sister to take care of things for us when we cannot. An alternative is to make decisions about the disposition of our real estate and belongings, and arrange for it to be done, in such a way that does not burden them.
If we simplify our housing and move to an easier-to-manage property, it is less of a burden on them. Or we can modify our home and arrange for paid assistance.
If we continue to travel, we can have arrangements in place to bring us and our belongings home if illness or injury strikes.
If we can no longer stay in our home, we can have a plan in place to relocate to and assisted living situation.
If we can no longer make our own decisions, we can have a plan in place to have someone else, maybe more than one person, to handle end-of-life decisions, finances, and what we leave behind.
Finally, we need to make sure our daughters, our lawyer, and anyone else will know our wishes, and where all pertinent information can be found.
So does that give you something to contemplate, instead of feeling that there is a pattern you SHOULD follow?
Thank you for your thoughtful response; you make many good points. Most of what you are saying makes sense. But your first sentence embodies an attitude that I just cannot adopt in my thinking–that is, to "embrace" a chronic condition (or any bad situation). If I had a chronic condition, I would fight it as best I could, and try to go on with my life. So regarding the topic at hand, having spent many years "constructing" my life, to start to "deconstruct" it is extremely repugnant. Again, it is not specifically about material things (which are part of my life). I have a lifetime of good habits, so I don't feel that I need to improve "lifestyle." Of course we can all improve in many ways, but not necessarily to make wholesale radical change.
You said, "If I had a chronic condition, I would fight it as best I could, and try to go on with my life." I agree absolutely, that is exactly what I have done with my chronic lung & pain conditions.
What I meant by "embracing" my condition was to seek expert counsel & treatment, make sensible adaptations, accept a level of risk, and get on with life. For example, I accept that I can no longer spend many hours in a day working in my gardens, so I simplify, I hire help, and I ignore a few weeds. I teach others from my lifetime of education & experience. I satisfy my desire for color and beauty by working on my fiber art & painting skills. I accept that can no longer hike or bike at altitude, but I can still do it in lower elevations. Or I can do it more slowly, appreciating beauty, photographing ideas for my artwork, chatting with friends.
Roberto's words at the beginning of this discussion, "It may impact how we embrace change and living conditions, including disease, and create a way to achieve contentment and balance, which is the essence of health" are at the heart of this concept. I have watched many people, on Connect & in my life, wear themselves out, put their lives on hold & fight chronic conditions that cannot be changed, only accepted. Instead the energy could have been devoted to accepting that their life has changed, and figured out how to make that work.
Perhaps nothing has crossed you path in life that necessitates change at this time. For you it might just be a concept to keep in mind for the future.
given the demoralization of chronic conditions that take away almost every activity that brought your loved one joy and changes the life of a caretaker forever I am disappointed that pulmonary and oncology and behavioral health cant provide some basic emotional support tools as to how to best communicate with the sick patient. Not everyone has children or religious faith.
I found this very helpful in trying to deal with somatic brain ideas for chronic back pain. Thanks for the book referral too.