This morning a client and I were talking about making changes and the trouble with middles. We both agreed. Beginnings are exciting. Endings are dramatic.
Middles? They kinda suck.
There’s energy, excitement, and possibility with beginnings. There’s relief, closure and completion with endings.
Middles, though are just full of trouble.
If you are making a longer-term change, all your troubles will come up in the middle. Frustration is in the middle. Boredom is there, too. There’s more opportunity to encounter people working against your resolve in the middle. The middles are where you are “giving up” short term satisfaction for the “longer term” reward of sticking to your plan.
Let’s face it.
Sometimes we want what we want when we want it.
It’s hard in the middle to remember why you wanted to lose that weight. When it’s cold and rainy outside, it’s easy to forget to remember that going to the gym is an essential part of your “get healthy” plan.
Nevertheless, there are things you can do to help yourself stick to your goals when you hit the doldrums of middles.
For purposes of this exercise, let’s assume that our goal is to lose 30 pounds. If it takes 4 months to accomplish this one mega-goal, we are going to have to have changed behavior for 120 consecutive days.
There’s a whole lot of middle involved in losing your mid-life middle.
If we eat 3 times a day and have two snacks for each of those days, we have to “pet the food dragon” 600 times (5 meals/snacks tines 120 days.) That’s a HUGE commitment to change.
To help us stick to longer-term goals, we have to have a “middle game strategy.” We have to deal with the ennui of middles. We have to have – in advance – a workable game plan to deal with frustration, temptation, and such.
Here are five strategies that can help you keep the fire of your vision alive during those pesky annoying middles:
1. Redefine “Winning.” Look for a series of small “wins” rather than just one ultimate “win. In our example, a win could be eating one healthy meal. A different win could be taking a 15-minute walk or saying “no” to temptation.
2. Double Your Wins by Connecting The Dots. Now you want to expand the idea of individual wins to add the complexity of connecting one good choice after another. Eat a healthy breakfast. Win!!! Now you’re half way through your morning and want a snack. Take a short walk first. Win!!! Plus a bonus win for making two consecutive winning choices.
When you eat that snack, you choose a healthy one. Win!!! And, again, a bonus win for connecting that dot to the walking one. Make your goal to be the connection between two good habits and not just the isolated habits by themselves.
3. Get an Accountability Partner. It’s more fun and effective to share your “change journey” with a friend. This person agrees to be an “accountability partner” with you. This is the person who is your cheerleader and loving task master. It helps if your Accountability Partner is also working toward some change, but you do not both have to be working toward the same goal. Make a regular daily time to share with this person. Keep it simple. You can text your wins. Pick up the phone if you have an unexpected challenge. On occasion, make time to talk about your global plan and your current strategies for getting there.
4. Celebrate Your Wins. Assume your success at the outset. It is really, really important to have regular surprises and treats to celebrate your mini-wins. Every week – at the outset – schedule some treat into your calendar. Assume that you will succeed and “earn” your win. Don’t pick a treat that is contrary to your overarching goal. Don’t head to the donut shop to celebrate your two pound weekly weight loss. But, you might get a manicure, or a massage, or take yourself to an art supply store for new watercolor pencils.
5. If You Fall, Booster Rocket Yourself Back UP! Do not allow yourself to dwell on misfires, mistakes and miscues. If you “fall off the wagon” simply make your very next choice a win. That’s it. No self-injury required. Call your Accountability Partner, ask for support and simply get back on task.
As you move toward your goal, you will start to see evidence of your success. Use the thrill of positive change as motivation to keep going.
And now we need your help. In the Wisdom Circle space below, please help us expand our toolkit for managing middles.
And, as always, let us know what changes you are trying to make, and how we can support you in that process.
Photo: Flickr, _Abhi_