I love this phrase! It’s a quote from Russell Brand, and perfectly describes how we all get pulled back into the way things are, rather than the way we want them to be. We are used to our existing conditions, we have adapted ourselves to handle them, and we have habits formed around them, so we go with the familiar attitudes and behaviours, even when we don’t like them or feel right with them.
It’s no wonder that we find it hard to change things, because we have to re-consider more than the simple change itself. Think about it: if you decide to enhance your physical fitness, you have to revise your attitude to exercise and your diet, you have to find the right form of exercise for you, the different foods, and then you need to find time to put it into effect – and all that in the middle of an already busy life!
Even if you succeed in doing all this, you then have to deal with others questioning what you’re doing: why are you going swimming twice a week instead of coming out for a drink with us? You could skip it this once. Why don’t you want a curry? You used to like that every week. So it’s not just your habits that pull you back, it’s also the expectations of others, who know you as you were, and try to keep you in the place they understand and are familiar with. This applies even more if you are making a change to something which is not the norm in our culture, because then the pressure to return to the norm comes form everywhere, not just family and friends.
So how do we break the magnetism of existing conditions?
- We identify what we’re aiming for. Before we start to implement any change, we write down what it is and how we will benefit from it when we achieve it. We can then refer back to this to remind ourselves why we’re doing it, when it feels a bit hard.
- We become aware of when the magnetism is at work.
We recognise that we will tend to go back to default habits, and that others will also pull us back to what’s familiar for them
- We use what we already have.
We notice anything we already do that fits with how we want to be, and build on that. Fro example, if you leave work at 6 pm instead of 7 pm on Fridays already, you could leave at 6 pm on one other day of the week.
- We adopt a gentle approach to changing things.
We take simple steps towards what we want: we take 5 minutes in the morning to meditate; we walk upstairs instead of taking the lift; we only answer emails in the afternoon.
- We find allies.
We actively seek out people who will support and encourage us in the change we’re making – friends, work colleagues, people who are doing something similar.
- We have another go!
It is normal to slip back into old habits, to ‘fail’. We don’t progress and develop lineally, and we do have to deal with that magnetism! So don’t give up, dust yourself off, and have another go.
Over the years, you have successfully adopted new ways of thinking and behaving. It happens naturally to us as human beings – so you know you can. As a child, we do it all the time, but not consciously, by active choice. Now we’re grown-up, we can make conscious choices to improve our lives in ways that work for us. It’s not necessary to either have to fight to make a change, or to have to give up because it’s too hard. Just use the natural way that we have as children, and gradually break that magnetism. Go on, make that first step now!