After I have been working with a client for a little while and they have started to experience success, a strange phenomenon occurs. They enjoy the success at first, “I can’t believe I am finally doing this!” They are thrilled. I am thrilled!
Then fear and doubt creeps in, and they feel scared in case they can’t keep the new habits and behavior.
Their whole lives they have been struggling with the typical ADHD challenges, such as having an organized home, arriving on time, working on projects before a deadline, going to bed at a decent time or exercising regularly.
After a short time of coaching they are doing exactly what they have always wanted to be doing. Yet, because in the past they haven’t been able to maintain these behaviors they feel scared that this is a passing phase and soon they will be back to living in frustration. If you have been experiencing this too, don’t worry it’s normal!
It is a bit like learning to ride a bike. The first time I rode my bike without training wheels was with my dad. He had taken me to a quiet country lane where it was safe to practice. I was pedaling and my dad was running behind me to help balance the bike. It was really fun, until I turned my head and I realized he wasn’t there anymore and I had been riding by myself. The second I realized this I fell to the ground.
Like other new bike riders I didn’t believe I could ride on my own. New habits are no different. You are doing the activities you always knew would improve the quality of your life. It feels good; however, you haven’t built belief in yourself that you can maintain them, yet!
Your belief and trust in yourself will come! Here are three things that will help.
Your Brain is Playing Catch Up
Your brain has to catch up with the new you! Imagine if you have always been 30 minutes behind schedule, arriving to appointments with your coat tails flying and breathless apologies. In contrast, you now arrive on time, every time, feeling calm, organized and proud of yourself. That is a big change! It takes a while to incorporate that new you into your self-identity. Even though it is a positive change, it can feel uncomfortable at first.
To help speed up the process, replace your mental chatter. The old you would have said things like, ‘I never arrive on time’ or, ‘I am always so late’ . Replace that with a fun positive statement, such as, ‘I am a punctual time keeper!’
Also if someone gives you a complement, rather than dismiss it and think they don’t really mean it, acknowledge it with a simple thank you. The positive external messages will help enforce your new habits and help your brain catch up with your new reality.
Upper Limit Problem
In his book, ‘The Big Leap’, Gay Hendricks identifies a concept called the Upper Limit. We all have inner settings that dictate how much success we allow ourselves to experience. If we exceed that inner setting (for example, by changing our behaviors), we get uncomfortable and sabotage ourselves in order to get back to our comfort zone. Our individual upper limit setting is programmed in childhood, but can be reset. For example, when you are feeling good about your new behaviors, watch out for negative feelings or thinking as this is a sign you are at your Upper Limit and self-sabotage could be on its way.
Make Them Repeatable
Write down exactly what you are doing. You could write in your productivity journal or your weekly reviews. Recording your actions is practical as well as acting as a psychology security blanket. You might feel resistance to this when everything is going well. However, it only takes a vacation or a few days with the fluto forget the precisely what you were doing to experience your success.
In his book, ‘Tools of Titans’ Tim Ferris explains he has written every workout he has ever done since he was 18 years old. That is over 20 years of workout notes. If ever he wants to look like he did when he was 25 years old for example, he can look up what workout routine he was doing at that time in his life.
When you write things down, it helps you to realize that what you are doing now is not a fluke. There are some real concrete actions that you were doing to get that result.
Track Your Success
The more times you ride a bike, the stronger your belief will be that you can ride it without falling off. The same is true for new habits. If you track your new behavior with a simple star or cross on a calendar, you will have physical evidence that you are doing it. The longer that line of stars is, the stronger your belief will be. This is similar to Jerry Seinfield’s ‘don’t break the chain’ technique. However, if you do break the chain, don’t worry. Just jump back on your new habits as quickly as you can. This is where your record keeping from step 3 comes in handy.
Wishing you lots of success with your new habits!