The Secret to Changing Anything and Everything

Why Is It So Hard to Make Lasting Life Changes?

People start therapy or life coaching eager to jump in and make new things happen. That is admirable, and enthusiasm is certainly the catalyst for great things. We must have hope in order even to try changing anything.

We all start out with grand plans and make sweeping, dramatic gestures to reinvent ourselves and mark our transition into a better life: buying personal productivity solutions, new workout clothes, hiring a life coach, cutting up all the credit cards, throwing away the half-eaten bags of Ruffles, making solemn promises to be nicer to your partner, or flushing the cigarettes down the toilet. Things are going to be different now. These rituals of change feel like the door to a new life, and we feel very pleased with ourselves for several days. Our “better” selves

Changing Anything Can Be Challenging

But then, it gets frustrating. Things get hard, annoying, boring, or we get upset — and sure enough — snap right back into our old patterns. It’s easy to feel discouraged and get tricked into believing that you can’t do it.

But you can, my friend. You most certainly can.

You can have it all. You can have healthy relationships, lose weight, save money, achieve your goals, be healthier, more confident, sleep better, and feel happier.

The Secret to Changing Everything and Anything

Change is not magic. It doesn’t happen in those dramatic moments when we’re swearing that everything is going to be different from now on. Real change is in the ordinary, everyday choices that we make, based on our values and our mindsets.

Real change comes down to a simple formula: effort over time.

That’s it.

If you apply your efforts in a positive direction over a long enough timeframe, you will create change in your life. Even if you’re not perfect. Even if you don’t have all the advantages that someone else has. Even if you don’t totally believe that it’s going to work for you. I don’t like to make guarantees, but this is about as close as I’ll come to one: It works. Truly.

But, just because it’s simple doesn’t mean that it’s easy. There will always be times when you hit an obstacle and want to give up, or when you’re thrown off course by other priorities. But as long as you get back on track again, you are still on the path to change, and you will see positive results. Real change is the process of getting back on track, over and over, as many times as you need to. There are certain mindsets and habits that will help you do that, and that’s what we’re talking about on today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast.

Your ability to change your life is the same as everyone else’s. I hope this episode helps you get in touch with your remarkable power to create positive, lasting change.

xo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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The Secret to Changing Anything and Everything

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you’re listening to The Love, Happiness, and Success Podcast. 

[Intro Song: Never Stop Discotheque by Echo and the Bunnymen]

Dr. Lisa: Yes, Echo and the Bunnymen never stop. I don’t know if it’s okay for me to be playing full songs like that but I’m tempting Echo and the Bunnymen to come get me if they want me to stop. I’ll wrestle Echo and the Bunnymen. Bring it on. Anyway, welcome to The Love, Happiness, and Success Podcast. I’m Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. If you’re new to the show, welcome. I am the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching in Denver, Colorado. My background is as a marriage and family therapist. I’m also trained as a psychologist, and I’m a board-certified life coach. So I like to say I specialize in helping my clients create love, happiness, and success. 

Here we are today. For my more regular listeners, I am tardy in bringing you this podcast. It’s been a minute since my last podcast, and I’m very sorry for the delay. The truth is that I’ve had some personal things come up over the last few weeks that kind of nudged me off track, frankly. One of the areas of my life that had to flex to accommodate the reality of my situation was the time I had available to work on my podcast. But as I think you’ve all probably figured out by now, half the time I’m making a podcast or writing a new piece for my blog, I’m doing it because I’m reminding myself of something really important that I need to be thinking about or working on. 

I think that’s why I’ve been called to teach the stuff that I do is because it keeps me on track. So I keep learning and growing. Just like everybody else, when a catastrophe or unexpected hits, it impacts my routine and it gets me off track. We’re all in the same boat. We’re all chugging along; we’re moving forward bit by bit. And when big unexpected things happen, it messes you up, and we all need to get back on track once in a while. So my stuff has been going on lately has inspired me to create what I hope is a helpful podcast for you guys. 

I’m going to be talking about what I learned and what I also teach my clients,  fairly routinely, not just when I need to be thinking about it. But what I have learned about the secret to changing anything and everything, and continuing to move forward and make progress even if fill in the blank. So that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. But first, I have a couple of announcements, as always. We have a couple new events coming up in my practice. 

One, I’m super excited. My wonderful and talented colleague, Megan T., will be hosting our next Lifetime of Love class starting in June first in our Cherry Creek location. For those of you in Denver wanting to take a wonderful relationship class, if you’re about to get married and want to do non-secular premarital classes, it’s a wonderful one. Or if you’re interested in improving your relationship and maybe aren’t ready to take the plunge into capital M capital C: marriage counseling, this might be a nice way, getting your partner into a professional environment, learning new ideas together. 

Megan is wonderful. She has lots of assignments and activities, and people just love her classes. So if you’re interested in learning more about that go to our website and click on the Lifetime of Love link. Also, and I know again, this is just for people in Denver, but if you’re around on Monday, May the 11th, and if you are getting married or thinking about getting married, you can come to our next meet the wedding experts event. It’s May the 11th at 7pm. It’s going to be at the Second Home in the patio/bar area. It’s really nice. The Second Home, which is part of the JW, Marriott at Cherry Creek. It’s going to be a number of people from our practice talking about premarital counseling, but really, it’s just an opportunity to kind of hang out and have a cocktail and talk to wedding professionals in the area. So just it’s not like a presentation sales-y kind of thing. 

It’s really just an opportunity to meet a caterer, and a wedding planner, and a photographer, and makeup artist, just to talk to the people who work with a lot of people as they get married about just their insights into what kinds of things are important, what isn’t important, what is it important to invest money in, and what to not to. That’s actually been my biggest takeaway from our last event in chatting up some of these people is really that a lot of people who are getting married are spending gobs of money on stuff that is not meaningful or important at all. So I thought that that was very interesting. ‘m actually going to be interviewing them, one of them for an upcoming podcast so stay tuned for that. 

That’s all I have to announce today as opposed to the usual if you have ideas or things that you would like me to be talking about on the podcast, get in touch with me. As always, you can email me: Tweet at me @DrLisaBobby, and get in touch with me on Facebook. I’d love to hear from you. 

Let’s jump right in and talk about the secret to changing anything and everything. I wanted to talk about this today because I know, oh I know how, hard it is to change for all of us, but particularly people who come into… They start coaching or counseling and they’re so eager to jump right in there and start making new things happen for themselves, which is so admirable because enthusiasm is often the catalyst for making changes in our lives. We all start out with grand plans and we make sweeping gestures about the things that are going to be different from here on out. We sign contracts with ourselves, and purchase organizing materials at the office supply store and workout clothes, or we dump all the booze down the sink, or cut up the credit cards, and we feel very, very satisfied with ourselves for a while after you do that. You’re like, “This is it. Line in the sand.” 

We do well for a while. We continue doing our things. Making our podcasts regularly, following our goals, doing what we need to do. But then, it either gets frustrating, it feels like your enthusiasm was enough to start to stretch you into a new place of being for a little while. But then, things get hard, or annoying, or boring, or other stuff happens. Stressful stuff happens, and people wind up sort of snapping right back into the old place. The old way of being where you don’t do what you need to be doing day-to-day in order to create that success for yourself. And so then, what can oftentimes happen is that people will try, and try, and try to make changes but they don’t feel like they’re getting anywhere because they’ll do it differently for a little while, and then kind of snapback.

What I’ve learned and what I need to remind myself of is how to not take that experience, and then… Oh, there’s another helicopter. I’m gonna let that go. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, check out my perfectionism podcast from a little while ago, then you’ll get it. But anyway, it’s that it starts to feel futile when we are trying so hard to make changes and change our lives. It’s really hard to stay motivated when it feels like you aren’t making progress, especially if you’re not getting positive feedback or “attaboys” for doing a great job. 

What’s really normal is that we slow down whatever it is that you’re working on. You start to gain the weight back. You wind up calling that guy you said you would never talk to again, whatever. And you fall back into old patterns. You pay off all your credit cards, and you charge them right back up again. You put the weight back on, you do things that you said, “I’m not going to smoke anymore.” Now, there you are again. It’s so easy to feel like you’ve failed. It’s like “Why did I even bother? You know what, I said I was gonna do a podcast every week, every other week. It’s been three weeks. Why do I even bother? I should just give up completely.” And that happens to all of us. 

You know, where it’s actually particularly true, and this is where I have to work the hardest with people sometimes, is with your relationships. Because when couples come into couples counseling, it’s two people who are trying to make changes to make a relationship be different. The really hard part about relationships is it’s not just you trying to change. Because you might try to be different, to be nicer, to be more generous, to be more pleasant, or to be more whatever it is that you’re working on. But then, your partner doesn’t respond in the way that you want them to, or they don’t give back to you in the way that you want them to. Then, you keep trying and you hope to get a different response from your partner. But if your partner keeps reacting badly to you, it’s just so easy to throw up your hands and say, “You know what, forget it. I tried it, it isn’t working. Why bother?” And just give up. 

People frequently feel very discouraged when they’re trying to make changes in their relationship and then they really start to feel hopeless that they won’t ever be able to really change, their partner won’t be able to really change. So here’s the key to changing anything in your life, whatever it is you’re working on: if it’s your relationship, if it’s getting out of debt, whatever it is, it’s important to you, finding a new career, feeling happier, do it, living the way that you know that you need to live in order to be a happier person. This stuff is true for me and it’s also true for you. It’s true for everybody who has ever made anything happen to themselves. 

Here’s the big secret to changing anything and everything. Stop what you’re doing, write this down: applied pressure over time. That’s it. Applied pressure over time. Have you ever been in a cave? Sudden change. Have you ever been in a cave? Like an underground, bats flapping around, and all that jazz? If you have, you may have seen stalactites and stalagmites. Remember your geology class? They are the protrusions of rock. They look like columns. They look like they’re either dripping down from a ceiling or kind of poking up from the floor. The way they grow is because water is dripping down from the ceiling of the cave. And every drop that splashes down from the protrusion coming from the ceiling to the one below has a minute amount of dissolved minerals in it. With each tiny drop, a tiny, tiny layer of minerals, molecules deep, is left behind. 

To the naked eye, on any given day, week, month, even year of dripping, nothing is happening. It’s not growing measurably. But over centuries, and thousands of years, these things can and do grow to become massive columns. Huge. Then now, of course, we all want change that happens faster than that but the problem is that real change often occurs so slowly that we can’t really measure it from day-to-day. And then, because we don’t really have a sense of our own progress, we’re often left to feel like we’re failing even when we’re not. Or when we mess things up and fall off the wagon, we feel like we’ve blown it, even though that little bit of mess up is not really going to do anything to change the overall arc of progress that you’re making. 

As frustrating as it is to not always be able to see yourself making progress in the day-to-day, there’s a silver lining. Because really going off the reservation once in a while, it doesn’t really mess you up as much as you think it does. So even when you throw your hands up and say, “Oh, I’ve blown it,” as long as you get back up and continue moving forward overall, doesn’t really matter that much, which is good news. Because it means that even if you’re not perfect, even if you know you screw up and you don’t exercise for four days in a row, or you eat a cheesecake, or whatever it is, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you keep bringing yourself back into alignment with your goals. You get back up again, you figure out “Okay, where was I going?” And then you keep going in that same direction. 

Here are some tips to help you just get used to this idea that change is not anything that’s going to happen soon or quick. It is a long haul. It is a marathon, y’all. We all need to get comfy, myself included, with the idea that the true path of change, which is applied to pressure over time, is all it’s about. So it’s day in, day out. You’re resolute, just like the plinking of water dripping in that cave. It’s not showy. It’s not exciting, but it really is the only thing that will actually change our lives, any of us. So because it’s true, I love this quote by Annie Dillard. She said “How you spend your days is how you spend your life.” And if you are able to be putting in the ingredients of change, the ingredients of the life that you want to build most days, not all days, but most days, you’ll get there.

Step number one, as always, is to start by figuring out where it is that you want to go. If you don’t know where you’re going or what you want to achieve, you don’t have anything to shoot for. So start by setting some goals for yourself, or better yet, even better, set one goal. Like paying off debt, losing a certain amount of weight, recording a certain number of podcasts every month, achieving a certain objective marker of success. And then, you think about that one tiny plink that you need to be doing most days or routinely in order to make something be different. And to commit to doing that no matter what and focus only on that. Have that be a priority.

The second thing I’d like you to consider is to figure out a way to track your growth over time. That means that you don’t compare yourself, or your marriage, or your body to how it was yesterday or even a week ago. Compare it to how it was a year ago. When you do that and start focusing on big change that happens slowly over time, you start focusing on trends of growth rather than moments. Because the moments of things happening or not happening on any given day is not an accurate reflection of an overall trend.

I am a certified nerd and so my hero is Neil deGrasse Tyson who is an astrophysicist and the host of Cosmos, the greatest show in the history of the world. I am going to use his example to help illustrate trends versus moments. He did this wonderful thing where he was talking about the difference between global climate trends versus weather. A global climate trend is when you take the average of the world’s temperature and you plot it over time. You can see trends, small incremental changes that are very clearly going in a certain direction, versus the weather on any given day. It might do all kinds of things. In any given location, it might be hot, it might be cold, it might be unseasonably cold, and then it might get hot again. It’s variable. It’s unpredictable. 

Events that happen in your life are like that, versus big trends. Because if you can identify what are the things that are happening kind of long-term, it becomes easier to get less worked up over what’s happening on any day-to-day thing. Like you don’t freak out about eating a Cinnabon on one day, if overall, you are losing weight, you’re getting healthier, you’re feeling fit because there’s that big global trend that you can keep track of. 

A global climate trend in your life, so to speak, is still happening, even if the weather changes from day-to-day, and doesn’t always fit with a bigger pattern. The way to do that is by figuring out how to both identify and track a long-term trend. Because if you can track changes over time, then, you start to get a sense of the global changes or the global patterns in your life. It becomes both a lot easier to stay motivated and keep going when you see yourself making that progress but also, very comforting and encouraging to know that you are making progress even if you have an off day.

Something that I often encourage my clients to do when they’re working on long-term changes, is to find ways of being able to see and measure their day-to-day progress. I know this sounds totally nerdy, but it’s a really great strategy; it works so well. I often encourage my clients to make a graph. I know. I know it’s so nerdy but a graph or a chart where you can track your progress over time gives you that information that you need to be able to say to yourself, “Yeah, you know what? I am doing it.” So step one in being able to start to measure things and keep track of them is to, first of all, figure out what it is exactly that you can measure over time. Some things are fairly easy. Like if you’re losing weight, that’s a number on a scale, very easy to measure. But other things that you might be working on are a little more complicated to measure and to track. 

You kind of have to figure out, “What is my point of reference? How will I know if this is improving or not?” Take for example, you’re working on improving your relationship. You want your relationship to be better. But how do you measure that? Let me ask you this: if your relationship was getting better, how would you know? What exactly would be happening that was different. So for example, you might think about that and say, “Well, if my relationship was getting better, we would be fighting less.” So then fighting becomes the variable that you can track. So then, you can rate every day on a scale of one to five for fighting. One is a craptacular day where people are grumping at each other, and being short, slamming doors and stuff around, one of those kinds of days. That would be one. And then, a five would be a day where there’s affection, you’re working well together, it’s pleasant. There’s no fighting, it feels like you’re able to get along and be nice to each other, that would be a five. 

Every day, once a day, maybe at the end of the evening, you just have your little journal or your little graph, and you rank it: a five or a one. The reason for this is because if you don’t have that point of reference to be able to say, “Huh yeah, we had a fight today. But the last week, really, that has been mostly threes, and fours, and fives. So it is getting better.” Because without that, it can be so easy to have that crappy fight and think “It doesn’t matter what I do. I can be so nice to them and they don’t care anyway and I’m not even going to be nice. They need to try. I’m not trying anymore. They need to do this.” 

We all fall into that when we get frustrated, right? But if you do that and you go there, it’s gonna fall apart. And so to be able to say, “You know what? Yesterday sucked but it’s a lot better than it was a month ago, as evidenced by these numbers on my nerdy graph.” And so, that’s how to do it. That’s the first step of being able to keep track of this. 

Now step two, of course, is to figure out the one thing that you need to be doing steadily every day to make fighting less likely. If you’re racking your brain to know what that is, I won’t leave you hanging, I’ll tell you right out: It’s to make your husband or wife feel more cared for by you in ways that are meaningful to them. So think about what they’ve been telling you they need from you. Is it conversation? Is it time? Is it help? Is it sex? Is it emotional closeness? Whatever it is, give it to them. That’s that steady drip of change right there. Some days, they are going to be difficult weirdos no matter what you do, and on other days, they might respond really well to you. 

Like the weather, expect variability but keep track of it. Because when you start out, you might be getting mostly ones and twos. After a month or two of tracking, you might look at your graph and see that you’re getting mostly fours and fives. And that isn’t to say that you’re not still going to get a one or two because you will. You can expect that but if you keep a graph and have a perspective of the bigger picture, if you do have a crappy day, you’re not going to be tempted to just give up and not talk to them for a week. Or if it’s weight or diet like “Well, never mind. Then, I can just eat whatever I want.” And you go on a crazy binge. 

It doesn’t mean that it isn’t working just because you don’t do it every single day. It’s just if you do it most days, and if you can hang on to that change and that growth that’s occurring on a much larger scale over a long period of time, that, my friend, will keep you way more motivated, and proud of yourself, and excited about continuing to do the things that you know you should. 

Those are a couple of tips for you. But before we end, I just want to say one last thing, which is that the absolutely worst thing that you can do under any circumstances, is to abandon your efforts entirely. Because remember, the number one most important characteristic that separates people who are successful from people who aren’t is grit. Simple grit, which is the ability to persevere despite obstacles, despite hardships, and frustrations, and random things happening. Because life is hard. It’s unfair. Crappy, annoying things happen routinely. It’s the human experience. You and me, we’re all allowed to be human, and flop around, and get discouraged, and be imperfect, but you have to hang on to your resolve and don’t give up. 

Do not abandon your hopes and dreams because bad things are going to happen to you. They happen to everybody but the worst thing that can possibly happen is that if you give up on yourself. Any mistake, anything that you do, you can get back on track again but don’t allow disappointment and frustration to crush your growth and let you give up on yourself and on your dreams. Because then, it’s over. Whatever it is, remind yourself to keep coming back, coming back, coming back. Go off and come back. It’s all okay. Just don’t stop. 

Okay, now Echo and the Bunnymen come get me. I’m here.

[Outro Song: Never Stop Discotheque by Echo and the Bunnymen]

Episode Highlights: The Secret to Changing Anything and Everything

  • Applied Pressure Over Time
    • Real change often occurs slowly such that we cannot see it day-to-day.
    • It is okay to fall back sometimes. You might feel that you aren’t progressing but most probably, you have improved if you think back to who you were a year ago.
  • Figure Out Your Destination and What You Can Measure Over Time
    • Figuring out your destination is the first step to changing anything and everything.
    • Figure out a way to track your growth over time.
    • For example, map out a graph of the progress you’re making towards your goal.
  • Figure Out What You Need To Do Constantly
    • Figuring out what you need to do every day or constantly is the second step to changing anything and everything.
    • Identify the core problem of the subject that you want to change.
  • Do Not Abandon Your Efforts Entirely
    • An important characteristic of successful people is grit.
    • Expect that bad things are going to happen to you. 
    • You can always get back on track so don’t abandon your hopes and dreams.

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