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April 30, 2013

How belt-tightening helps us with change - in the workplace and out

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A good friend of mine is trying to lose weight.  I know that’s a goal many of us have, and an ongoing challenge for just about all of us.  You might even call it a weighty issue.

Part of what’s most difficult is changing our habits and internalizing new behaviors (not to mention finding the right formula to shed a few pounds!).  Sticking to it – whatever the plan is – can be tough because it’s so easy to get distracted and off course.

My friend and I were talking recently about his desire to get thinner, and while bemoaning his too-tight jeans, he told me about his plan to buy a few pairs of new, more comfortable (read: larger) jeans.

“Don’t do it,” I told him.  Now, as someone who enjoys a good shopping trip, I hate to stop others from doing something I heartily enjoy, knowing how energizing a few great purchases can be.  However, I knew how important his goal of losing weight was to him, and I wanted to be helpful because I cared about him.

Here’s why I told him not to do it.  Every time he puts on those too-tight jeans, he’s going to feel a little uncomfortable, maybe even a tad bit frustrated in buttoning them.  That little bit of discomfort (or maybe a lot!) is going to remind him of his goal – to lose weight -- and hopefully, move him to action in a positive way, which will help him stick to the new behaviors he’s trying to ingrain.

Then, over time, there’s the wonderful reinforcement when the jeans begin to get less snug, and you can celebrate that what you’re doing is working.  If you don’t feel a little discomfort, then you’re not going to change or learn or grow or lose a few pounds. 

Understanding that truism can make anyone smarter and able to move through change more effectively, and feel better about it.  That’s what I call jean-ious!

What discomfort are you feeling today that might be a cue or clue that you have the opportunity to grow?

- David Grossman


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