Why “White Knuckling” it doesn’t work.
You are probably used to “white knuckling” it when you are trying to change a habit.
You grab on tight until your knuckles turn white. You are grinning and bearing it until you make it through to the other freakishly distant side.
You want to change this habit.
What you secretly want is for change to be easy.
What you REALLY want is to change without feeling bad.
Here’s the reality:
Change often hurts. It’s uncomfortable. It’s sometimes painful, but usually at least uncomfortable.
And you are hardwired to avoid discomfort.
“I’m going to make this birthday cake for my friend, and I’m not going to eat a bite of it, even though it’s my favorite too.“
This feels sucky. I feel deprived. I get a bit pouty when I’m trying to white knuckle my way through a habit change. I’m sure that’s enjoyed by everyone around me too. Sorry, guys.
The kicker is that pushing through doesn’t work for the long-term.
All that pain and no gain.
So, here’s the thing…
In order to create long-term, lasting change, you will still do that thing that makes you uncomfortable, like stopping smoking or eating less or whatever.
And it will still be uncomfortable.
But, instead of gritting your teeth and white knuckling it and trying to NOT FEEL THE BAD FEELING,
Don’t fight it.
Relax into the discomfort.
Feel the uncomfortable feeling and stay in that moment.
Don’t ignore it or distract yourself.
That’s the trick.
Allow yourself to feel uncomfortable and don’t try to escape it.
In THAT moment, you will make a small degree of change.
Do that often enough, and you will make real, permanent change.
New internal dialog:
“I am baking this cake for my friend because I choose to do it for her. I don’t have to, but I choose to. And I am feeling a bit jealous. OK, a lot jealous. And deprived. And that’s really interesting. I feel it in the pit of my stomach. Not hunger, but tensing, like the beginning of a knot. I feel it in my sinuses, like a precursor to crying. That’s an interesting feeling… all tingly. I’m going to stand here for a moment and feel how my body is reacting. And it’s OK that this is happening. Noticing how my body feels is all part of changing.”
The secret ingredient of change is accepting how you are feeling, even when it’s sucky.
And keep in mind that most change doesn’t go on forever.
It’s just the transition.
It’s for a limited time.
Also, I doubt if your habit involves something truly painful, like sawing off a limb.
It’s more like water splashed in your face.
It’s feeling the desire for coffee.
Or feeling the craving for a smoke.
You can do this.