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Balancing Act: Navigating the Need for Novelty & Building Sustainable Change

We are almost a month into the New Year. How's it going? :D


Are you making progress on those resolutions? Habits?


The New Year seems to always have so much energy as we start. The excitement of being able to "start over", "start something new". I can't count how many times I heard and saw the phrase, "new year, new you".


I honestly get tired of hearing it -















Statistically that energy doesn't last. We all know this and yet still manage to convince ourselves that THIS year will be different in some way. It almost never is. This is one of the reason's I gave up the idea of resolutions. Because by middle of Feb I'm destroying myself with how much I WASN'T able to change. And it's a shitty feeling.


I do believe in change...in a way. If it is set up to be sustainable. And it can be. We can create sustainable long-term change. We just need to go about it in a very different way.


We all know as an animal we want security. We want to know we are safe, that we are going to continue breathing, that we are "ok". Fortunately our brains also have a need for novelty, or variety. And this is extremely adaptive. It creates this push pull between wanting to try something new and different, and "is this going to kill me?". Which at times can feel difficult to balance. But when we get this balance I believe it helps us in creating those new habits we are so interested in getting started. It adds a stimulating dimension to habit-building, breaking monotony, keeping us engaged, and enhancing the overall satisfaction of adopting new behaviors


But how can we do that? How can we find the balance? Well...there are a few principles to keep in mind along the way - let's consider those.


First, you must know your baseline. AND you need to know what limits are comfortable for you. My need and desire is VERY different from my son, who has autism. What stimulates me, can, at times, overwhelm him.


Overwhelm is not helpful.


But you do need to make unfamiliar, familiar and that does feel uncomfortable. At times it even feels painful. Pain isn't always the enemy, often it is the best teacher.


I believe the best way to find your limits is to examine when you start to breakdown in day to day tasks. If you aren't able to get basic adulting done, you aren't helping yourself, you're probably digging a hole. It's helping you when you feel good about it, not when you are being debilitated.


Notice that I didn't say when you don't want to do it. You aren't going to feel like doing something new. You will not motivate yourself into being excited about going to the gym when you don't enjoy going. I would argue this isn't about what you "want" at a secondary level. It's what you want at a primary level.


#RealLifeExample - I would LOVE that glass of wine while I make dinner...but what I REALLY want is to be physically and mentally healthy. So I won't drink the wine....right now.


This is a push point for me because the truth is any change, even change that you want and is GOOD for you, isn't going to always be something you WANT to do. It's uncomfortable because it's not familiar. The goal is to make it familiar, not make yourself feel like doing it. Totally different.


The great news is that we can use our need for novelty to help us in leveraging getting there. Woot!


How? I think the most important is going to be the hardest...it's gotta be slow.


Snail changing his environment by moving slowly over a pencil to get to a new place.

In our rapid, immediacy mindset of today this is really hard. But if you want it to last it must be gradual. This pace is individual for you AND it's not the same pace for everything.


My son has been instrumental in my internal exploration of this idea.


Somethings he picks up really quick. Others takes months...even years.


But the habits he has spent years building are like hardwired in now. That is a huge win! It's exactly the same for you. Your pace will be different from others and it will likely fluctuate with different habits.


It also helps if you can connect it to values or priorities you have. Not because it motivates you...because it helps you be disciplined.


It can also help to give yourself options with whatever is new. I would also say this helps with flexibility. Sometimes you just CAN'T get to the gym...but you can take a walk. Or maybe not have that extra shot latte.


It's helpful to build in some accountability. A coach, a therapist, some person you met at the gym that will call you out if you don't show up.


Whatever.


That accountability makes a big difference. It also has the additional benefit of enhancing connection. And sometimes we will do more for others than we will ourselves. When that's helpful - take advantage of it.


Novelty and variety aren't just helpful when building new habits and behaviors though. They really are needed for a fulfilling, enjoyable life.


Novelty breaks up monotony. It helps me remember that life isn't just about walking on a hamster wheel. It keeps us growing, and many people much smarter than I will tell you that growth is what keeps us alive and enjoying life.


It can help with dopamine regulation (enter @HubermanLab)


It increases connection and relationship building (enter @EstherPerel)


It helps us with memory! (enter @TEDtalks)


It is truly the spice of life.


In all of this it's really important that you don't compare yourself to others or try to fit yourself into a space. Be honest with yourself about what is uncomfortable and what is debilitating. If you are pushing yourself to the point where you can't adult anymore you are hurting yourself not helping yourself.


The in-between is where it can get tricky. So really consider how something different is impacting you. And don't STOP just because your scared or nervous or unsure. Adjust.


Life this is a dance. And there is no finish line, there's just the next level. As I've said in the past, the truth is in the middle. As we navigate the delicate balance between our innate desire for security and the invigorating call of novelty, the journey of change unfolds. Sustainable transformation is not about forcing ourselves into rapid, unsustainable shifts; it's about understanding our unique pace and boundaries. It's about remembering that pain is a teach, not an enemy to avoid. It's not one-size-fits all, it's about personal exploration that adds spice to our lives.


I hope you found this insightful and encouraging. If so I hope you decide to subscribe and follow me on social. Let's continue to consider the nuances of life, embrace change and find joy in our process.


Toodles,

Jennie


If you are looking for some more material on this topic here are two books that I think are AMAZING - please note these are affiliate links.


Atomic Habits/ James Clear






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