Start-Stop VS Increase-Decrease

DIn coaching executives and athletes, I have come to learn that any change, especially behavioral change, is just hard. Establishing the case for change is relatively easy as is finding the right plan and tools to make the change. But then to actually do it (change) and maintain it, is where old habits tend to win over desired new ones. So here is a better way to make change (improvements for yourself) an achievable endeavor in a sustainable manner.

We can achieve improvement by either stopping a bad habit or by starting a new one. For example, most people know smoking is bad and stopping smoking would be an improvement. Most also know that exercising is healthy and enrolling in a gym and starting to workout would also be an improvement. These are what I call “Start-Stop” strategies – you are either stopping something undesired or you are starting to do something new. In my experience, one of these two approaches is what I see most of us trying to do when looking for ways to improve ourselves. I find these approaches to have little sustainable success – they just do not seem to last very long and invariably we revert to the old habit. From an EQ perspective, the emotional leap to cold-turkey stop a bad habit, no matter how intellectually certain we are of its benefits, is too big, as is the leap towards something brand new as the fear of the unknown coupled with the security of the status quo habits are quite powerful.
Instead of this Start-Stop approach, I recommend the Increase-Decrease approach which I have found to have much more success. For some context, I developed this approach for my clients several years ago when I was training for my first Half Marathon. I had never run more than 3 miles until that point and my 12-week run training plan called for a 10% increase in volume each week. Instead of trying to run 13 miles out of the gates, I started with 3 miles and increased my distance by about a mile each progressive week. This allowed my physical body to adjust to the volume and recover from the load, and the EQ was tempered with the incremental achievable increases. The same concept can be used to address the EQ challenge of change. Instead of suddenly stopping smoking, perhaps reduce by one cigarette each day (decrease.) In lieu of starting to go to the gym 5 days a week, start by going once a week for a few weeks and then increase to twice and so on and so forth. Substitute smoking and the gym visit with just about anything you want changed in your life. If you want to stop something, start by incrementally decreasing it and conversely, if you want something new to be a part of your life, start by incrementally introducing it and then increasing it bite-size progressively.
In the past few blogs, I have already asked you to take inventory of what you want changed in your life. This week, let go of the Start-Stop approach and pick one of the items on the list that you feel you can easily increase or decrease. As I did when I finished my first Half Marathon in under 2 hours, you will learn that, done correctly, the process of change was just as much fun as crossing the finish line.
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