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With a background in psychology and experience as a Substance Misuse Practitioner, supporting clients with substance abuse, Behavioural Change Specialist Shahroo Izadi set up her practice in 2016 after realising that many people, not just those suffering with addiction, can struggle to make meaningful and lasting changes to their lives. Author of The Kindness Method, you can also find her on Twitter and Instagram. Here she shares her own journey towards change and the tools she used to get there…
As a Behavioural Change Specialist, I help my clients to answer the question: “Why can’t I make changes, even though I want to and I know how to?”, so that they can achieve their goals and change their habits for good. I do this partly by sharing the tools I picked up whilst working in addiction treatment, and partly by drawing on my own experience of overcoming a lifetime struggle of trying to manage my weight. Knowing what I do now, it’s very clear to me why so many of my previous attempts at long-term change were doomed from the beginning.
I focused on what was wrong with what I was doing, not what was right about it
We all tend to have a pretty good idea of what’s not great about our unwanted habits. Not least because negative impacts tend to be the reason we want to change. By shifting our focus to the purpose our habits are serving (or once served) we can gain more insight into why we adopted them in the first place. This increase in self-awareness helps us to consider what new habits we want to put in place when we change the status quo and leave ourselves without existing coping strategies and comfort zones. I often share with my clients how, by shifting my focus to how my unwanted habits were actually serving me, I gained insight such as realising that Sunday evening binges were helping to soothe boredom and giving me a sense of escape. So, I started planning ahead for this and booking myself a Sunday evening karaoke booth during the first weeks when it was hardest to stay on track with my new eating habits.
I thought tough love and punishing myself would work
We all know exactly how to motivate someone else who is trying to do something difficult and what to say to a loved one if they need to get back on track after a blip. Yet so often when it comes to our own unwanted behaviours, we underestimate our ability to withstand short-term discomfort and we beat ourselves up internally when we do something we’re not proud of. Not only does this do no favours for our self-esteem (and make for an unpleasant internal soundtrack), it’s also completely counterproductive when we’re trying to achieve ambitious goals. Being our own cheerleaders, calling out the flawed logic of our own excuses and giving ourselves the same support we’d give our loved ones is a very effective way of staying on track with a difficult plan of change and can really help to address ‘all or nothing’ ways.
I wasn’t completely honest about my reasons to change
Throughout my life I had countless conversations with medical professionals who were concerned about my weight. Most GP visits involved a warning of some kind about the dangers of diabetes and heart disease. But when it came to pushing through in the most challenging and boring parts of a weight loss plan however, it was the thought of feeling more comfortable on a beach holiday that kept me going, not my future health. I didn’t want to admit that to anyone else but once I stopped trying to make other people’s reasons my own and stopped judging my true motivators, my habits shifted more easily than they ever had before.
I was living life ‘on-hold’
So many of us decide at some point that we we’ll be worthy of truly enjoying our lives once we’ve achieved a particular goal. Yet what I know from my own experience (and now the experiences of so many others) is that goals happen to get ticked off far more quickly and easily when we learn to show unconditional kindness towards ourselves.