Stop Trying to Change Your Behavior… Change Your Mission
By Xavier Heditsian : Licensed Professional Counselor
The majority of people I meet with want to change some aspect of their life. Maybe they want a new relationship or a more fulfilling relationship.
Others want to be more effective at work or want to pursue an entirely new career. Irrespective of the external changes they want to experience in their life, every person I’ve ever met wants to feel differently.
When I ask clients what they have tried so far, many tell me that they have tried to act differently. They’ve maybe tried to exercise more, or they’ve made a conscious effort to do nice things for their spouse, or they’ve been on more first dates.
They have all taken more action. They have attempted to change their life by changing their behavior in some way. The worst part about these attempts at behavior change is that time and time again it seemingly leads to massive amounts of frustration and does not create a lasting impact.
Why is it that behavior change in our culture has become the most elusive and difficult things to accomplish? Why is it that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail… by February?
In my work with clients, I’m not interested in merely helping client’s change their behavior. I am concerned with creating lasting and sustainable change.
I am more interested in the greater context of their life and want to help them explore and decide what is most deeply important to them.
In other words, I work with clients to help them re-mission their life. I help them create and live a new vision, purpose and mission that is aligned with their highest values, wants and needs.
As you continue to read, you may begin to uncover how this relates to your own life and what you can to do to consciously shift your experience of life.
Where We Go Wrong
In creating a new vision, mission and purpose for our life it is often helpful to identify things we are currently doing that hinder our ability to have the experience we want in life. Here are three of the most common pitfalls.
We Have No Long Term Context for Our Decisions and Actions.
A friend once told me that the vast majority of people spend more time planning their next vacation than they do planning their life.
A lack of a long term horizon in making decisions naturally leads to immediate pleasure seeking while simultaneously attempting to avoid immediate discomfort and pain.
The issue with this approach is that it lacks any larger purpose. It does not set up any way for momentum to be established and progress to build upon itself.
Imagine going to the gym one time, never going again and expecting to experience changes to your health and fitness. Progress is not possible if first not guided by a larger overarching mission and purpose.
The first step to creating a new mission and purpose is NOT deciding what you want. Deciding what you want comes second.
First you must choose a place to stand. Where we stand determines what we see and how we view it. One way to consciously take control of your perspective is to ask new questions. Here are a few to start with:
What if I stepped 10 years into the future and have a conversation with my present-day self? What insight could be gained from my future self?
What if I stepped into our 80 year old self and looked at my life? What advice would my 80 year old self give me? What would he/she say is most important?
What if I went up in a tall building or airplane and could see this situation from a thousand feet above? What am I not seeing right now?
We Focus More on What We’re Trying to Avoid, Rather Than What We Want to Experience.
After choosing a place to stand that allows you to better see yourself, it is important to know where you are coming from.
The most common thing I encounter are clients who say that they want to be “successful”. However when we unpackaged this, it becomes evident that they are not on a mission for success at all.
Rather they are on a plan to avoid failure or at least to avoid feeling like one. In particular, their goal and verbiage of “being a success” is merely in response to feeling like a failure and wanting to compensate for their perceived lack.
This is where it becomes crucial to build awareness around and understand where you are coming from. Are you coming from a belief system rooted in lack, inferiority and fear?
A life built around avoiding fear and what we don’t want to experience is going to make it difficult to move toward what we do want.
It also is a surefire way to improve the chances of getting what we’re trying to avoid. Have you ever been given the command, “Don’t think of a pink elephant”?
What we resist determines what we focus on, creates our beingness and becomes our unconscious mission. In creating a compelling vision, mission and purpose, it is imperative to decide what we do want to experience.
We Don’t Have a Compelling Enough Reason WHY.
The “why” is equally, if not more important than the “what” when deciding what you want and clarifying your mission & purpose. If the “what” is the final destination, then the “why” is the gasoline that will fuel the journey.
In whatever you want to experience in your life, there is going to be a point where it becomes difficult and you likely will want to quit and give up.
Understanding why a particular goal is so incredibly meaningful and important to you is crucial. Focusing on purely the end result or goal is a small part of the equation.
A more effective question to consider is what is the experience I really want to have along the way? In the pursuit of any goal- actually attaining the goal makes up less than 5% of the process.
Being involved in the day to day process makes up at least 95% of the experience you will have.
We all want a guarantee when we approach a new endeavor or goal. The truth is that there is no 100% money back guarantee.
The best we can do is get crystal clear on our values and our big reasons of why it is so meaningful to us.
A truly compelling “why” can help you gain a sense of certainty because when you truly have a why that makes you cry, you have made a decision.
Specifically, you have made the decision that no matter how things are going, you are willing to do anything to make sure that you stay on the path. You have burned the boats. You are 100% committed.
This is the closest thing to a guarantee that is available. Without a clear and compelling reason why, a lack of commitment inevitably follows.
In my work with clients, I help clients build a greater sense of certainty around their highest values and help them determine what is most important to them in their life.
Bringing It All Together
What does it really mean to re-mission one’s life?
Our greatest power in our life lies in our ability to decide and consciously choose what is most meaningful to us. When we can get clear about what we want and exactly why we want it, changing our behavior becomes effortless.
I don’t believe in motivation in the traditional sense. Most people try to pump themselves up and push themselves toward their goals. That’s incredibly strenuous and willpower rarely works.
Rather, when you get clear about what you want and you know exactly why it is so meaningful for you to move toward it- it’s a lot like being in a wind tunnel- you’re naturally and effortlessly pulled to your vision and purpose. You no longer need motivation or have to think about doing it.
You don’t mind the hard work and the ups and downs that come with the process. You effortlessly take action and move toward what you value most.
My work is centered on helping you clarify and decide what you value most and what you want to experience in your life.
Rather than merely focus on trying to change every little small behavior, we focus on changing the greater context of your life- the greater vision, mission and purpose of your life.
I always like to presume that similar to a computer, we are always operating on some program in our life.
Whether we consciously are of aware of it or not and whether it seems to be working or not, we are always on some mission. What mission are you on?