The long-term benefits of living right validate earlier sacrifices. But while in trenches, fighting momentary drives, we struggle. Our goals to change lose motivational potency when our efforts fail to create recognizable improvement—at least not at first. When we implement a healthy behavior, the basic fabric of our lives often remains unchanged. The quality of the feeling experience of living continues relatively unaltered. The same problems exist. We want our life to resemble the half hour sitcom— where the problem is solved before the last commercial break. But life doesn’t happen this way. Most changes are slow.
Subtle improvements often are undetectable. A few diet changes and a few extra minutes of exercise don’t immediate create the body of our dreams. They do, however, slowly improve vitality and health. But all we notice is sore muscles and lost time.
We lose vision of the future when overly focused on the present. When the hope dampens, so does the drive to change. For those struggling with chemical addictions, the future becomes more and more of a blur as the craving increases in strength. Eventually the future is meaningless, and the present all powerful.
Usually commitments are made from the opposite perspective. The ill effects of the addiction, leaving us sorrowful and helpless, often light the desire for change. Success demands we maintain that vision as the circumstances change, continuing the diet when the donut beckons, avoiding a fix when life depresses, and saving money when the salesperson calls. When we can endure the wait, the slow change blesses and molds our life in spectacular ways.
Significant , Lasting Change
Lasting change isn’t a single choice but a series of choices. Not everyone of the choices will be ideal. We may slip, bloody our knee, or lose ground. These momentary blunders and occasional back slides are important. We must identify them, make corrections, and improve our plan. And then, slowly we march forward and change.
While mistakes are essential, correct and positive movements must far outnumber the faulty and ill-fated mistakes. We can’t achieve goals while fighting the same battles over and over again. Moral victories only take us so far.
We need to prepare for the upcoming challenges while still enjoying the visions, foreseeing the setbacks, the loss of motivation, and unsettling obstacles. We make plans while the focus is clear; not waiting for the moment of choice to seek an escape. Accordingly, we must consider the possibility of trouble while daydreaming of achieving the wonderful.
See Planning for a Successful Recovery for more on this topic
Factors Necessary to Embrace Slow Change
Slow change requires patience and continued effort. We refer to this as persistence. To experience the blessings of slow change we must have:
- The ability to work over extended periods of time despite challenges
- The resiliency to overcome challenges and obstacles
- The self-control necessary to resist distractions
- Experiencing the long-term goal as meaningful, important, and “worth it”
- A commitment to keep working whenever despite self-doubts
- Perceiving yourself as “in charge” of the work irrespective of challenges (Illinois Graduate College).
Constructive choices require patience—the consequences of living better need time to blossom. Tomorrow will not be much different than today. A flower requires time to bloom, sitting and watching bores the mind, from moment to moment we see no changes. But the flower blooms–only enjoyed by those with a wider perspective, able to endure the slow process of change.