By Jeremy Godwin.
Welcome to the first episode of Let’s Talk About Mental Health for 2020! This is the weekly podcast/article about mental health and wellbeing, by Australian author and speaker Jeremy Godwin, that is about much more than just talk – every episode includes practical advice for improving and maintaining your mental health and wellbeing.
This week we’re talking about new beginnings – why we crave change, why we can be terrified of it, and how to make changes that stick. Listen now in the Spotify player below or read the transcript below. Let’s talk!
Before we start: Just a quick reminder that the weekly podcast of Let’s Talk About Mental Health is available on multiple platforms including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Alexa via CastBox, YouTube (audio only) & Google Podcasts – find links to other available podcasting services here. Please take a moment to follow Let’s Talk About Mental Health via your preferred platform and leave a review so that other people can find out about the show, which helps me as I’m currently working on growing my audience. Thanks for your support!
Are you finding yourself thinking about new beginnings? Have you been making resolutions to change and now you’re wondering how to make them happen so that they last longer than a week? Regardless of when in the year you’re reading this, we often find ourselves in a position where we’re craving change in our lives yet it can be a real challenge to make it happen in a long-lasting way. This week, we’re going to be talking about making changes that actually stick.
As I mentioned in my previous episode (Reflection, Episode 12), many of us tend to become thoughtful and reflective at the end of the year because it’s the most obvious end of a cycle that we all observe, and for many of us that leads to a focus on new beginnings.
Now, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has seen a big focus on social media about the that we’ve just landed in the 2020’s, and that amount of focus has a big impact on how we think about the idea of starting a new decade and how many of us are conscious of this milestone, especially given how prolific social media is now compared to when we last changed decades at the start of the 2010’s. Back in July 2010, Facebook was growing rapidly but still only had 500 million users compared with 2.45 billion monthly active users in 2019… not to mention that Instagram didn’t even exist at the beginning of 2010, since it was launched in October of 2010, but now it has grown massively as well, and has over one billion monthly active users. The point here is that there is now a massive level of discussion on social media about the new beginnings associated with a new year and a new decade that just wasn’t happening at the same level 10 years ago, so we’re likely to be far more conscious of it.
There seems to be a huge amount of optimism associated with new beginnings around at the moment, which is brilliant, and with so many people talking about the start of the new year and the new decade, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and to start thinking about how you might bring about new beginnings in your own life.
Regardless of when you’re reading this, if you’re thinking about creating new beginnings in your life then it’s important to take some time to really think about what you want and why you want it before you jump head first into action mode.
Why do we crave new beginnings?
There are many reasons why we might find ourselves craving new beginnings, but often it’s about the excitement of the new – the prospect of creating some level of difference in your life. Sometimes it might be about improving your life even further, or it might be about addressing an area of your life where you’re unhappy. Either way, new beginnings aren’t a magic cure – they take time and effort, and they’re not always guaranteed to be the best thing for you in the long term, which is why I believe that it’s important to spend time really processing through what you want to change, and why, before you rush in like a bull in a china shop.
I want to be really clear here and say that boredom isn’t a good reason for chasing something new; if you think the grass is greener on the other side, it isn’t – the grass is greener where you water it. What that means is that newness in and of itself is not a cure-all for everything, because it might not fix whatever is going on to make you feel that way.
If you want to create successful and lasting change, you have to dig deep and really understand what’s going on inside you so that you can address the root of whatever it is that’s making you crave a new beginning – this is something I’ve talked about a few times in Let’s Talk About Mental Health now, this notion of treating the cause not just the symptom, and we’ll talk through how to do that in more detail in just a minute.
Before we do, I’d like to also take a moment to acknowledge that the idea of change can be quite frightening for many people – or, at least, confronting – because we tend to favour the known instead of the unknown, but if you’re even remotely thinking about creating change in some area of your life then there’s probably a good reason for that, and it’s up to you to determine what’s more important – fear of change, or a new beginning. In episode 10 I talked about fear in more depth, and if you’re struggling to push past your fears I would recommend you listen to or read that episode.
If you’ve always wanted to do something different but have been putting it off, it’s never too late to begin – in the words of George Eliot (the pen name of writer Mary Ann Evans), “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” A desire for new beginnings or fundamental change in our lives can often come as a result of big events, such as illness; major events in our lives like marriage, separation, milestone birthdays; leaving a job or realising that you’re unhappy in your career; experiencing the loss of someone you know; etc… in other words, things that make you think about where you are in life and where you want to be. It’s human nature to want to take a long, hard look at our lives when major things happen, and the temptation can be to make sweeping changes as a result, but before you sell all your possessions and move to Bali, or shave off all of your hair, it’s worthwhile taking some time to work through what’s really going on within yourself.
I recently had one of those jolts when, a few weeks ago, I received a phone call from someone I used to work with to let me know a member of the team had passed away quite suddenly and unexpectedly, which was sad in and of itself but made even sadder by the fact he was quite young and had a young child. Now, and I feel a bit bad saying this, I hadn’t seen or talked to him since I left that job at the end of August, but that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t completely thrown by what had happened. He was such a nice guy and it’s terrible when it happens to anyone, but as well as being incredibly sad about his passing, it also made me start to question everything. I don’t want to freak any of you out, and I respect the fact that many of us have a tendency of avoiding conversations about our mortality – which I’ll be blunt and say I disagree with, because it’s possibly the most important conversation of our lives, but that’s a discussion for another day – but when someone you know dies, you’re inevitably reminded of the shortness of life and our total lack of control over how long we have. Often it reinforces for you that all we have is this moment – here, now – and so, we need to make the most out of the here and now.
If you’re not satisfied with your life or some area of your life, then it’s no use just complaining about it or waiting for things to change, because things rarely just change on their own – it’s up to you to bring about the new beginning you want to create. So, how do you do that? How do you make the most of life now and bring about new beginnings in areas of your life that you might not be satisfied with? Let’s get into the ‘how-to’ part of this episode…
How to plan for new beginnings
I’m going to walk you through a process for planning – however the actual changes can only be done by you… I can certainly give you ideas on how to change specific things, but it’s up to you to identify what’s going to be right for you in terms of actions because we are all individuals, and so what works for me might not necessarily work for you and vice versa.
Before you get started, ask yourself: Does it really matter? Do you need to change whatever it is, or do you need to just let it go? Don’t do something new and expect it to fix everything in your life if what you really need to do is just work through stuff so you can let it go. If you’re carrying around emotional baggage, work on that instead of just slapping a fresh coat of paint over it – because eventually your baggage will come back to the surface. If you’ve got some stuff you need to work through, take a listen to Episode 7 for specific guidance on how to work through it so that you can let it go. If you do feel that moving forward with a new beginning is the best choice for you, then go ahead and move forward.
To help guide you, I’m going to walk you through a planning process which is built around the GROW model – GROW is an acronym that stands for Goal, Reality, Options and Will. Anyone working in the corporate world will likely be well-acquainted with this coaching model and even though I left that part of my life behind a long time ago, I still find a lot of these tools to be exceptionally helpful when it comes to self-development and personal growth. The purpose of this model is to get you to work through things in detail step by step, so it’s important that you take your time and don’t skip ahead to the next step until you’ve achieved what you need to achieve in each step.
First – we’re going to set some goals, but we’re going to do so with some deeper thought than just coming up with a specific goal. Ask yourself these two questions: (1) Where do you want to be in your life or what do you want to change, and (2) Why. This is the actually the most important part of this two-part question; the ‘why?’. You need to take the time to REALLY understand why you want to make the change rather than just going into action mode. Why? Because if you don’t understand what’s driving the desire for change, then you’re not going to be addressing whatever is going on deep down inside. For example, there’s a pretty predictable cycle that involves a lot of people rushing off to join gyms at the beginning of the new year but, come February, many will probably drop off. Why? Because they’re addressing the symptom, not the cause – if you’re unhappy with something, you need to first understand why you are in the situation you’re in and then address that rather than just trying to deal with what’s going on above the surface. Sticking with the weight example (since it’s one that is relevant to me personally); if the reason for your weight gain is because you are prone to emotional eating, and that’s because you’re struggling with issues like stress or anxiety or depression, then just going to the gym twice a week isn’t going to make a tangible difference and you’ll probably wind up quitting. If you want to change, you need to really understand why you want to change and then get into a deeper level of awareness about what’s really going on beneath the surface, which leads me to…
Step 2: Identify your current reality. Ask yourself: Where are you now? And, more importantly, WHY are you there now? Just deciding to make a change is the easiest way to ensure that your change is unsuccessful, because lasting change requires that you have absolute clarity about where you are at this moment in your life and how you got there. Why? Because you need to understand the root cause of your situation clearly in order to then address that cause. Take your time and really think through things – dig deep.
As part of this step, the most valuable thing you can do for your future is to spend lots of time in understanding the ‘why’ part of your current reality or situation, because you need to understand the root cause in order to address that rather than just dealing with a symptom of a much deeper issue. Using my emotional eating example from before: you’d be far better off spending that money on speaking to a professional to get to the bottom of your emotional eating so you can address that, rather than paying for a gym, and then you can go from there once you’ve tackled what’s going on under the surface. Address the root cause; don’t just put a band-aid on your symptoms and hope for the best. I can’t emphasise this enough. In fact, I always make a point of saying to people that this phase of the process – the understanding why so that you can address the root cause of the situation – is the single most important part, and it’s where you should spend the bulk of your planning time. Do not pass this stage and go into solution mode until you really, truly understand where you are now and why.
Once you’re crystal clear on the why, it’s time to move into Step 3: Options. This is where you can brainstorm as many ideas as you can on what you could do to create the change you’re pursuing. A brainstorm simply involves getting down as many ideas as possible, without filtering or judging them. At this point in the process, it’s about gathering ideas and no idea is right or wrong. Take as long as you need. If you’re struggling to come up with ideas, do some research: ask someone you trust, read a book, read some articles, hit up Google for ideas… do whatever works for you. You don’t have to know how to do something – I certainly never knew how to do all the technical stuff related to creating a podcast when I first came up with the idea, but I was able to learn – so don’t let that stop you, because you can always gain the skills that you need over time. Create a list of as many ideas as feels right to you – I usually suggest to come up with at least 5-10 ideas so that you have some variety to choose from.
Once you have your list of things that you could do, now it’s time for Step 4: Identify what you will do. This is about setting really clear goals – you might have heard of SMART goals before (that’s about ensuring your goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) so if you have, then you know what I’m talking about. If not, here’s a very quick overview:
SMART goals are all about creating goals that have a higher degree of success because it’s clear what needs to be achieved and how you will know when you’ve achieved it. We often tend to make sweeping goal statements like “lose weight,” but these aren’t always successful because they don’t give us a more targeted goal to work towards. A SMART goal is specific, in that it is clearly defined, it is measurable, in that you can measure so you know when you’ve reached your goal, it is achievable in that it doesn’t set unrealistic expectations, it is relevant in that it relates to the broader outcome you’re trying to achieve (such as being a goal focused on weight loss if that’s the outcome you want), and it’s time-bound in that there is a specific period of time during which you will actively work to achieve the goal. Here’s an example – rather than just saying that you will lose weight, a SMART goal would be something like “I will lose 15 kilograms (33 pounds) within four months through a healthy diet prescribed by a nutritionist and 30 minutes of daily exercise” – this goal is much clearer and describes what you’re going to achieve (and how), and you can then measure your success along the way. It’s also realistic – generally it’s considered safe to aim for weight loss of about one kilogram a week (roughly 2 pounds), so by setting a goal that gives you four months, or roughly sixteen weeks, it is a far more realistic goal than trying to lose that amount in half the time.
Consult the list of Options you came up with in Step 3 and decide which one or two ideas hold the greatest appeal to you or which you believe have the greatest chance of success, then turn these into SMART goals.
Once you’ve done that, it’s on to the most important step of all – Step 5: Work out how to make it happen. To do that you need to figure out how you’re going to achieve the goals before you jump into action. Do you need to go see a nutritionist for a healthy eating plan? Do you need to read a few books about how to tackle all the technical stuff associated with creating a podcast? Do you need to do some market research to identify if your big idea has legs? Whatever you need to do to achieve your goal needs to be built into your plan. Then, your focus needs to be on turning each goal into a set of smaller milestones. Using the weight loss example again – if the goal is to lose 15 kilos in four months, then that breaks down to 3.75 kilos a month, which breaks down to less than one kilo a week. By identifying weekly and monthly goals, you are more likely to achieve your bigger goal because it’s easier to achieve smaller goals, and doing so gives you the momentum to keep persevering.
What to do next
Once you have a clear plan in place, it’s up to you to make it happen! How do you actually do that? The answer is both easy and incredibly challenging: You achieve your goals by taking action every single day. Change doesn’t happen unless you make it happen, and if you’re serious then you should be doing something every day, without fail, to achieve your goal. If you drop the ball one day, get straight back on track the next day and focus on the positive instead of the failure.
When you’re coming up with an action plan to achieve your goal, don’t try to boil the ocean; in other words, it’s much easier to achieve progress through small steps rather than trying to tackle everything at once. What it all comes down to is identifying what you want to change, why you want to change, how you’re going to create the change you desire, and then making it happen. Often the first step is the hardest, but it doesn’t have to be. There’s a quote from J.P. Morgan (John Pierpont Morgan) that says, “The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are,” and if you start from that point it’s then a case of putting one foot in front of the other – as Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.
Also – review your goals and your action plan weekly, and modify your plan as needed. Don’t just let it go and hope for the best. Monitor your progress, and adjust your heading as necessary. Ships don’t just point at the direction they want to go and then hope for the best; if you’re not on the right path, that’s okay – just adjust your heading. If something isn’t working, go back to your list from Step 3 and try something different.
The main thing is to get started – as Plato said, “The beginning is the most important part of the work.”
Summary and three main points to consider
To summarise, if you’re thinking about creating new beginnings in some area of your life then it’s important to take the time to really think about what you want to change and why you want it before you jump head first into action mode. If you address the root cause of whatever is driving your desire for new beginnings, then you have a much higher likelihood of success.
To wrap up, here are my three main points for you to consider:
- New beginnings are an opportunity to create the life that you want, but to be effective you must first understand why you want to create change
- Once you clearly understand your ‘why’, you can come up with plans that will address what is fundamentally driving your desire – addressing the root cause will always be far more effective than just dealing with the symptoms
- The idea of change can be scary because it’s all about heading into new and unknown territory – but it can also be amazing and exciting because it’s new and unknown territory, so don’t let fear hold you back from creating the future that you want
As always, let’s finish up by reflecting on a quote related to this week’s topic. This is a quote from 19th century author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley; take a moment to think about this quote in relation to the topic of new beginnings and consider what it means to you. The quote is:
“The beginning is always today.”Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
So, that’s it for this week! For more content, go to:
- Website: Head over to www.letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au for more information about Let’s Talk About Mental Health and to sign up so that new posts/newsletters will land in your inbox, and you can also find past episodes on the website (click here to jump to the Episodes page)
- Podcast: You can listen to the Let’s Talk About Mental Health podcast via your preferred platform (Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and others) as well as an audio-only version on my YouTube channel
- Social Media: Connect with me on social media – you can find Let’s Talk About Mental Health on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest as @ltamhofficial (I post extra content daily)
Next episode I’ll be talking about balance – I’ll be talking about how finding balance in all areas of your life can serve to improve and maintain your mental health and wellbeing, and I’ll be discussing how to work through the struggles often associated with giving up things that throw us out of balance. I hope you’ll join me for that episode, which will be released on Monday morning Australian time. On Friday I’ll be sending out the next issue of the Mental Health Talk newsletter, which is a weekly round-up of articles and resources focused on good mental health and wellbeing – sign up via the website to have the newsletter land in your inbox each Friday.
Until next time, look after yourself and make a conscious choice to put some positive energy out into the world – you get back what you give out! Take care and talk to you next time.
PS: If you enjoyed this week’s episode/post, please give it a ‘Like’ and share it. Also, if you could leave a review for my podcast on your preferred platform it would be much appreciated, because good reviews help me to grow my audience. Thanks!
Let’s Talk About Mental Health.
Because the more we talk about it, the easier it gets.
Let’s Talk About Mental Health. © 2020 Jeremy Godwin.