Thursday, January 6, 2011

Champion of Change: Intention

We've come to the final champ of the Champions of Change!  I think this one is the opposite of the no-brainer: it's your brain. You have to decide to make change in your brain. You have to have intention.

So many people say they want to change their lives for the healthier, but what they really want is what every diet commercial tells them they can have: the benefits of change without really having to change.  Has that ever really happened?  Real change requires real change, plain and simple. If you don't do anything different, nothing different will happen.

What is it they say about the definition of insanity?

A good friend of mine commented the other day about intention, in a conversation we were having about - what else? - personal wellness and what it takes to maintain it in an instant gratification society.  There are so many opportunities in our daily lives to stray away from the changes we want to make and go back to unhealthy habits.  But, she said, you really have to decide to change.  That's where we came up with the image of "babysitting your brain."  Sometimes you have to sit on your own shoulder and babysit your brain to keep it from doing stupid stuff.

See, our brains are smart, but they're stubborn and pampered.  They're used to getting their own way.  Kind of like toddlers!  Toddlers are smart, but they're stubborn, pampered, and used to getting their way. And what happens when a toddler doesn't get their way?  Oh yeah. They throw a fit.  They throw themselves on the floor, kick and pound their fists, cry and scream, and carry on until we give in and give up.

Does this sound like a brain you know?

Brain: I want to sleep more.
You: No, we're getting up to exercise.
Brain: But this bed is so cozy! I don't wanna!
You: Yes, that's what we're doing today. Lying in bed made us flabby and sluggish. We're going to feel good today.
Brain: NO NO NO NO NO NO!  YOU CAN'T MAKE ME!  I DON'T LIKE THIS!

And so on.  If you are persuing your goals without intention to change, this is where you may give in: "okay, fine, but we're working out tomorrow and this time I really mean it."  Brain is happy. You not so much. Brain learns that it doesn't really have to change if it throws a big enough fit.

But if you have intention - that is the decision to make changes no matter what - then this is where you pull the brakes on your brain's temper tantrum and put it in the time-out chair until your workout is done.  You intended to make change, and you made it. And because your brain is so smart, it begins to catch on that things are going to change around here and it better start being nicer.  Before you know it, your brain becomes your partner.

Does that make sense?  You went into the situation as the grown-up, intending to be in control and sticking to your guns despite the roadblocks your brain threw in front of you. 

Intention means deciding to change. 

Try it.

3 comments:

Karen Thurston Chavez said...

I was talking to a good friend of mine on Christmas night. We're the same age, she's single, joined the army at age 41, and could now kick my a** any given moment. Several years ago, I coulda given her a run for her money. I told her that and as I "explained" the reasons why I wasn't that same, very fit person, I felt incredibly lame and stupid. Yeah, I know, that several years ago my kid was really sick and a doctor cut his chest open and operated on his heart and I've spent a lot of energy getting and keeping him well. So. It's 4-1/2 years later and my kid's doing well. And, as I stood there scrubbing my stove, making what now feel like lame excuses, I realized, now it's time for ME to get well, too! So. I've been working a little harder at it the past several weeks and already feel better. There've been many a time already that I've had to snatch my brain in a knot and put it in timeout. But I'm gonna do it. This is the time.

The (not so) Reluctant Athlete said...

Karen that is great news! I am so glad that you felt so lame. :)

Karen Thurston Chavez said...

Pahaha! My lameness has me down a total of 8 pounds since Dec. 15! :-) (I had already lost a few pounds by the time I had that conversation on Christmas night).