As the new year began, many of us started the year desiring a big change, even a breakthrough. So, once again, we made our solemn vows-to lose that weight for good this time, land that dream job, finally get out of debt, to ending that self-sabotaging habit.
At the time of this writing, it’s February, the month of love. How are doing on these goals? If you are like most, they are already in jeopardy. Why? Because it is extremely difficult to change life-long habits. Fortunately, it is the perfect season not only to show love to others but also for some self-love, even some tough love.
In Fire Your Excuses, we lay out a well-researched principle of permanent change that is highly effective but rarely practiced. It is to identify, then “walk the last mile of denial.”
The human psyche is tricky. When it comes to resisting change it is evasive, slippery and sly. Like a group of dug-in team members who smile and nod while their manager rolls out a big new corporate policy, but secretly have little intention of complying, our psyche can “play along” for weeks, even months, knowing that, at the right time, it will make its move to sabotage our best efforts and slowly but inevitably grind our dreams into a dead halt.
In contrast, the principle of the last mile of denial states:
Everything changes and goals are finally realized only when we identify and eliminate those last remaining “pockets of resistance” where old destructive patterns quietly continue.
To use another metaphor, we must lock the front door, the side door AND make sure the basement door is also locked. Locking two out of three “doors” will leave us completely vulnerable to the robber of our dreams.
Here are two examples:
Curt and Kim have struggled with finances throughout their 15-year marriage. This year they vow things will be different. They created a family budget and have started strong by holding monthly financial meetings. Unfortunately, they still use their credit card so they don’t miss a “big sale” on a large needed purchase-that dresser for the guest bedroom, plane tickets (because the price will go up,) etc. Even though they are 95% on track, their last mile of denial is their use of a credit card when they want something badly enough and right now. This denial, just 5%, is enough to completely derail their dreams of ever getting out of debt. They are truly so close but so far: If they could just push the pause button on extra spending for six months, they could prefund their own vacation, holiday, car repair and household account, and stop the credit card spending that seems so essential every year.
Raul works out regularly and eats healthy most days but it is his love of breakfast sweets that keep him from ever hitting his weight goals. He doesn’t indulge every day, but frequently enough that those extra 500 calories each time ensure his weight never changes.
Wish this year to be truly different? Identify your “last miles.” If you can’t pinpoint yours for a certain elusive goal, ask three people who know you best to help you brainstorm your goal leak or talk to a professional. It may take that level of investment. To end your denial, give yourself a strict deadline to either succeed or to get help. Then seek help immediately you do don’t do so for whatever reason. Consider also surrounding yourself or joining with a group of those who are also on the same journey. For many, this is the strategy that finally works, for good.
As Einstein said: “You can’t solve a problem at the same level you created it.” For many of us, we are simply too close to the problem to see what is really happening or in denial about the devastating impact our last mile of denial is having on our dreams. Like a slow leak, it is demoralizing to get your bike out of the garage for a ride each time only to find your tire is always nearly flat. Make this the year you “patch” your plan and achieve the breakthrough you deserve!