For as long as I can remember, I’ve been super into personal development, habits, and other intentional living topics. Even when I was 12 or 13 years old, you could find me in the self-help section of the Borders bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan (may it rest in peace).
This is to say that I’ve spent decades thinking about this beyond the six years that I’ve spent making content and exploring this stuff here at Break the Twitch. And throughout this time, I’ve found that there are only two effective ways to change your life—at least, change your life sustainably.
So what are they?
Slow and Steady
Well, one of the ways to change your life is slowly and steadily. If you’ve been with me here at Break the Twitch for even a small amount of time, you’ve most certainly heard me talk about the power of small consistent changes. I mention this quote from Annie Dillard a lot: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
It’s the little things we do each day that become who we are. We’re no longer just a person who runs. We are a runner. Not a person who lifts, but a weight lifter. We become the things that we do.
This slow and steady option is incredibly effective. Because any time we make a change in our lives, we are breaking out of the status quo. We’re breaking out of our comfort zones, what we’re used to, and often, we can only do that at little bits at a time.
Imagine if I told you to learn to speak Spanish in a day, that would be an overwhelming task. In fact, you might not even know where to get started, but if I asked you to learn just how to say hello in Spanish, could you do that?
Yes, you absolutely could do that.
Hola. It’s just one word, but it’s learning a new word consistently that creates a vocabulary in Spanish. And eventually, you’re not just a person who is learning a few words of Spanish; you are a language learner and then eventually, a Spanish speaker.
Burning the Bridge
But there is a second option to create sustainable change in your life, whether it’s learning Spanish or something else.
And that is burning the bridge. Here’s how that works.
Burning the bridge would be changing something drastically in a way that makes it incredibly difficult to go back to what you were doing before. Because if you make a big change that is really uncomfortable, it can be really hard to sustain it unless you have some friction between you and your comfort zone.
The example I gave earlier, learning Spanish in a short period of time, is a completely overwhelming proposition. But what if you were on a plane to a Spanish-speaking country, where you didn’t know anyone at all?
And you stayed there for three months. What do you think would happen? I’d be willing to bet that in that environment you would learn Spanish a heck of a lot faster because it would literally come down to your survival. Asking for food, asking for things that you need, communicating and making friends.
All of your existence during that time would be in a Spanish-speaking country and so you’d need to speak Spanish more than you would back at home. Without having a quick way to escape the discomfort and go back to where your native language is spoken—that’s an example of burning the bridge.
An example of burning the bridge for me and Amy was selling our house in Minnesota and making our way down to Phoenix about a year and a half ago. We needed a change and while part of us didn’t want to move, we knew that taking that big step would push us out of our comfort zones.
There are many ways you can burn bridges in your life to support a change for the better. While the term may have some negative connotations, when it comes to changing something difficult, I think it can be a really positive thing. You can help yourself stick with a big change by burning the bridge behind you. That way, you won’t be able to easily revert back to what’s comfortable when you feel the discomfort or resistance to that big change you’re creating.
What you’ll find in these situations is that as humans, we’re incredibly adaptable. We will do our best to make it work. The circumstances in 2020 are a perfect example of that. So if you’re going big and fast, burn the bridge to help you keep the change going.
Choosing One of the Ways to Change
It’s important to be intentional in the approach we take in changing our lives. When you change something in your life, which one of the ways to change do you choose?
You can either take the slow, steady, methodical route. Or you can go big and fast and burn the bridge behind you. But you have to choose one. There is no middle path here if you want the change to be sustainable.
Those week-long detox diets you see on the cover of magazines at the grocery store checkout aisle don’t do much. Any benefit you see from these quick solutions will disappear once you stop doing the work. Lasting benefits will be from the long-term actions you take—from the consistent work that’s not very sexy. So if the change you want is big and fast, then you better do some bridge-burning behind you to make it stick.
In my experience, these two ways to change are what end up creating the most sustainable lasting impact. What’s been your experience? I’d love to hear about it and what you’ve learned. As always, I appreciate your attention, and I’ll see you next time.