“I’m willing to invest the time, but still can’t seem to change”

This is Part Three of a Three-Part Series on Time.

In the first and second posts about time as a barrier to change, I asked you to challenge your perception of time then ask some important questions. 

Now I want to address a final stumbling block. 

Deciding the time commitment is worthwhile but still not taking action. 

You’ve asked all the tough questions. You know exactly how long this healthy habit will take. The trade-off is worthwhile. And yet, here you are, no further ahead than before. 

Maybe you have a few good days or weeks, but it doesn’t last. And you know the time commitment is an issue. 

Now what?

TIME SCARCITY

Time is finite. We only have so many hours in the day. 

So even when we’re fully on board with spending time on a healthy habit, it usually provokes time scarcity. 

And scarcity evokes a feeling of loss. What are you going to lose? What are you giving up?

We don’t usually want to think about the things we will be losing – it’s uncomfortable. But, that discomfort is the exact thing that will help us discover why we aren’t taking action. 

TWO QUESTIONS

To uncover how time is acting as a barrier to change, I recommend these questions: 

  1. What are you “losing” when you choose to spend time on this new healthy habit?
  2. Is it true, or is there another perspective?

Example 1

You want to make homemade dinners, but you can’t seem to stick to your commitment. And you feel time scarcity. When you ask yourself what you are “losing” to make this work, you think about having less time to relax. That precious time when you are free of obligations. 

Cooking dinner feels like another obligation. 

So, now ask yourself if it is true? Are you actually losing time to relax, and is it actually another obligation?

Relaxation and obligation are both in the eyes of the beholder. Is it possible you could shift your perception and create a space in which cooking dinner is relaxing and doesn’t feel like an obligation?

Could you actively choose to create a space – physically and/or mentally – that is enjoyable for you while preparing meals? Can you open yourself up to that possibility?

Example 2

You know you need more sleep. At least an extra hour. But one more hour of sleep means giving up an hour of your day. 

When you think about what you’ll lose, it’s the limited time you get to yourself. You can’t shorten your work day. You have family or household commitments you can’t get out of. Really, the only part of your day you get to yourself is so limited, you can’t imagine having even less. 

So, ultimately, you don’t want to lose any part of the day that is truly “yours”.

But is it true? Is the day mostly out of your control? Is someone else dictating how you need to spend your time? Or, is there a way to reframe your perspective? 

Is it possible that more of your day is “yours” even within an externally driven structure? How you interact with others. How you perceive your contributions. How you support your family. How you maintain your space. 

You may not be able to control your feelings, but you get to decide your thoughts. 

And you can challenge your perception of how much of your day is truly yours. You might surprise yourself.

PROTECTION AGAINST LOSS

Our mind is quietly trying to protect us. And it definitely doesn’t want to lose anything. 

When you know this, it’s easier to recognize time acting as a barrier to change. Even when you know your new habit is worthwhile. Even when you’ve actively decided you want to make the time. 

If you’ve intentionally considered the trade-off is worthwhile but you still aren’t changing, ask yourself what you’re afraid of losing. Then ask yourself if it’s actually true. Can you shift your perspective? 

Maybe – just maybe – you’re not losing anything after all.