Answer: Find your balance point!

You are probably asking what balance point ? Between what exactly? This is today’s topic. I am going to illustrate the balance act that exists between things in life that are stable, reliable and predictable vs those that are novel, new and exciting. Tony Robbins has referred to this as certainty vs variety.

If we examine this more closely we can understand the following. Most of us agree that great levels of personal of stress come from a perceived lack of certainty. We tend to avoid new situations that involve the unknown. We shy away from tasks that we don’t understand or lack confidence with. We stick to things that we are comfortable with because we trust the desired outcome with high predictability . In part, because we have a good track record of success in the past and we feel a perceived sense of control.

It is important to realize how this came to be. This certainty didn’t just happen. It was created over time with hundreds of repetitions that gradually allowed us to master a skill. The brain formed very defined, clear neuro pathways which brought about a facilitated competence that allowed us the confidence to trust our abilities. This could involve mastering a sport such as cycling or swimming or skating or running. It could be mastering computer software programming, driving a forklift, studying for exams or cooking gourmet meals. It could involve mastering an instrument, writing a book or painting. It could also involve simple daily routine actions of cleaning, grooming, driving, or balancing a checkbook.

What do all of these activities demonstrate ? That its is our habits that define the areas in life from which we achieve long term certainty and stability. But here also lies the problem. The longer the lifestyle is stable, the greater it goes unchallenged and the risk for stagnation and boredom increases. We tend to be so focused on eliminating stress from our lives that we forget that the goal is not to eliminate or avoid stress, but to build resilience to it. That only comes from building up a tolerance to change by exposing ourselves to new challenges.

Lets look at the other spectrum of life that involves the elements of variety that are exciting and novel. The idea of obtaining new products,services,adventures and luxuries. They appeal to our emotions and carry a powerful ,stirring, motivator to act. It is what marketers and advertisers rely on to get consumers to buy. They want to appeal to the dopamine centers of the brain that give a short term rush from getting the shiny new object or service.

The problem is that the desired effect doesn’t last.

Why? Because humans habituate to their environment. In short, they get used to it and after several exposures the shiny object is just another object. I personally cant get over how, over the years, a new car seems to loose its luster after a only a couple of weeks. Its just a car. In practice, I am always bombarded by advertisers who want to sell me the next greatest posture product that will solve everyone’s problems. Patients are always seeking the next greatest gimmick that will be the answer to their long term pain conditions. It just doesn’t exist.

That isn’t to say that most shiny new innovative inventions don’t work. Most of them do offer benefits. Unfortunately we don’t have a good enough system to train ourselves on their daily use before we lose interest and move on to something else.

So whats the answer ?

Develop balance that includes both stability and novelty.

You may choose to come back to developing stability and certainty with the addition of one new element at a time. Create places in life for both but never abandon whats has been proven tried and true. If it worked for you once, chances are it will again once you regain your rhythm back. Lets put this idea into place with an example.

Supposing you used to run regularly at one time. You had a rhythm and a stride and you trained everyday and perhaps even ran short marathons. Eventually what happens? Either you sustained an injury or the race you trained for is over or you got bored of it and you break stride. Before you realize it, you’ve stopped running altogether. Now when its time to get some exercise there is a lot of inertia and resistance to resume. It becomes easier to try something novel. Often what happens is because we are not competent with the new activity it doesn’t resonate and we abruptly quit.
A more successful approach would be to resume running again but add a new, different element to it. This could take the form of changing over to cross country or running with a partner. The aim of sustaining successful lifestyle change is making the activity an automatic, lifelong habit. Running doesn’t end when you cross the finish line. A healthy diet doesn’t end when you lose the 10 lbs you were trying for. Health goals should only be compasses to guide us in the right direction rather than finishing lines that tell us to pack it up for the season.
In my 26 years in practice the single most important element to successful sustainable change is the ability to build, cultivate and establish your rhythm. Call it your groove, your stride, being in the zone, in the swing of it. We all recognize when we have been there. In the next blog I’m going to show you how get your groove back! Stay tuned

Can you think of a hobby, activity , routine or skill that you were once good at, served you well, gave you pleasure but for some reason gave up on? Ever wonder what your life would be like if you could pick it up again? Please share