I was talking to a friend who had to change her lifestyle due to an illness that had reached the point of no return unless drastic changes were made by her. Her lifestyle changes meant her eating habits but as the saying goes, you are what you eat so any dietary changes meant a few (read as many) lifestyle changes too.
As we were chatting, we pondered on why it had to get to a crucial moment of her needing to change when she knew the consequences for many years and didn’t do much about it. Our pondering wasn’t from a place of judgment, but rather from a place of despondency; a place of “Why didn’t I just…” and “If only I…“. She had the time, opportunity, and means to avoid drastic measures but let it all pass her by.
Is this normal human nature? Do we wait for something to go wrong in order to use the opportunity to change? We need to wait until the choices are so polarised that it’s not a choice to change but a way to survive. Or maybe we are afraid of the judgment that will come with our choices without the excuse of something having gone wrong.
Even in my friend’s circumstances, her needing to turn down an alcoholic drink was immediately followed by a quick explanation of “I’m on medication for a small issue” or her not having dessert was immediately followed by, “It’s just a change the doctor asked me to make.” The excuses removed any discomfort for her or the other person because this was “not normal.”
Maybe it’s denial or fear that stops us. Denial because we’re afraid of what we could lose. Fear because we’re unsure of what we could gain. Questions such as, “Will it be worth it?” or “Is the change worth the loss?” run through our minds.
And it is not just our physical health that we play with in this way; it’s our emotional health, mental health, relationships, friendships, or situations we are not happy about but find ourselves in.
Two things can happen when we allow fear or denial to hold us back.
The first possibility is we live in pause; knowing that there will be some kind of tipping point but constantly anticipating it so not completely stopped but not completely moving either; waiting for that thing to go wrong so that the change can occur. The other possibility is that we force the denial; live as if nothing is wrong as if nothing needs to change and when something does go wrong, we are shocked and confused and forced to make the required change. But once the fear or denial has passed, there’ll most likely be this feeling of relief; the change being made.
We want the change, hungry for it. We make small attempts, tapping ourselves on the back that we’ve “at least tried”. But we do not fully work on making the change happen.
More often than not we wait. We wait until something goes wrong.
We wait until something goes wrong to make the change. The change we know will be better for us.