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Triggering change


Paul O'Brien

‘If you want to change some things in your life, you’ve got to change some things in your life’. I remember listening to this on an audio tape as a teenager. It was a tape from my dad’s collection of motivational speakers. This was just one line from the hour-long talk by the speaker, yet it has stayed with me since, for 30 years.

Buy a ticket
I’m frequently reminded of that line when committing to change in my own life and working to help others do the same. I believe it uncovers one of the major stumbling blocks most of us share when trying to change our lives for the better. We frequently say that we want change, but then are unwilling to take the steps to make change happen. It’s akin to wanting to win the lottery but not bothering to buy a ticket.
Change can feel overwhelming. When we examine an area of life that we wish to change, we can become confused and frustrated by the amount of work that’s required. Assaulted by so many variables, we become emotionally exhausted and mentally check out before we even start. When this cycle is repeated over time it can create a resistance to change because of the perceived emotional and mental cost. The cost of making the change seems to far outweigh the benefits of making it.

Focus first
One way to overcome this negative relationship with change is to be clear about why we want it. Writing about how making a change will positively affect your life and the lives of those around you helps make the emotional benefits of change very clear, and it inspires you to work towards them.
Conversely, stating what will happen if you don’t make the change can also be eye-opening. At times, being faced with the prospect of what you don’t want can be enough to shift your momentum.

Pull the trigger
Understanding the process of why we do things also helps. Usually, our actions are triggered by an event, feeling or circumstance. For example, after a stressful event or day we may feel like reaching for food that will give us instant comfort, releasing feel-good hormones in our brain and giving us a temporary release from the stress. In this case, the emotional feeling of stress has triggered a certain behavior.
Event triggers could include meeting with a friend weekly and going for coffee and cake, or visiting a certain fast-food restaurant as you drive past it every day. We are normally unaware of our triggers, so don’t appreciate the effect they have on our behaviour.
One key to lasting change is to identify these triggers and then to remove or replace them. For example, take a different route to work so you don’t pass by the fast-food restaurant. Meet your friend for a walk instead of a coffee. In these situations, these actions will remove the triggers and disrupt the pattern of unhealthy eating.
Being aware of our triggers also allows us to change the behavior directly. We can begin a five-minute meditation practice whenever we feel stressed. This way, although the emotional trigger still exists (stress), we manage it through changing behaviour.
These strategies can help us embrace change and give us the focus to make a real difference in our lives. Which trigger will you tackle today?

Paul O’Brien is a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise since 2007 and a qualified Life, Health & Nutrition Coach. He is co-owner of Republic of Fitness in Westport. He can be contacted on 086 1674515 or