Feb 8, 2018

There is No Lightning Bolt

Back when I was reading all the habit books, I was taken with Gretchen Rubin's concept of a "lightning bolt" change.  She said usually, for most people most of the time, change happens slowly and it requires small steps and consistent effort.  However, on rare occasions, and for some personality types, change could happen quickly because of the "lightning bolt."

The lightning bolt could be anything that shocks you into or out of action.  If you ever read weight loss stories, or addiction recovery, you'll know what I mean.  The story people tell about that one day when it all got to be too much.  Something happened that made them realize how bad their situation was and how unlikely things were to get better if they didn't make a drastic change immediately.

Those stories are much more compelling than "I just decided to be healthier and worked at it a little bit every day until the changes added up to something substantial."

They're also unreliable.

I think I was making excuses to wait for a lightning bolt.  If I could give up alcohol just like that, then I'm a lightning bolt sort of person, right?

But I wasn't addicted to alcohol.  If anything, alcohol was that first long-term relationship that was maybe headed in abusive directions that we all secretly knew wasn't a good idea in the first place.  So quitting wasn't really a lightning bolt - it was a culmination of years of mixed feelings and a final year spent trying it out and debating the pros and cons of alcohol use.

And when we start talk about sugar and emotional eating, yeah...

I was hoping for a lightning bolt because I felt weak.  Giving up 30 years of habit training is hard!  I wanted that thing, whatever it was, to shock me into making changes.

Every self help book I read that mentioned habits or nutrition or emotional eating, I thought, "This is it!  This is the thing!!!"

And then a week or two later that thing didn't seem important anymore.

So here's my "lightning bolt": there is no lightning bolt.  There is no abrupt, rapid, easy change.  But there is plenty of work ahead.  And it's high time to get started.

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