Surface Level Solutions and Making Change Stick

Surface Level Solutions and Making Change Stick

(How to make them stick?)

Thank you David Bowie… and you can thank me for now getting that song stuck in your head.

What is a Surface Level Solution?

A lot of what we pursue in life, especially as we get older, has to do with maintaining or increasing our health, wellness, and vitality. We become more interested in life hacks to help us manage our lives.

Sometimes life hacks turn out to be surface level solutions (i.e. band-aids) to patch over deeper not yet identified beliefs.  Thanks to these internal belief systems (that we may be blind to) we attempt to plant the life hack seeds into infertile grounds.  Consequently, the attempted change has a low chance of taking hold and growing.

For example, Say you want to lose weight, so you join a gym. In fact you are handed the gold standard of meal plans and exercise programming. For a lot of people, even with the best laid plan, the adherence to it starts to falter within 3-6 weeks.

Yeah, I know, Bummer!

Digging In for Deeper Changes:

How can we make all these awesome plans stick? How can we be successful in reaching what we think we want versus putting on another short term band-aid and then getting frustrated and feeling like a failure?

When trying to affect change an impactful first step is to sit down and dig into why making those changes are important to us. For example asking ‘Why do I want to lose weight?’ Is the answer “because I should?”

Picture Source

Shoulding All Over Yourself: (eww…)

There are a myriad of “shoulds” that can follow.

You may believe you should because your mom is always commenting on how your clothes don’t fit anymore, or your doctor or wife says so, or you can barely look at the beauties on the Cosmo magazine without feeling a pit in your stomach.

At the end of the day a nagging mom/spouse/doctor/societal norm is hardly a motivator when you are faced with the decision of going out to happy hour or going to the gym. In fact the idea of any judging nag may push you face first into that patio-side margarita and nachos.

Now that we can put those nags aside, what to do next?

Without becoming aware of the reason we want to make a change and believing in that reason our ability to find ways to make the change stick will lessen greatly.

If we do not find joy in the new process we are attempting to implement the likelihood of building lasting habits is greatly reduced.

How does one become aware of their deeper drive is? And joy…? Who actually finds joy when margaritas and nachos aren’t part of the equation?!?

Exercise: Gain awareness of your internal motivators-

Get a piece of paper (no, really, get some paper!) and answer:

  • What is your end goal?
  • Why is that your end goal?
  • Now ask yourself ‘Why?’ to that answer
  • … Keep doing that until you are satisfied with what feels like a genuine answer.

Do you find that you are using the solution to be a distraction from something that you would rather avoid? (Ahem… like that pesky nagger in your life)

Or, like a lot of people, who want to live a healthier life the root of that desire lies in wanting happiness, peace, ease, or acceptance within.

Identifying When Your Solution Falters:

The next step to building your awareness is to think about when you may start to falter on your solution.

What is it that comes up when you decide to skip the gym this time or allow some sugar into your daily life when you haven’t been for the last three weeks?

Uncovering the Saboteur:  You may have found your why, now… Do you believe in your abilities to fulfill it?

As you begin to get more curious you may find a new nagger in your life you weren’t quite aware of… odd because it is probably your biggest critic and the most influential on your choices. Any guesses?


The behind the scenes conversation may go something like this:

{Text from friend} Happy Hour Tonight… Woo Woo, be there or be square!

{In your head} Oooo, Fun! Oh shit, I planned on getting in my third workout this week. And, well I skipped yesterday because I was sore. God, why was I so sore, oh yeah, because I sucked it up those pull ups the other day, those sucked. I have to lose some weight so the pull ups, well everything, is easier. I feel so nasty when I have to put on gym clothes like everyone can see my belly fat swishing around. Ugh, I am gross. I don’t want to embarrass myself again.  [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Note: this is an example and only an example, this conversation can go down in thousands of different ways]

{Text to friend} I hear our favorite place has a new margarita called the Barracho! I want to try it!

The crazy part is that the tail end of that conversation took place subconsciously leaving your conscious mind to make a reactive decision to “ugh, I am gross, I don’t want to embarrass myself again”. That decision in this case being, “What is going to make me feel good in this moment? Not gym clothes!”

Here are a few more resources to help you uncover your critic.

As a continuation of our attempts to live closely to our Why we will have the third part to The Stories We Tell Ourselves series with how to start breaking down your unproductive story so you can start creating the story you want.

Quick Recap:

  • Find your end goal; what you are trying to achieve with a new life hack or change?
  • Ask yourself why do I want that? Answer. Ask again. Do that until you have a genuine answer.
  • Determine if you truly believe in yourself to achieve that Why. If no, uncover more of your current stories.
  • Identify the areas you are ‘Shoulding on Yourself’. Include External and Internal shoulds.
  • Question the validity of those stories, get curious.
  • Repeat every time you feel like you are experiencing difficulty making a change.




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