Tomorrow night, some children wearing costumes, ranging from scary to sweet, will scatter across neighborhoods around the country in search of Halloween candy. I remember waiting for dusk to arrive to set out on my own candy quest when I was a little girl and then getting to relive that excitement when my daughters were younger. As many Halloweens as I have been a part of, it was not until now that I realized something about one Halloween tradition.
When children approach a person for candy, they usually say, Trick or Treat! I always have thought of trick or treat as a question, not as a statement. The children are not asking for a trick or a treat, as they are giving the person a choice as to what to give them, a trick or a treat. It’s one or the other, with the hope being that they will receive a treat.
While we may be too old to trick or treat or do not celebrate Halloween at all, each day, we are faced with the option of choosing a trick or a treat. These are not confectionary choices, and we are not relying on strangers to make the choice for us. We may think that, of course, we would always choose a treat for ourselves, instead of a trick. Think again.
Consider some common tricks that we may choose that sound something like this:
I’ll start exercising/eating healthier/saving money/looking a new job tomorrow/next week/next month.
That’s just who I am. I can’t change.
I’m too old to pursue my dream.
I’m not good enough.
I’ll feel happy when I get that promotion/meet the right person/buy my dream home/lose weight.
Every time we choose one of these tricks, we stay stuck right where we are, even if we truly do not want to be there. Why do we do this? Because change can be scarier than a horror film, and our brain tends to crave familiarity and routine. Fear not, though, because we can learn to choose treats for ourselves, instead of tricks:
Identify your tricks. Start noticing what thoughts, feelings, and behaviors you engage in that are not helpful. Many times, we live life on automatic pilot, and this lack of awareness can become a breeding ground for thoughts and habits that end up haunting us. Check in with yourself throughout the day to notice what thoughts are going through your head, how you are feeling in that moment, and what you are doing. To help you remember to do this, set an alarm to go off at intervals during the day and jot down what you observe. Get curious about your tricks and begin to identify any recurrent themes or patterns.
Take one step forward. Too often, we begin the change process by trying to do too much too soon, and then, give up when we don’t achieve the desired outcome immediately. Change is a process, so, start by identifying the next best step to take to change an unhelpful thought, feeling, or behavior. Make that first step a small one. Small steps can help create the necessary momentum needed to make changes, and a series of small steps is more doable sometimes than one giant step. This is about progress, not perfection. Start somewhere. Start anywhere. Start messy/scared/unsure. Just start!
Plan for setbacks. We cannot stay motivated 100% of the time, and there are things that happen outside of our control. Planning for such times is not planning for failure. It’s quite the opposite. It’s planning for success. It’s easy to be tricked into thinking that a setback or an obstacle means that we should not proceed, but often times, this is an opportunity to learn and to grow even more. Yes, we may have to readjust our plans or try something different than we expected, but we don’t need to give up. When we can devise a contingency plan for such times, we increase our chance of success.
Reward yourself along the way. Whether it’s changing our mindset, our lifestyle, our career, etc., we don’t need to wait until we reach our ultimate treat in order to treat ourselves to rewards. This can be as simple as giving praise to ourselves when we reach a milestone or treating ourselves to something we really enjoy, both big and small. Shifting from tricks to treats takes time, effort, and energy, and rewarding our progress is an important part of that change process.
Reach out for support. Whenever we set out to make changes, it is important to make sure that we have an adequate support system in place. While we are the only ones who can make changes for ourselves, we also can utilize others for support, resources, and guidance. We may know someone who has already achieved what we are working toward, or we may be fortunate enough to have people in our lives who believe in us and will cheer us on every step of the way. Ask the appropriate people, such as a family member, friend, colleague, spiritual advisor, or a life coach, for their assistance, as needed. Remember, we don’t have to go this alone.
Choosing a trick or a treat in our own lives is not just a choice we make on Halloween. It’s a daily practice all year. If the process becomes too scary or overwhelming, or you don’t even know how, where, or when to start, feel free to reach out to me at Elev8 Life Coaching, and let’s turn those tricks into treats!
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