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New Year, Old You

The Grey Zone, NLP.

It may seem like I have purposely gone against the cliché title that fitness bloggers will put out at this time of year. And in one sense that is true. I was once told that when preparing a script for an audition: you should always go against one of the lines. Give it in a surprising way; which is often the opposite of how it might be expected. I don’t actually often do that in every scenario, but it’s an interesting idea and we have to be open to ideas to evolve, change and to prevent us from staying the same “Old You”. Didn’t some wise person say that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity? Or was it stupidity? Either way…

If the reason you are reading this is because the title caught your eye, then great it worked. I guess now all I have to do is give you some interesting information to make it worthwhile, and that is of course my aim here. How many people do you know who start January the 1st in the same way every year? A headache from a hangover and a lack of sleep, and a list of things they will do different this year; whether it’s to change jobs, get out of a relationship, finally go to the Caribbean, lose 5kg or give up smoking etc. My guess, in some form or another you are one of them.

The problem is that we humans are creatures of habit. We can’t help it. We are naturally habitual and feel safest sticking to our habits, even if they are damaging us. How many times have you heard people say that one of the biggest fears for us is change? Whether it be changing job, moving house, getting married, having a child, or simply changing routine. All these things involve taking us off our beaten track and onto one that (at least for us) isn’t as well trodden.

If you are in a job you hate, the only thing that can change that is change. And the only person who can prompt that change is you. Sort of, and I cover this below. I appreciate you could be made redundant etc, but there are always exceptions. In general, for most people the impetus for change has to come from them. And as we have already discussed, we like habit. Change scares us so how do we force change?

In a very good book (How to Change Your Life with NLP), NLP practitioner Lindsay Agness talks about 3 zones:

  1. The Brilliant Zone
  2. The Grey Zone
  3. The Awful Zone

Lindsey explains, using personal examples as well as those of clients she’s worked with, how most of us are in the grey zone. The grey zone isn’t that bad. It’s not great. It’s not what we dreamed of or really wanted, but we can’t complain. You may be in a job that you never planned on being in. It wasn’t the career you wanted but at one point it paid the bills and 5 years on, it now affords the lifestyle you have. You may be in a relationship that’s ok. But who want’s to be in a relationship that’s ok? You get one life. Don’t you want more? And then there’s your fitness, health and appearance. Again, it’s grey. You can put up with it. But, ideally you want to be fitter. You’d like to eat healthier, cut out the takeaways and you’d ideally like to have a better figure/physique. Every time you try to make a step in the right direction something side tracks you back to where you are. Which, after all, is the grey zone and isn’t that bad. You can live with it for now. But what if for now becomes forever?

The problem with us British, is that if we are in the grey zone, we say “can’t complain”. Which is true. If we look at homeless people, Syrian refugees, people with cancer and other diseases. We really can’t complain and we should be happy. But if you only get one life, shouldn’t you strive to be the best you you can be and enjoy as much of it as you can? Surely “settling” or giving up is just as bad as complaining. Someone with cancer whose life is sadly cut short never got the chance to change their life and reach for their dreams, but you do. So wasting your potential could be far worse than being discontented with your current hand.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there is a certain amount of “The grass isn’t always greener” here. I advised a friend on this subject as I knew they weren’t happy in their relationship. It certainly gave them the ways and means out of the mindset that “this is it, there’s nothing better for me”, but then again I am not sure the place it took them to was better! But at least they tried. At least they lived. I don’t want anyone who is a little depressed to read this and start breaking up marriages and quitting their jobs will nilly. You HAVE to think about the consequences and have to be responsible if others, especially children, are relying on you.

However, the 3rd point above is, as Agness describes; is the Awful Zone. Unfortunately very few of us get to the Brilliant zone without going through the Awful zone. Have you ever been in a relationship you knew wasn’t right or a job you loathed, yet when the person broke up with you or you finally decided to leave, you still felt sick and sad and “awful” afterwards. That’s the awful zone. Divorce, break-up, redundancy, death, illness, disasters – there are a myriad of things that can thrust someone, against their will, into the Awful Zone. This is change. Forced change, out of the Grey zone (which, remember, was ok, you can put up with it) into the Awful zone. But the Awful zone isn’t ok. It’s not something you can stay in, so you change it. You move on. YOU CHANGE IT! You start going out on dates again, or socialising with friends, or looking at studying to get a new career, or visit family you hadn’t seen for a while and so on and so on. Your life changes.

If you are lucky, you will climb out of the Awful zone and into the Brilliant zone; the relationship you always wanted, the job you dreamed of, the figure/physique you always wanted. Do many people really get there? Probably not, sadly. The Americans have the American dream – to go and be what you want to be. We British are a little more subdued and what we call “realistic”. As Eddie Izzard said on this subject; when we Brits are seeing the careers advisor we are told: “you’re British, tone it down a bit”. Flippant, but in part true.

New Year, Old You. Back to the point of this blog post. You are you. You will always be you. You were crafted by your genes, your upbringing, your parents’ thoughts and beliefs, your peers’ thoughts and beliefs. To change those “belief systems’ and “morals” and the way you see the world is possible, but takes time. Don’t worry about that. Be you, the same old you, but change your circumstances. Get out of the Grey Zone, whatever that is to you and into the Brilliant Zone. To do that, you may have to go into the Awful Zone – I guess it comes down to how much do you want it? You may have to give up alcohol, chocolate, sugar and cake for 99% of the time for 6months and commit to 5hrs exercise a week. Awful right (I don’t think so by the way), but when you look in the mirror in June before your summer holiday and see what you’ve always wanted to see. Won’t that be brilliant? If the answer is yes, the ONLY person who can make that change is YOU.

I did it. Last January I decided 2015 was the year I stopped doing what it was that I felt was making me unhappy. I was firmly in the grey zone. I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do for a living or living where I wanted to live. To get away from that grey zone I had to change things. I had to give up the way I earned my income. Was it scary? Of course. Did I worry I had made the wrong decision? Yes, at times. Was it worth it? Yes. Am I happier. Honestly, far more. I believe 99% of us have one part of our lives or more in the grey zone. Make the change. Become awful, then become brilliant. This could be your Year. New Year, Old You, No Grey.

Sean Lerwill - Author

Sean is an former-Royal Marines Commando Officer & Physical Training Instructor. He has been published as a writer five times, has a BSc in Molecular Genetics and a Post Graduate Certificate in Education. He is also a MaxiNutrition ambassador.

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