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It seems the lure of the quick fix is all around us. Whether it’s the promise of six-pack abs in sixty days, the secret to wrinkle-free skin, the latest “miracle fruit” to melt fat, the genius pill to boost brainpower, the sure-fire way to marry a supermodel, or how to get rich for free — the appeal of instant gratification can feel hard to resist.
These types of “overnight success” programs feed into our desire to quickly and easily solve our problems, with minimal effort and guaranteed outcomes.
Unfortunately, in my experience, they rarely work.
The Problem with Big Change and the Quick Fix
I’ll be honest — there was a time in my life when I jumped from one quick fix to the next. Whether it involved the latest weight-loss fad, finding the source of true happiness, hacking my way to hyper-productivity, or uncovering the secrets to wealth and everlasting success — basically, if something promised immediate results and instant gratification, then I was all in.
It felt exciting and impressive to launch myself at big changes. I couldn’t resist the lure that all my problems could be solved in a short period of time. And, for a brief moment while pursuing these quick fixes, I did feel better. I was busy making stuff happen and telling myself this time would be different — this time, everything would change.
Unfortunately, not once did I get real, lasting change. I may have had some initial success, but then I’d either burnout, fail, or feel overwhelmed.
My experience with quick fixes is normal. And it may sound familiar to you.
While initially these programs may provide a modicum of success, most of the time we go back to our old habits. Following strict programs may work in the short-term, but our ability to sustain them over time can become difficult.
So, after learning many a hard lesson in my younger years, I came back to the basics — making small, sustainable changes consistently over time, with sufficient breaks to reassess and adjust my progress. It’s the slow, steady, fundamental, slightly-better-than-yesterday approach that doesn’t make headlines or get a million clicks on social media — but it works.
Why Does Slow and Steady Change Work?
To understand what makes lasting change, let’s delve into some of the psychological theory behind behavioral change. First, when we look at the various models of behavioral change, there are several commonalities.
Successful behavioral change requires:
- A genuine desire to change
- The knowledge of what, how, and when to change
- The skills to effectively implement and sustain that change
- Support or external resources to encourage change
- Periodical reviews to refresh, reflect, and refocus the commitment to change
Importantly, if one of these requirements is missing then the behavior is unlikely to stick. Say, for example, you have the desire to change but are not educated on that change, or you don’t take the opportunity to review the change and refocus, then the behavior is unlikely to be long-lasting.
Second, underpinning these requirements are acknowledgments that:
- Change occurs gradually
- Progress is steady and slow
- The change becomes an embedded habit over time
- Relapses, deviations, and breaks are normal (and inevitable)
- Rewards are integral to reinforce positive behaviors
When we measure a quick fix against the above criteria, we can see why it comes up short. A quick fix is usually complicated, requires a large amount of change in a short time, involves intense effort, can feel daunting and overwhelming, rarely educates or upskills, provides minimal support, and lacks opportunities for review.
Whereas, the hallmarks of a successful change model include a focus on the long-term with small, simple changes that feel achievable, repeated consistently until those changes become habit, while acknowledging that diversions and breaks are a natural part of the process.
These hallmarks of successful change probably sound familiar – and they should, because they underpin the structure of the Whole Life Challenge model.
How the On-Season and Off-Season Come Into Play
We can see that the emphasis on creating habits in the Challenge — by making small, incremental changes while focusing on consistent, imperfect action — is not an accident. It’s backed up by the theory of behavioral change and by years of experience.
Importantly, the Whole Life Challenge integrates an often-overlooked component of sustainable change: the concept of periodical reviews and breaks.
If you’re like me, the idea of taking a break doesn’t always come easily. Most of us are so focused on doing, taking action, and moving forward, that we find it difficult to stop and reassess. But, the yin of rest is just as important as the yang of doing. After all, a key requirement of sustainable, long-term behavioral change requires periodical opportunities to refresh and refocus.
That’s why the “off-season” component of the Challenge is so important. It provides for periods of reflection and reassessment between Challenges, allowing us to refresh and regroup for the next round of habit building.
This cyclical on-season/off-season model allows for a measured approach to habit building — one that doesn’t see you burning out or becoming overwhelmed, but instead focuses on holding you accountable, educating, upskilling, reinforcing, and supporting you for six weeks, then allowing you to refresh, refocus, and recommit during the off-season.
- With each new Challenge, your habits become a little easier to execute.
- Each time you finish a Challenge, your habits become a little easier to maintain in the off-season.
- With each turn of this cycle, your behavioral changes become a little closer to second-nature, and over time, that change requires less conscious effort to execute. It becomes your new “normal.”
In other words, by cycling through the on/off model, you have gradually upgraded your life, with steady and consistent effort, and now have the knowledge, skills, and resources to continue practicing healthy habits for a long and fulfilling life.
Move from “Quick Fix” to a More Fulfilling Existence
So, the next time you come across a quick-fix program that promises instant results with minimal effort, run it past the key requirements for true behavioral change:
- Will it educate you?
- Will it teach you the skills?
- Will it support you?
- Does it accept that failure is a normal part of the process?
- How will it reinforce your positive behaviors?
- How does it integrate opportunities to reflect, refocus, and recommit?
A final word: jumping from one quick fix to the next is not only exhausting and disheartening, it’s counterproductive. On the other hand, slowly adjusting your life so it moves toward a healthier, more fulfilling, and sustainable existence sounds infinitely more enjoyable to me.
In short, take it from a reformed quick-fix junkie: play the long-term game instead.