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The Boom-Bust Cycle of Personal Change

At Design.org, we believe in change.

We believe in a person’s power to design their own thoughts, which will in turn allow them to design a life full of personal meaning. We have seen people become unstuck, unburdened, and untethered to the thoughts that have held them back for years—sometimes for their entire lives. 

In short, we believe that people have the power to change. 

More importantly, we believe that you have the power to change. 

The life you want is within your reach, but only if you make the changes necessary to create it. 

And only if you can avoid the dreaded boom-bust cycle.

The boom-bust cycle

The kind of change that we believe in, and the kind of change we all want, is lasting change. No one sets out to lose 20 pounds in the hope that they’ll gain it back within a few months. But with the boom-bust cycle, that’s exactly what ends up happening. 

In economic terms, a boom and bust cycle refers to the cycle of highs and lows within the economy. While this is more complicated than we have time for (the video on this site gives a good overview), you can likely guess the basic definitions:

  • A boom is a time of economic prosperity and growth
  • A bust is a time of economic decline and losses

The same cycle can (and often does) take place with changes we try to make in our lives. The changes are temporary, and we find ourselves bouncing back and forth between our changed and unchanged states. (Yo-yo dieting, anyone?) In terms of personal growth:

  • A boom is a time of learning, growth, and success (hitting your goals)
  • A bust is a time of regression; you go right back to where you started

This boom-bust cycle can be very discouraging when you’re trying to create long-term, positive change in your life.

Boom-bust vs. lasting change

Let’s say you’ve set that goal to lose 20 pounds. You create a plan involving a healthy diet and regular exercise. You set milestones for yourself and track your progress. And guess what? You make it! You lose 20 pounds and you feel great.

At this point, things can go one of two ways: either you keep the weight off forever, or you fall into a boom-bust cycle and gain the weight back.

What will determine which way you go? It’s not the goal itself, or the plan you made to reach the goal. It’s not even the feeling you get when you accomplish the goal. 

So what makes the difference?

In truth, the thing that makes the difference comes into the picture even before you started losing weight in the first place.

That’s because the thing that makes the difference has nothing to do with the goal itself, and everything to do with what lies beneath the goal. 

The difference between change that lasts and change that doesn’t can be boiled down to one thing: why you’re making the change in the first place.

Finding your why

When it comes down to it, most people try to change something for two big reasons:

  • They want to move away from something
  • They want to move toward something

One of these tends to lead to a boom-bust cycle, and the other tends to lead to lasting change.

Moving away from something

When you’re trying to get away from something, you are acting from a place of fear. You are trying to escape. Rather than face your fears head on and try to dispel them with powerful truths, you do everything you can to ignore them, get away from them, or pretend they don’t exist.

Where does this get you? It gets you into the mindset that if only your circumstances were different, you would be happier. It requires success first, and happiness is the supposed result.

The problem with this is that science has found that happiness leads to success—not the other way around

Ultimately, this leads you to a boom-bust cycle. That’s because it is rooted in fear and discontent.

Let’s look at our weight loss example. If you’re approaching this problem from a place of fear, then you’re trying to escape your current weight, thinking that that will solve bigger problems. Your thoughts would be things like:

  • If I lose 20 pounds, I’ll be happy.
  • I’ve just got to lose 20 pounds, and then I’ll like my appearance.
  • People will think I’m attractive if I can lose 20 pounds.
  • Once I lose 20 pounds, I’ll be healthier.

If the thoughts behind your weight loss goal sound like these, then you’re setting yourself up for a boom-bust cycle—because the truth is, those 20 pounds have nothing to do with your happiness, your self-confidence, other people’s opinion of you, or your level of health.

And once you realize that (say, after you lose 20 pounds and you’re still unhappy with your appearance), you won’t be motivated to stick with the behaviors that made you lose the weight in the first place. Before you know it, you’re right back where you started. Bust.

This isn’t what you want for yourself, and more importantly—it’s not what you deserve.

Moving toward something

Changing your mindset to one of moving toward something may seem like a subtle shift, but it’s actually a very important and powerful one. 

When you move toward something, you’re acting from a place of love. You are looking forward, not behind. Your thoughts are centered on the positive (what you want) rather than the negative (what you don’t want). You are empowering yourself from the beginning by placing your focus on what you can be. You see your potential, and you move toward it with intention and hope.

Moving toward something often requires facing your fears—not running away from them. That’s because moving toward something requires you to accept who you are and the place you are in, so that you can then move forward. That can be scary (or, you know, downright terrifying).

Applying this to our weight loss scenario, for example—moving toward something may require you to admit that you are insecure. You may have to face the fact that you care deeply about what other people think of you. You might have to acknowledge that the path you’re on is a dangerous one, and could be leading you to severe health problems in the future.

If you’re able to identify what’s at the root of the problem, however, then you can start addressing it in a way that creates lasting change. Your thoughts sound more like these:

  • Living a healthier life will help me lose 20 pounds.
  • Liking what I see in the mirror is important to me, and I can work on that as I lose weight.
  • People who care about me can give me encouragement and motivation as I try to lose weight.

When you think this way, the mindset comes before the results. By the time you lose the 20 pounds, you are already making healthier choices as a lifestyle, you already have a greater sense of self-confidence, and you already feel good about your relationships with the people who have supported you.

You’ve courageously confronted what’s at the heart of the matter, and you’re ready to act accordingly.

Instead of trying to change something (i.e. your weight), you have changed something much more important: yourself. This is the kind of change that can last a lifetime. 

You are more than capable of making this kind of change. Your thoughts are yours to shape and design. (Don’t worry, we’re here to help.)

Avoiding the boom-bust cycle

Training your brain to move towards positive change (instead of away from a negative state) requires just that: training. It requires the right tools, a little patience, and a lot of practice.

That’s why we offer daily messages, designed just for you, that will help you design thoughts that serve you and keep you out of the boom-bust cycle. 

If you’re ready to start receiving these messages and moving toward lasting change, start with our free assessment. It will tell us the kind of messages you need to move forward at this point in time. 

It’s time to reach your true potential. It’s time to create positive change that lasts. Seize this opportunity to become the person you want to be, because trust us, that person is inside you already.