The Boomerang Effect

The Boomerang Effect

Have you ever been inspired to make a change of some sort, created an awesome plan, set your goal and started off strong, feeling confident and excited … and then at some point did a 180 and landed right back where you started?


Cue The Never-ending Story song and flashes of Groundhog Day


She made a decision to make a change…

She created an action plan and was ready to put it into motion...

The Boomerang was in flight…

Her mood was uplifted…

She went about her day filled with optimism…

Her positive mood carried over into her evening…

The next morning, hesitation began creeping in…

By that evening, the boomerang swung around…

And like a magnet, she was pulled right back to where she started.


The feelings of failure, shame, sadness, self-doubt came creeping back in.

The internal dialogue telling herself she just can’t change, it's never going to happen for her.

She has awareness and understanding of what is happening and what she needs to do to break the cycle, but bridging the gap between the Knowing and the Doing is seemingly impossible.


I’m guessing this story is familiar.  How can I be so presumptuous?   Because I have seen this scenario play out hundreds of times in my personal and professional life.  And the data backs it up: 92% of people never achieve their goals. 


This scenario is what I refer to as the Boomerang Effect - and its extremely common.  In fact, it's the rule, not the exception.


But it doesn’t feel that way.  As we look around at others in our lives and dare I say, our “friends” on social media, it seems that so many others are doing better, are healthier, are more successful, are happier, are achieving their goals, are in general, manifesting their dreams - all accept us. We typically experience this all too common scenario as a failure.  


We feel alone. And it’s demoralizing.


What I hear over and over again, are comments like:

“What’s wrong with me?” 

“I know what to do.  It seems so simple.  Why can’t I just do it?”

“Why do I keep doing this to myself?”


The people are different.

The problems are different.

The goals and plans are different.

But the answer is the same.


It’s not you.  It’s your system.


As a therapist, witnessing this happen to my clients, over and and over again, was frustrating and disheartening.  Clients who have done amazing work …

The insight and awareness was there.

The goal setting process was solid.

The desire for change was strong.

The internal challenges and limiting beliefs were identified.

But even with all this self-exploration and planning, they often get pulled into the land of the familiar, and into the shackles.


Go directly to Jail.  Do not pass GO.  Do not collect $200.  



Sustainable change happens slowly and incrementally


I am not a type A personality or a person who naturally loves daily routines. It doesn't come easily to me.  But I know from my therapy practice and all of my research and work around improving mental health and behavior change, that it all comes down to doing things consistently. 


After over 20 years as a psychotherapist, I KNOW I’m not alone in having a tough time making changes stick.  In fact, I have found that gaining insight into why we behave in certain ways is often an easier process than actually CHANGING that behavior.  You likely can relate … 


Why? Because consistent routines are necessary for creating habits, which are automatic behaviors that are powered by our unconscious.   And learning how to work with our unconscious is key for sustained behavior change.  Relying on will power alone...white-knuckling it...rarely works for the long term. 


Our unconscious drives and habits are just too powerful.  When they arise … the boomerang swings back and returns to the status quo.


When we can make routines and habits work to our advantage, we can intentionally put ourselves on a path where WE want to go.  And here’s the kicker…we can train our brain to create habits that help us attain our goals with minimal effort.  No more white-knuckling it. Thank goodness!

And that requires having a simple, repeatable system in place in order to disrupt and redirect the boomerang’s typical path.  Not once. But over. And over.  And over again.  Until the new path becomes the familiar. 


This makes sense and seems pretty straightforward.  But it’s soooo much harder to put it into practice, isn’t it?  Hence why the vast majority of people fail to attain their goals.  Being successful at breaking out of habits of thinking and behaviors (and creating new ones) is a challenge that requires more than willpower.


What is missing is the system that helps us retrain our brains, in tiny little micro-doses, as part of our daily routine.



How do you keep up your motivation in the face of internal resistance?  


Support.  And lots of it.  It is important to identify and surround yourself with multiple supports so that you have access to positive reinforcement when you need it - especially those times where you feel yourself slipping back into the abyss of old habits.


  1. Professional support. Therapy provides individualized support and a safe place to explore what’s underneath the service and to lay the groundwork for transformation.  I may be biased, but I truly believe that EVERYONE, no matter how self-aware you are, can benefit from therapy.  However, it's time-limited, typically at once a week. 


  1. Friends and family members are a common next go-to.  It’s wonderful to have people who we are emotionally connected to cheering us on.  There are, however, some caveats to leaning only on loved ones for support.  Sometimes our need for support becomes too demanding.  Sometimes we fear that they have stressors in their own lives and we don’t want to bother them.  Sometimes our well-meaning loved ones don’t know how to best give us the support, encouragement, or the accountability we might need.


  1. Support groups and online communities are both viable options.  What I love about these options is the connection with other humans who are invested in personal growth and life transformation.  Another huge perk for online communities...they are available 24/7.  If you want to jump into the community and ask questions, report what you are doing for accountability, search for ideas, you can receive some feedback from the community often within minutes.  How great is that?  

Key Take-a-ways 


Personal growth occurs when we delve into self-discovery and then successfully implement the change needed in order to achieve the transformation we are seeking.


Although the self-discovery process may uncover much of the answers that we are seeking to understand how we arrived at our present experience, these “ah-hah” do little to move us out of the place we feeling stuck in and to grow into the next stage of our becoming.


We need a bridge between the Knowing and the Doing.


In order to avoid becoming victim to the Boomerang Effect and setting yourself up for failure, keep these 3 truths in mind:


  1. It’s not you, it’s your system that’s faulty.
  2. Sustainable change happens slowly and incrementally.
  3. Success happens when you have the right system & support in place to sustain your momentum


Creating the change that you want to see in your life IS possible.  The FLOURISH Inner Circle is an online membership that integrates all of these key components into a step by step personal growth path that will provide the knowledge, skills and support to help you achieve the change you want in your life. Learn more here 

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