Whether it’s part of a new year’s resolution or an unexpected curveball in life or coming to the realization that you just can’t keep doing what you’ve been doing any longer, making changes can be challenging.
When it comes to making changes that affect your lifestyle like how, when and what you eat; what type and how often to exercise; and how to maintain calm in the center of a storm, we frequently think our success depends on our willpower when in fact it’s really our persistence and consistency.
Using the "SMART" approach to making healthy changes has been a steady standard in the coaching world and still proves to be helpful.
I want to use this space today to share some additional thoughts to help make the journey to a better you.
Determine the big “why”. Why do you want to lose weight or start exercising or learn to meditate? Dig really deep on this one. Don’t settle for the first reason you know to be true but ask yourself again and again. You may indeed want to look better in that bathing suit for your upcoming vacation but why is that important to you? What you’re trying to get closer to here is the really deep down reasons because it’s those reasons that will help to keep you motivated every step of the way.
Learn the difference between self-discovery and willpower. Self-discovery requires an honest evaluation of one’s strengths and challenges. You determine your goals and the action steps that are meaningful for you. You own it. Self-discovery is an open-ended process – there’s always more to learn. Willpower, on the other hand, is a negative endgame. There’s a lot of shame, guilt and negative thinking with willpower. Self-discovery requires self-acceptance and the willingness to move outside your comfort zone.
Your goals can be big but your action steps need to be small and do-able. Pick the easiest thing to change first. The small wins will support your resolve and provide encouragement for the “next step”. Bigger wins are really an accumulation of smaller ones over time.
Speaking of time, be realistic with your time frame. Changes to your daily habits take a lot more time than most people appreciate. The adage of it being a marathon not a sprint apply here. There have been a lot of recommendations about how long it takes to add or replace one habit or routine with another. Author and researcher, Jeremy Dean (Making Habits, Breaking Habits) found through his research that how long it takes to create a healthy change depends on how easy or difficult the task is to incorporate into daily life. For example, successfully drinking more water every day was easier for many people to accomplish compared to starting an exercise program. He found that the easier it is to incorporate the new habit, the quicker it happened.
Find a buddy or buddies interested in making healthy changes for support and comradery. Hang out with others who want to see you win and be successful. You don’t all need to be working on the same thing, just need to appreciate the fact that you’re each engaged in personal improvement and betterment.
Celebrate your wins in ways that are meaningful and supportive of your process. Share your wins with others who will acknowledge your efforts. When, not if, you encounter obstacles & challenges be willing to update your plan to reflect a different approach as needed.