Do you believe that you live a mostly healthy lifestyle? Why or why not?
This is often the first question I ask when working with a new individual who doesn’t come with something specific they want to discuss. Most people have something (usually many things) they want to improve but it always surprises me when people accept habits or issues that they consider normal for themselves. Pain isn’t normal. Insomnia isn’t normal. IBS syndrome isn’t normal.
Our bodies tell us when something is not right or when we are out of balance. Sometimes we just don’t want to listen or acknowledge those messages. We determine that insomnia or GI issues are normal for us. Maybe we try a medication and it doesn’t work or we try changing a behavior or two and decide that nothing can help.
Has this happened to you? You are not alone.
I believe we all have the innate ability to achieve optimal health. Each one of us has the capability to be the healthiest version of ourselves. It’s not always easy but I’d bet it’s much more simple than you think. The road to our healthiest selves requires time, effort and patience and a hefty dose of the oh-so-uncomfortable vulnerability of honest self-inventory. In my experience the honest self-inventory is the hardest part. We don’t want to admit that we are our own worst enemy and that our choices within our lifestyle are creating more issues than solving them.
And change is hard! Humans are creatures of habit. Have you ever moved into a new place and remember how long it took you to establish new routines? Or a new job? Or a new gym? We like our environment to feel familiar and predictable and therefore safe.
And we humans by our very nature avoid difficulty and discomfort. It’s built into our survival mechanisms. But the reality is we can’t make any significant change in our life by staying inside of our comfort zone and avoiding resistance.
Your personal wellness is both important and realistic. The first step in making yourself a top priority is believing that is both important and realistic. And the paradox of course is when you do this, everything else that is secondary will also benefit in a way like never before. We make time for what we think is important. If addressing your sleep issues isn’t important because you don’t believe it affects you or if your diet is “fine” because you’re not willing to give up the excess calories, you will have a very hard time making any changes. And as we learned in my last blog post, change will be hard in most areas of your life because, surprise! It’s all related.
Have you ever attempted to make a change but then failed? I think we’ve all had this experience at some point. It’s important to understand why we failed so we can change our approach the next time.
One reason I have found that people fail at making change is little or no awareness. In my previous post I talked about how honest self-inventory is the first step to making change. We have to understand our reality before we can move on from it. If we are having GI issues we need to address every food we eat and drink each day, how we eat them, our stress and how it affects us mentally and physically and so on. It’s not always easy but it’s absolutely necessary for lasting and successful change.
Unrealistic expectations are another tricky part of setting goals and having a plan. Often when it comes to exercise, people will start a program where they want to end up. If you are currently not exercising at all, it is an unrealistic expectation to set a goal of running five days a week. Be honest with your current state and circumstances and set SMART goals (specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and time-specific).
Are you using the same old routine to make new changes? To achieve something you never have, you have to do something you’ve never done. And the old saying is true, if nothing changes, nothing changes!
Another liability when making changes is a lack of confidence. If you don’t think you are capable of doing something, you are setting yourself up for failure. Addressing lack of confidence, self esteem or insecurity is a process that often requires help from a professional or at the very least lots of introspection, honesty and internal work. Acknowledging these issue is a huge first step.
Lastly, it’s been proven over and over again that those with the most sound support systems are the most successful in making changes and achieving goals. We truly are our own worst enemies. How can we expect to have all of the answers especially when our same mind created the problem in the first place? Our support system helps keep us honest and accountable and helps keep us motivated when we inevitably want to slack or give up.
So we’ve identified some common reasons that people don’t succeed in making changes. Now that we’ve discussed the problem, it’s time to discuss the solution.
The recipe for successful change is as follows:
Find Your WHY
Accountability & Support
Awareness is always the first step. We can’t change what we don’t acknowledge. Why have you been unsuccessful before? What are your assets and liabilities? What motivates you? Get to the bottom of you.
Each and every one of us is motivated for different reasons. Our motivation to do anything is based on our underlying values and belief system, and sometimes fear. Fear can be a great driving force. If both of your parents have heart disease, then your fear of getting heart disease is a great WHY to drive your motivation and process to change your lifestyle and reduce your risk. Finding your why is a huge step in defining purpose and setting the stage for successful change.
If awareness and why are the foundation of change, then planning and preparation are the structure on top of it. A goal without a plan is just a wish. If you want to improve your diet, how exactly are you going to it? Your plan might include meeting with a registered dietician, researching healthy recipes, scheduling time in your calendar to food shop, prep and cook, so on and so forth. Preparation is the action that’s included in your plan such as printing recipes, buying a new cookbook, updating kitchen equipment, food shopping and investing the time to cook.
Next, all of us need some person, place or thing to hold us accountable. And as already discussed, we all need support, regardless of how independent we may be or self—sufficient we think we are. Most things take a village, even the self-healing process. Finding a system of accountability that works for you is crucial, whether it’s a running group, a personal trainer, a mentor, My Fitness Pal or raising money for a good cause as part of running a half-marathon. And the same for support system, find people who will honestly keep you on course and can remind you often of your WHY when you otherwise forget or don’t care.
Lastly, consistency. One of the biggest reasons of all that people can’t make or sustain change is lack of consistency. We want things to change yesterday. When we don’t see or feel results as we sometimes expect, we get discouraged and give up. Rather than make a goal attached to outcomes, ( i.e. I will lose 5 lbs in six weeks), make a goal related to the process ( I will exercise and eat well consistently for six weeks). And make your goal as specific as possible. For example, what does “exercise and eat well” look like for you? How will you do it? What support to need? How will you overcome the inevitable obstacles?
Can you think of one small change you’d like to implement in you life? Why is it important? How ready are you to start the process to make this change? What does this change look like in your life?
These are some great starting questions for your journey toward better health and wellness.
In my next post, I’ll discuss the Five Pillars of Wellness more specifically and offer some simple but powerful changes you can make in each Pillar to improve your lifestyle.
Change can be hard for all of us but we are in control of our lives and we can make healthy changes. Change is most certainly possible, we often just don’t have the right journey to success that will work for us. Get honest, make a plan and find support, the results will amaze you.