As a wellness coach, I’ve realized there are two main parts to changing your habits for the better.
First, you have to actually know what a better habit is.
Second, you have to get yourself to do things differently each time you face the choice.
The first part is difficult. Credible information is out there, but it’s masked and hidden and overshadowed by bad information, misleading marketing, and people who care more about making money than spread truth.
Let’s assume, though, that you have the credible information. For my clients, once they had the information this was often when we began putting in the most effort. Once I shared good information with them, we had to figure out how the heck to get them to (1) change their behavior and (2) maintain it over time.
In my dissertation, I studied super healthy women who placed high priority on their health. I explored what and how they made their healthy habits a priority and how they maintained this lifestyle over time. I learned many things that helped me both personally and later when I was doing corporate wellness coaching (where my job was to (1) provide good information and (2) help people implement it into a long-term lifestyle).
Based on my research and experience working with people, I’ll fill you in on my suggestions for improving your lifestyle and making it stick.
1. Combine inspiration and information to conjure up determination.
My clients often tell me they desire something SO MUCH, but they just can’t seem to find the motivation. I know exactly what they mean, and I also know the secret to changing it.
Do things that foster inspiration (yoga, walk, breathe, work out, eat healthy foods, read, talk to your people, write, laugh).
Ask for information about specific things you need/want to know, even if it’s just a request for Clarity on what step to take next, at the beginning of each day.
Combine the fruits of those two activities to build determination. (make lots of lists, plans, develop ideas, and identify long-term desires). Tell people what you’re thinking (people you trust obviously). Ask what they think. Disregard what they say if it’s not nice.
Act. Wake up every day and DO SOMETHING on your list. Anything. Even if you’re not sure what the outcome of an action will be, if you keep DOING THINGS on the list, things will get done and progress will be made. Then the insights and clarity sneak in along the way.
2. Follow steps to make your wellness important enough that you turn your daily choices into long-term habits.
I’ll be the first to tell you…
Having a plan is essential, but what’s in your heart makes the plan worth doing. – Click to Tweet
This is why when someone asks me to make a diet plan for them or just lead them through a workout, I usually say no. Sure, I have the skills and knowledge to make up plans for people, but that’s not really what I want to do. It’s like the concept: Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, or teach him to fish and feed him for a lifetime. When I’m really coaching someone, I facilitate the process of making the change important but put it in under the disguise of planning and educating. Sometimes my clients figure out what I’m doing, but not before it starts working!
It’s this great secret I have—I will help you learn about food, recipes, ingredients, fitness, how to get stronger, more flexible, and manage your stress… but what it’s really about is how to Make Your Wellness Important Enough to Make Choices that Become Good Habits.
It’s awesome when you’ve got the importance-factor already… then just soak up the recipes and information and put it into action! You don’t need me or another coach for more than a little exploration about what the right plan is for you to reach your goals. But if you don’t quite have the motivation to put down the chips and pick up the avocados, focus on why.
What do the chips (or whatever you’re doing that’s not healthy) do for me that’s good? Bad?
What’s a healthier snack I could eat right now that I like? (no reason to eat things you don’t like!). Since I like it, why am I eating something that’s bad for me?
If I ate a healthy snack that I like today instead of chips, what would the benefit be? (specifics!) How would that make me feel? What would it do for me over time?
…and then there are about 30 more questions I can ask you (or you can ask yourself) to pare it all down to its essence and build your Importance from the ground up. It’s like most things, to get better at it, you need to practice!
3. Simple does not mean Easy. Acknowledge and face the work head-on.
Lifestyle change is simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It requires determination, motivation, and effort. There are no real shortcuts and no free lunches. Once you admit that, your life isn’t easier, but your plan for each day is more straightforward.
In addition to conjuring up the motivation and determination (and positive attitude) for changing, it’s also important to determine the best way to change for you (and not compare to an ideal). Everyone is different—there’s pushing and pulling, successes and failures, and adjusting along the way.
I love big fast successes. But they’re few and far between. Life is long (usually), and it’s slow. It’s a process, and that’s not always satisfying in the moment. But it’s life. The alternatives (backsliding, quitting, going into denial…or even death)…well, they aren’t good in the short- or long-term.
The moral of the story? Consistency and steady effort really does win the race. Being positive about it just improves the likelihood that it will work, and it makes it more pleasant too.
4. Going from Stop to Go can be the hardest part. Make micro-goals and focus on one tiny thing at a time.
Creating a lifestyle routine of healthy habits is not only ongoing (as our understanding of what is healthy for us continues to evolve), but it also involves a lot of strategy. Often, I let people know that it’s not necessarily the plan of attack that is most important, but the plan of getting back on the wagon when you fall off. Because you will fall off. In addition to that, sometimes getting your foot in the door is the biggest deal.
Sometimes we have to focus on just getting started—we think long-term about what an ideal lifestyle would look like for us. We get wrapped up in it and overwhelmed by it, and then we become paralyzed and don’t do anything differently. Right now is a time when I really need to get myself started on a focused path again.
5. Believe in the Change, the Action, and your Ability.
Sometimes I set goals and then I forget about them, and never even take one tiny step toward reaching them. I can’t really explain this, but it just happens sometimes. On the other hand, sometimes I set goals and I have a one-track mind about reaching them (like that time I wrote 150 pages of my dissertation in a week). I’m constantly trying to figure out what makes a person be “ready” to work toward a goal—to have the determination to make it happen, even if it’s hard and involves effort.
What makes us eat veggies everyday? What makes us turn down the piece of cake or go to the gym or drink another glass of water?
What needs to be present?
- Belief that there is a need to change or valuable benefit to be had from changing (either to move away from one consequence or toward another)
- Belief that the new “action” will actually lead to the desired results
- Belief that one can perform the action consistently and effectively
And sometimes, the time for changing just needs to be right.
The pain of not changing has to outweigh the pain (effort) of changing…
How do you get your resolutions to stick?
If you’re feeling empowered and ready to make a change, I suggest you immerse yourself in the best information you can find. Talk to positive knowledgeable people. Surround yourself with people who are motivated and determined, and have something valuable to share with you.
Also, to back up to the importance of having good credible information to work with when you begin your quest for lifestyle change, I’d like to invite you to check out the New Year New You Summit. Some of my favorite experts are personally interviewed in this summit—Dr. Cate Shanahan (author of one my favorite books, Deep Nutrition), Joel Salatin (from Food Inc.), Chris Kresser who I respect very highly, and many of my Village Green Network friends. You can learn the information you need to improve your life—things like overcoming illness, how to implement a real food lifestyle, how to eliminate debt, and more.
The best part? It’s free! You can click here to sign up for the Live Summit. If you want to be able to download the audio interviews to listen to later, there’s an option for that too (it’s very affordable!).