The Secret to Sticking to Your Lifestyle Plan

Today I was reading a post from one of my favorite bloggers, Alison, over at Mama’s Weeds. She’s super smart and funny, and I just like how she thinks (plus she lives where I used to live…and I met her once at a Brendan Brazier presentation). I really liked what she talked about today because it was called Choices Lead to Habits. She contemplated the chain of events that led her to being a better runner. And no, it’s not what you think—Make a Plan and Stick to It. Of course, that was part of it. But looking back, she realized that the chain went more like this: Make a plan, run without liking it, get some results (weight loss), want to run more for more results, make the connection between eating better (green smoothies) and being a better runner, eat healthier in lots of ways in order to get better at running and get more reward… And today? Today she can see, measurably how much of a better runner she is.

She didn’t run for the sake of running, or drink green smoothies for the sake of drinking smoothies.

Everything was intertwined, and she found purpose, goals, meaningfulness, and she uncovered the links as she went along (which made her want to do more good things for herself). How would you like to get stuck in that spiral?! I know I would!

It’s funny, we don’t normally lay the details out on the line like Alison did (unless we blog), but I bet if you did it for yourself, you’d uncover some links in your life like this too. Most people don’t recognize how much they’ve changed (or give themselves credit for it) over time. Naturally, we change and evolve slowly, in baby steps (whether it’s positive or negative change). Changing on purpose can be that way too.

When I work with clients, I ask them something they’d like to change, and they generally tell me a whole list of things. It’s true that change can happen quickly (even though I don’t believe in willpower, if extreme desire is there, big changes can happen all at once… it’s just not as likely that they’ll stick around for the long haul). We’re more effective at changing slowly with a strong foundation of of intention, determination, belief in the importance of the change, and faith that the effort will yield the desired results. 

In my dissertation, I had to write practically a billion pages about many of the theories of behavior change and how change happens. Maybe you’ve heard of the Health-Belief Model or the Stages of Changes? Well, there are a ton more than that too… and they do have several things in common. With what I learned from this research, and the experience I have with my clients’ stories of change (or failure to change), I know that with all other attributes being valuable, the most essential quality you’ll need in order to elicit lifelong change is that the Change/Result must have a ridiculously high level of Importance in your mind and heart. 

There’s no magic formula for making something important enough for you to change it, but it’s true that you can do it if you try. Where most people go wrong is that they get stuck on the fact that they want the results, but they’re not doing what it takes to get them (and usually they’re not sure why). But they don’t explore why, and they don’t work through the dirty muck at the bottom of the barrel and ask the hard questions and admit out loud what their hearts and guts are really saying… And then they feel badly about themselves for not sticking to a plan.

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.

Ask yourself:

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!

What do you think? Have you made big changes in your lifestyle? If so, how did you do it? If not, what’s holding you back? 

How Important is being healthy? How much faith do you have that your healthy choices today will lead to better habits and better health down the line?

Side note: I’ve worked through the steps myself, and I’m not saying it’s easy (or that it’s a straight path), but it’s simpler than it sounds when you are looking forward into the process. It’s not about how fast you change, or how much you can uncover in one day. It’s about walking through life everyday, making conscious choices, taking responsibility for the choices you make that are not ideal, and exploring why and how you can make a better choice next time. Don’t work on forcing good choices, work on building Importance. This will build Good Habits.

And thanks Alison, for letting me talk about you today, even though I didn’t ask you if I could!! 🙂


11 thoughts on “The Secret to Sticking to Your Lifestyle Plan”

  1. Thank YOU for your kind words Lisa! I am fascinated with the science of change and the underlying psychology of why we humans do all the things crazy things that we do – I always appreciate your perspective. Identifying that reason WHY that motivates us, that’s definitely key. Then identifying those stumbling blocks, getting to the root of unintentional self destructive behaviors… the road to self improvement is a long one! (Are we there yet?)

  2. Oh my gosh, this is my favorite post of yours ever (I feel like I say that a lot haha) — ABSOLUTELY AGREE: make fit and healthy YOUR lifestyle, not a diet, not someone else’s version of healthy but YOUR version of healthy. LOVE THIS!! (and god this makes me want to hop a flight to Santa Monica to visit you even more HA!)

  3. LOVE this post so much!! My sis once again pointed me to it, and every word is just so much for what I try to strive for too. Live a healthy life – one that you love and do it because you love and want to, not any other reason.

  4. Lisa_healthy_diaries

    Great post Lisa. I loved this so much and it definitely was interesting to me since I’m studying to become a health coach.I think that your view on making changes is spot on!
    I’ve been on the journey to living a healthy lifestyle for a few years now and I think that I’m 75% to where I want to be. I’ve having troubles getting back into working out consistently but I know I will get there within the next few months!

  5. I have made huge changes in my lifestyle bit by bit!! Usually, I focus on one small change I want to make. I know the change will help me feel better and look better. Sometimes I fail, but I consider it a dry run. In the future, I always come back and instill the behavior as a new habit.

  6. claire gillenson

    Great post! I was just talking with my chiropractor how I live so differently now than I did 6 years ago, just by taking small steps that is now ingrained in me, like meditation, more of a plant style diet, and doing more energy work and clearing. Baby steps I tell myself and my clients who are grieving losses. One hour, one day at a time. 🙂

  7. “We’re more effective at changing slowly with a strong foundation of intention, determination, belief in the importance of the change, and faith that the effort will yield the desired results.” This line was inspirational to me.

  8. This is awesome! I can totally related…having random plans without heart or without a deep intention just does NOT work for me. Crash, burn, failure and spending a few hours (or days) under the covers…not really good for long term success! Changing things slowly with heart and intention is really where it’s at.

  9. laury (the fitness dish)

    Ella is on my lap making it hard to type but I had to say I loved this post so much I pinned it! Exactly, what are those unhealthy things really doing for you??? Hve a plan, make a choice! You are so inspiring and so amazing…Love you, girl!

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