We are creatures of habit, plain and simple. We love routine, we like to stay within our comfort zone and we don’t like unexpected interruptions. Many of us talk about needing to “change things up” or “do something different” because we’re bored with our situation. But, the fact of the matter is, that’s a lie. We like comfort too much.
Does that mean you can’t change or you shouldn’t change?! Absolutely, positively NOT! It only means that voluntarily deciding to change goes against our evolutionary genes. For a select few of us (less than 1% I would say), we can decide to make a change and do it immediately, no questions asked. For the other 99% of us who knows a person like this, we look at them and think “why can’t I do that?!”. We tell ourselves we’re not strong enough, or not disciplined enough or simply that we’re failures. Here’s the thing…those 1% are what we call Outliers (check out Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers for more). They are the exception, not the rule. But, because they exist, we all believe we should be able to accomplish the same feats as them.
Although we look at Outliers with astonishment and bask in their achievement-glory, we need to understand how to truly motivate ourselves to make sustainable change. Motivation and change are intertwined, like spaghetti and meatballs…without one, you can’t have the other (that’s the Italian in me coming out).
To get you moving in a direction (whichever direction you decide is best to achieve your change), I have a couple of recommendations. These recommendations should be done in sequential order:
Accept the Change You’re Trying to Make!
While most of us understand that we have changes we SHOULD make, we may not believe we HAVE to make them. Let’s take our health for example. If you’re over the age of 45, the likely hood of you having high blood pressure or cholesterol issues or diabetes is extremely high (29%, 31.7% and 9.3% respectively)! Anybody with one of these conditions has been told by their doctor at least once to make a lifestyle change, whether that’s being more active or eating more vegetables or drinking more water. So we know that change is NEEDED to improve our health. But without ACCEPTION, it will be nearly impossible to be motivated to develop sustainable change.
Start with 1 Habit!
The next mistake most of us make when making change is trying to tackle every aspect of our change at once. Let’s say you want to try this new Paleo diet to help with your body composition goals. Currently you don’t eat breakfast, eat fast food at lunch every day and drink sodas on a regular basis. Here’s a short list of the habits you have to change to make the diet change:
- Start eating breakfast
- Stop eating fast food for breakfast
- Stop drinking soft drinks totally
- Start packing your lunch (which requires you cooking food in advance)
- Start drinking water in place on soda
- Start eating vegetables
- Go to the grocery on a regular basis
- Prep your food
- Eat about 4 times a day
- Eat more protein
Seems simple enough, right?! And all of these habits require little habit changes in and of themselves. Our minds only have the capacity to focus on 1-2 important tasks at a time (contrary to what most of us would like to believe). Give yourself a fighting chance and pick one habit that you believe will get you started on the path. Once it’s ingrained in you, choose another one.
Be Patient with Yourself!
We live a world of instant gratification. Everywhere you turn, everywhere you look you find new ways to get what you want, when you want, how you want. Although many products and books and motivational speakers promise instants results, the fact of the matter is, when it comes to life and change, things just don’t happen quickly! Get rich quick schemes and fad diets and bogus supplements all want you to believe it can happen fast. And maybe it did…for SOME (remember the Outliers?!) Don’t let yourself fall into this trap. Be patient, build habits and develop sustainable change!
Change is a scary word. If done correctly, you can build change into your life without feeling like a failure. Accept change, build habits and be patient and you may be surprised at the results you get in the long run!