It's 2018! Where did the time go?! Have you made your New Year's health resolutions yet?
In the spirit of a new year, most of us make resolutions about our health. We are going to exercise more, eat better, walk more, sleep better, drink more water, drink less wine, eat less junk, etc.
Some of us do well with these and solidify them as habits that have us feeling happier and healthier on a daily basis. But, statistically, most of us don't!
What gets in the way? All of the excuses:
"It's hard to find healthy food near work...."
"I don't have a decent gym near me...."
"I’m stressed about money
“I can't sleep and I need to fix that first...."
"I sprained my ankle and now can't do my favorite exercises...."
(that one is mine btw)
However, if we go up a level the bigger problem is that we simply haven't developed a concrete personal system for changing habits in our lives yet. Without the confidence that one CAN change habits, it's very unlikely that one WILL change habits.
So, how do we make health resolutions stick?
And the answer is......I have no idea. Or rather, I don't know which specific kinds of support systems will work for you.
I'm not YOU.
But, I can tell you what has helped me. And how I’ve seen clients build the personal power they need to take responsibility for taking action to make their health resolutions stick. Don’t feel like you’ve failed if you hit a few bumps along the way.
Step 1: Rewire your thought process away from "failure."
True change of self and habits is going to involve a decent amount of "fails." This is a simple fact of nature, yet we judge ourselves harshly time and time again.
Example Health Resolution: I am going to wake up at 7 am each morning, meditate for 10 minutes, then stretch for 10 minutes.
You might do well for several days, then go out late one night, and BAM, 7 am shows up and you hit the alarm and go back to sleep.
Your internal monologue goes something like this:
"Argh! I can't believe I did that, I'm such an idiot....I'm never going to make this work. Forget it, I quit."
When this happens, you are making making this a problem with you, when in fact, the issue isn't with you at all. It's with the SYSTEM you thought you put in place. The system didn't account for your late night out for example.
So rather than feel bad about yourself as being flawed or incapable, you can look at the "fail" as an opportunity to update the system in a way that seems likely to improve it, and run the experiment again.
Step 2: Take action again, regardless of breakdowns, with the goal of creating a system, not just one new habit.
We all hear catch phrases like "never quit." But what does it actually mean to quit? One definition is that you stop taking intentional action towards a goal. The important word there is "intentional." Remember, the goal here is not actually to just get this one new healthy habit in place, but to create a system where you KNOW that you can build any new habit that you want.
So getting lucky with a few actions that just happen to work for you on one particular habit might feel great. But luck isn't going to help you build the confidence to tackle other things.
However, if you start getting wins based on YOUR OWN intentional choices and actions, that is going to feel far more powerful and reliable.
Step 3: Track and measure the results of your experiments
If you only had one goal to declare for 2018, declaring that you'll create your own system for personal change that is proven to work for you to change and grow would be an important first goal. This is the "teach a man to fish" part of the old adage. Except you'll be teaching yourself to teach yourself. How's that for "meta?"
Most of us subconsciously avoid tracking and measuring...getting the first batch of results in an experiment back can be a serious blow. You expected to see something like 60-80% on target and you wound up getting 10-30% instead!
Be a scientist who studies yourself until you find a system that works for YOU to produce the results that you want with a high degree of certainty!
In order to create a trustworthy system to track and measure, you'll need to set up several components:
a) What is the data that I'm tracking? This needs to translate to actual numbers. Examples: "How many times this week did I exercise and for how long?" or "How many hours of sleep did I get last night?"
b) How am I recording that data? This needs to be easy to input data into, and to read data when reviewing. Examples: excel spreadsheet, phone app, notebook, etc.
c) How will I review the data, observe results, and adjust my experiment to improve results? I suggest a weekly review for 20-30 minutes to go over the results. Preferably routine, scheduled in your calendar and non negociable except in cases of emergency.
Step 4: Keep going until you are satisfied with your results
Nobody has ever created anything of worth without running into major obstacles. If you attach anything at all to the fact that it's not "easy" (ie "I must be stupid if it's this hard") then you engaging in a toxic form of magical thinking. Every time you hear something like, "the idea just came to me," or "I just did it..." that statement is being filtered. It sounds cool, but doesn't match with what really happened. The reality is that hundreds to thousands of hours of study and hard work came before the inspiration.
But satisfaction is where this gets muddy-satisfied according to whom? Most of us have a broken satisfaction meter. We might objectively be making improvements and growing, but if we are not meeting some outside measure that was set by our parents, siblings, society, friends....enemies, etc., then we don't allow ourselves to feel any satisfaction.
Be willing to give yourself an A for effort, even when you don't get the results you want on the first, third, or thirtieth try. If you keep going, you'll get it.
Then reward yourself 🙂 (maybe a massage hint hint?)
Step 5: Even when you start getting the results you want, keep evaluating and tweaking your system.
If you've stuck with the first 4 steps of this for several months, you are bound to start seeing the results that you wanted on your health resolutions and are starting to feel pretty good about it. Congrats!
However, don't quit while you are ahead. Even when you find something that works for you, there may be a more efficient, better suited, more satisfying way to accomplish what you want if you keep looking at your system. You never know when some new app or device, or some new book, friend, colleague, class, etc. could add to your system and make it even smoother for you.
Also, if your system is working and you are getting the results you wanted with your first simpler resolution, it's time to test it out on something more challenging!
Health Resolutions that stick: 5 step review
In summary, the 5 steps to creating a personal system for changing habits on health resolutions that will work for you are:
Step 1: Change has obstacles, obstacles involve "fails," rewire your thoughts on these
Step 2: Take action-regardless of inevitable breakdowns, your goal is creating a system, not just mastering one new habit
Step 3: Track and measure results
Step 4: Keep going until you are satisfied
Step 5: Continually tweak the system
Try it out, or as Yoda says, "There is no try. There is only do or not do."