We are now in the first full week of January and it is time for the rubber to hit the road.
If you have ever tried to change any long-term habits you know that changing behaviors can be downright difficult. There are many reasons for this, but here a few of the most common:
· A habit is a habit is a habit. You’ve been going on auto-pilot for so long you don’t even think about your actions;
you just do them.
· You set unreasonable goals or expect too much change at one time. It’s overwhelming.
· Emotional blocks or emotionally driven behaviors (do you ever eat ice cream or chocolate when you are upset?).
· Dread of missing out on something you will enjoy.
· Dread of engaging in an activity that will make you uncomfortable.
· Peer pressure (i.e., your dinner host insists you try their chocolate mousse or the boss buys everyone pizza for
lunch, and you don’t want to be contrary so you eat it even though it throws a wrench in your plan).
If you think about it, each of the examples above have to do with associations you affiliate with that activity (the pleasure/pain principle). As humans, we are motivated by two forces, pleasure and pain. If you associate more pleasure than pain with an activity, you will engage in that behavior. Likewise, if you associate more pain than pleasure with an activity, you will avoid it. This is the case even if engaging in or avoiding the activity does not make logical sense or if it ultimately causes you harm. As a result, logic and reasoning are thrown to the wind when it comes to our daily habits. That being said, how can you create positive change for yourself when you are inherently, biologically, and illogically change-resistant?
Here are several steps you can take to significantly increase your chances of success:
· Set a reasonable goal with a timeline (e.g., lose 50 pounds in 12 months).
· Create an action plan centered on the behavioral changes (e.g., exercise 3 times/week for 30 minutes and
eliminate sugar from my diet).
· Educate yourself! (e.g., if you want to eat a healthy diet, you need to know exactly what that means so you can
make informed decisions).
· Monitor your progress and adjust your action plan accordingly.
· Identify the scenarios in which derailment is most likely to occur and have a plan in place for each scenario
(e.g., snacking on junk while watching the nightly news—instead, have some raw veggies and nuts prepared
knowing in advance that is what you will grab when you sit down to watch the news).
· Figure out the pleasure and pain beliefs you associate with changing or not changing (e.g., if I lose 50 pounds, I
will look great, feel better, and find the perfect mate, but if I don’t lose weight, I will get sick, die an early
death, feel uncomfortable all the time, feel self-conscious everywhere I go, and feel lonely for the rest of my
life). And, don’t be afraid to be dramatic!
· Change your associations (if eating a tub of ice cream daily brings you visions of delight, review your negative
associations before digging in).1 **I highly recommend watching the video listed in the References below. **
· Know in advance that you may relapse into your old behavior. When you do, forgive yourself and get right back
to your action plan. (Don’t dwell on it!)
· Reward yourself for your accomplishments.
· Monitor your thoughts at all times—no negative self-talk is permitted, ever!
If you joined our 2015 Healthy Lifestyle Initiative (FIYB HLI), you can access our tools and resources that are designed to assist you through the process of personal change and the HLI blog where we help each other work through the challenges and celebrate our successes as a community.
If you would like to participate in the 2015 FIYB HLI and have access to these tools and resources, all you have to do is register (click here). It’s FREE!!
Here’s to your personal success in 2015.
Yours in health and well-being,
1. Tony Robbins Pain and Pleasure. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfSj4_n_C_s.