Updated: Oct 20
When it comes to making health changes, we often fall into the old trap of "if I have enough willpower, I'll be able to do it".
Well, I'm here to tell you that not only is this wrong, it can massively impair you ability to actually make lasting changes.
Relying on willpower means we often don't have a plan. We think we'll just put our blinkers on and walk right past the chocolate at the checkout. Or we'll force ourselves to the gym, even on a bad day. Or we'll manage to find something healthy to make in that 30 minute between getting the kids from school and dropping them off at footy practice. Or really any of the other things that can get in our way.
But that's the thing, will power isn't going to last forever. There are going to be bad days when even our sternest self-talk won't get us to the gym, or to pass up on that chocolate.
When that happens, we can often start to think that we've "fallen off the wagon" and all our goals and plan go out the window.
Instead of planning for how things will go on our best days, why not try instead planning for how your day will look on your worst day?
It might sound crazy, but think of the bare minimum you can do, even if the world is crazy, the kids are driving you mental, work is hectic stressful, and you're sick as a dog.
Because we want to get into the HABIT of doing something regularly. The world is bound to find a way to try throw us of track, but instead of giving up our new plan completely on those days, we want to find something that keeps us on the right path, even if it isn't quite up to our grand plan.
Let's look at an example:
I want to be active. I want to be going to the gym or going for a run every day, to be honest, but that doesn't work for me. Between seeing clients, back end business stuff and my PhD, some days, getting to the gym is a total pipe dream. Instead, I say - no more than two days in a row without being active. This gives me some leeway to miss a day without feeling like I've become completely derailed from my plan and give up.
How about something else. Many of my clients find that they skip breakfast and often lunch, then they're so hungry by the time they get home, they eat anything they can get their hands on. Sound like you? Well, what can you do about it? Of course, the answer would be to have a healthy breakfast and lunch prepared and ready to go, right?
But on those days you don't have anything ready? What then?
Maybe you could grab a piece of fruit from the fridge on your way out the door, but what if you haven't been shopping this week and the cupboard is bare?
How about keeping some non-perishable snacks in the car, like unsalted nuts or muesli bars, that won't go off easily, and you can take the edge off your hunger on your way home, so you're not quite so ravenous when you walk through the door?
What if you want to start eating more veggies?
Sure, cooking gourmet delicacies like grilled asparagus with lemon zest and parmesan sounds mouth-watering, but after a long day, who has the time?
Instead, you back up might be to throw a couple of packets of frozen veg in the microwave and add that to your left overs from the night before.
Not as fancy, still meeting your goals.
And that's important because CONSISTENCY is key to creating our new goals. In part, because we start to see ourselves differently, and I will definitely be doing another blog about why self-perception is important in habit change, so watch out for that.
So, the take away is this: while its great to aim high, and I strongly encourage you to do so, have a bare-minimum plan too, so you can still meet your goals and form that long lasting habit that you're aiming for.