So you think you ought to keep fit? You really should eat less and better?
Or you just have to go to the gym because you feel guilty if you don’t? Do
you know that you want to be physically fit but mentally you just can’t find
the resolve to do it?
It’s all in your head
What motivates us toward healthy behavior is an interesting subject. For example, are you motivated away from what you don’t want? Or toward what you do want? And if you did lose the few pounds you want to, would you revert to old patterns and simply put it all back on again? Or if you feel you ought to get fit and do a run twice a week, do you start well and then drop it after a month? What causes us to fail or succeed? It’s not just our physical ability, but our mental attitude.
The thing is, most of us know at an unconscious level what we want, but haven’t thought about it consciously for a while. And sometimes we’re a bit mixed up about what we want and certainly don’t know what is really driving us. The images we see daily in the press, of how we might look, hold an implicit happiness. But what do we want to be fitter/healthier /slimmer for anyway?
So here’s a neat trick for you. Think about what you want, why you want it and then go get it. Sounds simple, and it certainly isn’t rocket science. But it’s the road less traveled in this busy world of ours. When did you last sit down and write some notes on how you want your body to be, how you are going to achieve it and how you need to adjust your mental approach to yourself to get what you want? Making time for thinking about and planning for what we want in our personal lives isn’t a life skill we’re taught at school.
It’s clarity of our thought and motivation that breeds results
We do it for our jobs (we set objectives and have training and development plans), so now’s the time to apply it to yourself. Are you ready to take time for yourself and break what may be poor patterns of a lifetime so you can feel fulfilled now?
The six simple steps to fulfillment
- Figure out your own values and beliefs.
- Replace negative ‘away from’ motivators and replace them with things you want to move ‘toward’ — positive motivators.
- Decide what your goal is.
- Plan how you are going to get there.
- Choose your own way of doing it.
- Listen to your body and internal dialogue.
It occurred to me recently that at the age of 37, it is about time I learned to enjoy myself because I know that my body will likely get wrinklier, saggier and creakier from now on. So rather than be frustrated with what I’ve got and always wait for the day it’s perfect in my eyes, how about valuing it now?
I could spend a long time being dissatisfied or I could make changes. Our identity is wrapped up in our own internal image of ourselves physically, not just what sort of person we believe ourselves to be. You may feel you are a good and lovely person, but not like your physical image. In what way might this be holding you back? And what would it be like to resolve this so you are a congruent and rounded character, totally content with who you are. And just imagine how being totally content would alter your behavior patterns (what you eat, what you do, how you move).
The six steps require you to do some spring cleaning and some personal development. They also require you to take an holistic approach to yourself. How well your mind is affects your body. And how you hold your body will send a message to your mind. So let’s not pretend that “diet” is something we do three times a day. It’s our whole way of thinking about ourselves.
Here’s what to do:
The stronger the value the stronger the motivation. This step helps you find out your deep-seated and largely unconscious “drivers” or motivators. The things you hold to be true inside. These are the things that are either setting you up for success or failure in terms of your mental and physical health.
Knowing these will allow you to make lasting change to your behavior rather than temporary change.
Get a notepad and pencil. Write on the page, “things that are important to me about my mental and physical health are..” List these. Keep going until the page has at least 15 things on it.
Then, looking at all the things you have written, ask yourself “so what’s important to me about those is..” Write down your answers.
Then, looking at those answers, ask yourself “what’s important to me about those is..” (you should have a lot fewer answers now and they will be bigger concepts and statements).
If you still have lots of words ask yourself the question one more time “so looking at all of those things, what’s important to me about those?”
Then on a clean sheet of paper write on it “Things I believe about my mental and physical health are.” List then in full. Be honest with yourself. What do you truly believe about yourself inside?
This step helps you find out whether you are motivated towards a strong image of who you want to be physically and mentally, or away from what you don’t want to be. Having more “towards” motivators will mean you are more likely to keep on track with your desired lifestyle changes.
Look in detail at the language you have used about your values and beliefs in last two paragraphs of step 1.
Notice whether you have written things with “towards” language (like “I believe in feeling good about myself” or “It’s important to me to have energy”) or “away from” language (like “I don’t want to be tired when playing with my kids” or “I don’t think I can ever be as thin as I used to be”).
Take each of the negative statements and re-write them using phrases saying what you do want / what is important / or what you believe that is positive. Whilst this may not change your whole outlook over night, it forces your mind to work in a new way. Using statements of what you want or believe positively will help you alter your behavior.
“Most people aim at nothing and hit it with Incredible accuracy.”
I heard this quote once (not sure who by, unfortunately) and liked it. How on Earth can you expect to achieve your aim of physical and mental health if you aren’t clear about it?
Write down a clear sentence in your note pad of what you want to achieve.
Put bright colors around it or any pictures / positive images you can find. It’s exciting, and it’s yours, and you want it! What does it look like in your mind? What sounds do you associate with it? and how do you feel about it? Get a full picture/sense of it so you are compelled to get it now.
Goals are dreams with a deadline
This is where you need to spring clean and decide how you are going to achieve your goal. Does it require more personal development? Do you need to put dates/times in your diary? Who do you need to involve/get support from? What are the times/events that have caused you to lose your way in the past — and how can you be prepared for them? All these things need planning for to make your goal happen.
“There are many rivers to the sea”
This step is a simple “check.” We tend to think of conventional ways to take plans forwards. How many ways can you think of to achieve your goal? And what might be your way of doing it, even if this is unconventional or quirky? It needs to be tailored to you. Take a moment to just ponder on whether the plan you have developed really reflects who you are and your way of doing things. You are more likely to stick to it if it does. Be creative.
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
As you make changes in your life, learn to listen to what your body is telling you. It communicates its needs with you every day. If you were to ask it what it needs and listen to the answers, just imagine how your behavior might change to make you more successful. Before you get out of bed each morning, silently ask your body “what do you need from me today to function really well and be fulfilled?” Listen to what it says. Maybe write it down in a diary or your notebook.
Listen to that internal voice in your head. If it starts playing negative tapes and pulling you off track (“you’ll never do it” and “I’ll have to put myself last — I just don’t have time”) tell it to be quiet and re-program it to make helpful comments. It’s too easy to allow ourselves to be harsh judges and assume failure. Once you’ve caught your voice inside tripping you up, you can learn to laugh at it.
Be ready for days when you are out of balance and go off track. Recheck your notes from steps 1 through 5. As long as there are not fundamental shifts in your desires, then re-commit with yourself to respect your own needs. Then, forgive yourself for going off track. It’s a fine balance. Being determined . Being clear about who you want to be. Being sure about your actions. Being at cause and not effect. Knowing that you have a choice and facing up to the responsibility that comes with that. And yet being forgiving when you are human and weaken or lose the plot.
E + R = O
Event + response = outcome.
We may not be able to choose the events that happen to us, but we can choose our response to them (and our ability to learn from them). This will influence our outcome. So there’s no shirking and saying “I can’t do anything about it, I have to travel a lot with my work, so I eat badly and can’t exercise.” You have a choice. Get on with it.
When I was having what in the UK we call “a bad hair day” a good friend of mine said to me “Be kind to yourself, because wherever you go, there you are.”
“People are always blaming circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, they make them.” (George Bernard Shaw)
Keeping physically fit will give you the energy to help strengthen your resolve. This in turn will make you feel it’s worth having a healthy diet too. And so the virtuous cycle begins. It’s a journey and a lifestyle. Let’s begin!