The Most Crucial Factor In Changing Your Habits For Good: A Psychologist Explains
Based on your choice of reading material, it seems reasonable to suggest you've resolved to make changes to your lifestyle sometime in the past, in an effort to become healthier. You're probably in the midst of trying to make such a change even now. Maybe you decided that you were going to ditch sugar or that you wanted to exercise more. Maybe you decided to watch less TV.
You start out with zeal and motivation, feeling unstoppable and confidently looking forward to the future you. A few days or weeks later, you find yourself being tempted by your co-workers' homemade desserts or your husband's desire to stay up late talking, making it tough to wake up for your morning run.
Eventually, your resolve begins to waver. And before you know it, you've abandoned your efforts.
Yeah, we all know change can be hard. And, while your level of commitment obviously plays a role in your success, your environment (and the people in it) can either work for or against your efforts to better yourself.
The ideal situation is one in which the people around you can act as allies who share your goals or at least are incredibly supportive of what you are doing. But how do you get them on board? As a corporate psychologist who works with business leaders on influencing others, here are four leadership principles that definitely apply in this situation:
1. Get buy-in by communicating a sense of purpose.
If you plan to encourage others to make changes, one of the most important things you can do is to get their buy-in. In other words, you have to get people to understand why creating a healthy environment is a good idea for everyone involved.
To do this, make sure to have your own strong sense of purpose and to share it with others. Ask them why being healthier might be important to them. For example, in the past, on several occasions, I have tried to give up caffeine. But my motivation wasn’t strong enough, so it lasted for only a day or two (if that). But when I became pregnant with my son, I had a clear sense of meaning—I wanted to create the best possible prenatal environment for him in which to develop. And, as a result, I didn’t use caffeine during my pregnancy.
When you can communicate a compelling purpose (and help others to discover theirs), you will increase the odds of success.
2. Be well-informed.
If you want to be able to build a strong case for making changes, it pays to be informed. Read articles or take a course that educates you on the benefits of adopting a healthier lifestyle. Make sure to learn enough that you can answer questions intelligently. That way, people will know that you’re serious, and you’ll also have a better chance of convincing them to join you.
3. Don't advocate too much change at once.
Strive to make it as easy for others to take part. For example, in the home, if you are asking family members to adopt a healthier lifestyle with you, then asking them to go directly from pizza to wheatgrass shots might be too jarring to them. Instead, you could start by finding healthier versions of their favorite foods. Or, in the office, you’ll likely get a huge backlash if your opening suggestion is that birthday cakes should be abolished for celebrations. Instead, suggesting a "no candy dish" policy and finding a few people who want to go walking with you at lunchtime might be a better place to start. Making it easier for others to make the changes will increase everyone’s odds for success.
4. Make it fun.
Whether you put together an office team to take part in a walk/run event, have a Biggest Loser–style competition in your home, or join trapeze school with a friend, the more fun you can have in changing your behaviors, the better off you will be.
And when you talk about the positive changes you are making, don’t approach it from the standpoint of lamenting over things you can no longer do. Instead, highlight how these changes are allowing you to become your best self. Delight in how you feel, and encourage others to do the same.
While these steps don’t guarantee that the people around you will be ready to make a change, they certainly do increase your odds. And, even if you can’t get everyone on board, if you can get together enough of a critical mass, that will be all you need to have the support you need to be successful.
So try them out, and enjoy greater success!
Want more insights on how to level up your life? Check out your July horoscope, then find out why holding on to past relationships is the worst thing you can do for yourself.