This Mindset Will Sabotage Your Health. Here's What To Do Instead
It’s time you make some changes in your life. It’s time to kick it up a notch. It’s time to do that thing, meet that goal, or reach that desired outcome. But you’ve tried this before and you didn’t make it happen. You just weren’t disciplined enough. You failed. You’ll probably fall short this time too. So why bother?
This dialogue may sound harsh, but I know that so many people reading this can relate to that thought process. So first, let's all recognize that change can be hard, especially if you’re not just creating a new habit but breaking an old one. I find that one of the biggest obstacles to making changes really stick is having an "all-or-nothing" mindset. If you're not sure exactly what that means, see if any of these sound familiar:
- You ate that piece of cake at the office birthday party. Now you might as well get fast food on the way home.
- You already missed yoga twice this week and you’ve had a long day, so you’ll just skip tonight, too.
- You didn’t quite make it the whole bike route any day this week. You’re just never going to get there, so why bother at all?
- You look at the big goal and it feels so far away and overwhelming. It’s too much to take on, so you stop or don’t start at all.
These are just a few examples of how the all-or-nothing mindset can sabotage your success when you're working on any change in your life but especially when it comes to your health. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are four surefire ways to make changes that actually stick:
1. Lean into your wellness support system.
When you tell your wellness community—friends, family, practitioners, trainer, etc.—what your goals are, it's harder to fall into a negative mindset. Ask for their support and tell them how they can best help you stay motivated. Sometimes it's difficult to see our own patterns, but those close to us can look at the situation from a distance. Give your tribe permission to point out when they see any old patterns emerge.
2. Don't underestimate the ripple effect.
One of the easiest follies is trying to change everything at once. You want to eat more healthfully so you go gluten-free, dairy-free, all organic, no processed foods all at once. Any one of those changes can be difficult day in and day out when you first start. The same goes for exercise, decluttering your house, or any other lifestyle change you’re undertaking. See the bigger goal and break it down into small changes you can achieve or fold into your life more easily, one at a time. Those small changes will create big shifts and cause a ripple effect in your life. Each small win will build motivation and confidence that you can really do this. So ask yourself: What’s the next small change that moves me toward my goal?
3. Be flexible with how.
When we're overly strict about the changes we're making, it can cause trouble. Take exercise as an example. Saying you’ll hit the 5:45 a.m. SoulCycle class each morning is great, but what happens when you miss it? Don’t get me wrong; having a plan and following it is wonderful, but make sure you allow for a little wiggle room and always have a plan B (like an evening class or at at-home workout you can do). You might even consider making the goal itself broader. Perhaps instead of aqua aerobics each morning, it's 45 minutes of movement in general. Then, what that movement is and when or where it happens can vary. The important part is the essence of the goal—getting more movement into your life.
4. If you fall, just step back up.
Life is a journey, and the changes you’re making are now part of your larger path. If you stumble off the path—whether it be just a little bit or entirely—just stand up, brush yourself off, and step back on the path. Aim for progress, not perfection. You may even consider planning for times you step off the path without any guilt. I call that "planning my toxic," at least when it comes to food. You see, I love French fries. There is nothing about them that fits into my ideal nutritional plan, but if I know I’m going to a certain restaurant with friends next week and I love their fries, I just plan on eating them. No shame. No guilt. And I look forward to it. I don’t let that diversion from my healthy eating plan steer me toward cheesecake for dessert and junk food the whole next day. I just step back on the path by making my next choice a healthy one.
The take-home message? You can create the life of your dreams. You can make changes that stick and transform your health. Just remember to ditch the "all-or-nothing" mindset, lean into your tribe, go after smaller changes to keep up the progress, be flexible with how you accomplish your goals, and anytime you step off the path, just step right back on with the next choice.
Speaking of tribes...Here's why this psychiatrist thinks having a community is so important.
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