This is the second installment of my health & wellness blog series to help Nonstick Nancy with her primary issue - her inability to stick with her health goals over time.
Specifically, Nancy starts out with a bang, but has difficulty maintaining focus, and inevitably prioritizes other projects and obligations over her health & wellness goals.
I believe one or more of the following are likely factors in your adherence issues, Nancy:
1. Your goals aren’t appropriate.
2. Your frame of mind isn’t serving you.
3. Your goals are negotiable.
4. You haven’t sharpened your “roll with it” skillz.
If you missed Part 1, where I discussed #1 from the list above, you can check it out here.
Now for Factor #2.
Your frame of mind isn’t serving you.
To maintain it, look at how you frame it. This even (sort of) rhymes. Specifically, how do you view the health behaviors you’re trying to maintain?
· As things you will do until you reach some outcome?
· As chores?
· As futile?
· As less important than some other goals?
· As things you have to do all of the time or it doesn’t count?
I’ll break it down.
The “Means to an End” View
When we view a health behavior as a means to an end, we can expect to meet great difficulty in maintaining the behavior.
There is no “end.” We only have the process.
For instance, many people have tunnel vision for weight loss. They believe when they lose a certain number of pounds or wear a certain size, they will be happy. But, as you may have noticed, people who achieve and maintain weight loss outcomes do not get to a place where they let off the gas, finally free of all the steps it took to get there. If maintaining weight loss or a certain clothing size remains important, so must the behaviors needed to attain them.
Thus, there is no end point. We are always in the process. To some of you, this is the worst news.
I suggest taking the energy that you’ve been putting towards thinking about your outcome goal, and put that energy towards doing your behavior goal.
For example, your mentality could change from “I need to walk so I can lose weight” to “I want to walk because I am looking forward to time by myself, time out in nature, time to listen to this podcast, time to be free from my phone, etc.” In other words, you need to find something enjoyable about the behaviors themselves.
End-goal tunnel vision tends to make things feel like chores. When we cannot see any positive benefits from the behaviors, they are difficult to maintain.
But you get to decide how you feel about these behaviors.
If you absolutely cannot think of anything enjoyable about the behaviors you’re aiming for, pick new behaviors.
The “Futile” View
When we aren’t meeting some objective outcome we have set for ourselves (an outcome that is usually distal), our day-to-day behaviors may feel futile. I’ll keep going with the weight loss example. If I have a certain number of pounds I want to lose, most of my time is spent in a place where I haven’t reached and/or maintained this goal. Maybe I have lost a pound here or there (and likely gained a pound here or there as well), but most of my time is spent not meeting my goal. Every day I weigh myself, I’m still not at my goal.
This is a discouraging place to reside, especially when I’m trying to maintain new behaviors in an attempt to reach this goal…that I keep not reaching…
No wonder it’s difficult to keep doing the behaviors.
Again, the key is to
- find things to do that you enjoy
- find things you enjoy about what you’re doing
The “Competing Priorities Stories” View
When we tell ourselves stories about how other goals are more important, that is what we will believe. You get to decide what story you tell yourself. New health behaviors are delicate, fledgling little ducklings. They need to be nurtured, which entails putting your focus on them (over competing priorities) for some time.
There’s no magic amount of time this needs to be done. Just keep nurturing. Asking “how long will I have to prioritize this” is a waste of energy. Put that energy toward the behavior.
The “All-or-Nothing” View
Long-standing behaviors do not become longstanding because we do them all the time without fail. They become longstanding because we learn how to consistently fit them into our lives.
More on this in Part 4. For now, just do the behavior – for 1 minute. For 1 hour. It doesn’t matter. Just keep doing it.
The main thing to remember is that your thoughts determine your actions, and your actions determine your results. You get to choose your thoughts, so pick some that help you instead of holding you back.
Your frame of mind is your choice and is a direct contributor to your results.
Generate thoughts that serve you.