I know change is difficult – if it were easy all of us would be eating kale, drinking water and working out every day. Our habits are the definitions of our lives, because, quite frankly- each life is made up of what we actually do – not what we say we are going to do, what we think about doing or what we plan on doing. Tough – huh?
What is the big deal with change? – Why is it so difficult to do things we really want to do, things that we know will serve us well and lead to good health and real joy? Simple – habits! Habits are pre-programmed actions, that our brain automatically takes in certain situations. We have done these actions so many times that it has become a default setting and the brain goes ahead and does them without much input from us (this can become unconscious living).
Changing eating habits and adopting a healthy lifestyle sounds simple. It means we have to change our habits. Unfortunately, despite many books and programs on t the market with messages to the contrary, it takes work. We have to change our habits around good food choices and moving more, as well as our thoughts about .. our selves, success, certain foods… the list goes on. It takes mental work and strategy. Planning and implementation is the key to success. Remember the reason for good health, is to make changes that will bring your life into balance so you can do many things as a part of a great life.
Step 1 – Awareness. Basically becoming a Private Investigator on your self. The key is to understand why you have the habit in the first place. Are the actions you are taking – actually giving you the results you desire? Are there any negative side effects? In this step you study your habits, not only the ONE you want to change, but also the associated ones. For example, it is 3:00 pm you are at your desk and suddenly you stop what you are doing and walk over to get a snack or a cup of coffee – you may not realize that this happens just about every single day. The first step is to pay attention at about 2:30 – check in with yourself, what are you thinking, how are you feeling. Also think about what feeling you are trying to achieve by drinking the coffee or eating the snack. Once you have the coffee or snack – continue to notice how your body responds,notice your feelings and your thoughts as well. Are you actually getting the results you want or does this habit – no longer serve you?
Step 2 – Acceptance. This is the step that people usually try to skip. Once they identify what they want to change they just try to force a change using will power. Acceptance is an essential step if any changes implemented is going to be adopted for the long haul. Acceptance is recognizing where you are without judgment. It is a kind of truce with yourself – no more self-recriminating angry self talk, no more what ifs, and shoulda’s, no more judgments or shaming words. Things are as they are – unkind words/thoughts will not help you get to where you want to be. In fact, they actually act as hindrance, and create an internal resistance. It is at this step that we become our own allies, we begin to support ourselves, and love who we are despite where we are in relation to where we want to be. The “who” we are will not change. If we lose weight, eat more kale, or learn a second language we will still be the same person. That is where the love must be focused – inside. Acceptance brings peace and stops the war of words shooting through our heads. It also sets us up nicely for the next step.
Step 3 – Action. This is the step where the work starts. It is challenging to begin something new. To retrain our brain to get off of auto-pilot and make new choices. In Step 2, with acceptance of the truth of exactly where we are, we will know that we will not become experts on the first try. It follows, that with our own support – we will be able to stick with the small changes we start with and persevere, building the will-power muscle, and gaining courage and confidence to take on bigger and bigger challenges, building resilience for when we stumble. Because of Step 2 – Acceptance – we are not conning ourselves, we are implementing a strategy with back up plans and fail safe – and each time we make the new choice – the new habit is forming, no matter how many times we stumble – if we stick with it, the new habit will form.
It is important that we grow and change as we move through our lives. As a result we are going to have to constantly check-in on our habits, to see if they are still serving us.
With the 3-step process of Awareness, Acceptance and Action, we can to evolve into our best selves. The ultimate goal is creating happiness and contentment in our lives. Remember this is not a one-time deal.
As a Health Coach and Yoga Instructor, I get to assist people become self-aware, accepting of themselves, and truthful about where they are and what their personal journey really is. Each person is different, even siblings – so it goes to follow – your strategy and progress will differ from anyone else’s.
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