We all struggle with change. Whether you are trying to eat better, get in shape, lose weight, or get more sleep, throughout our lives we will always be building new habits. So what makes the difference between dreaming about a better version of yourself and actually achieving your goals?
Don’t think – just start
I adopted a powerful mindset a few years ago: don’t think, just start. As simple as it sounds, I realized the biggest thing getting in the way of change was hesitation. I would see the time on my calendar to workout, and hesitate. My dinner plan outlined, and I would hesitate. I knew the workout would feel great once I got started, and I knew dinner won’t be that hard to cook, but getting ‘out of neutral’ was often the hardest part.
If I start to think about the whole workout or all the work that will be required to cook dinner, it will provide just enough time to come up with excuses that derail my plans. So I immediately remind myself: don’t think – just start. By focusing on just putting on my running shoes, or on taking out the ingredients I’ll need for dinner, I create a mindset of action that distracts me long enough to forget the excuses.
Power of mindset
Have you noticed the difference in your energy when you say ‘I get to’ vs. ‘I should’? The language we use, even if just in our heads, impacts our ability to get out of neutral. Although I typically enjoy running once I’m past the first mile, I need to push myself to get started. If I’m thinking ‘I should go for a run’, I’m automatically dreading it. It feels like an obligation or chore and creates resistance…and lots of excuses.
I discovered the subtle difference in mindset when I was recovering from a knee injury. Much to my surprise, I missed running! It took several months to get to the point where I could run again, and my thoughts shifted from ‘I have to run’ to ‘I get to run’. The change in mindset and the power of those words made a big difference…I was actually looking forward to the workout instead of treating it as a dreaded chore.
Better than nothing
We all have those days when we just don’t want to get out of bed, exercise, make dinner, or tackle the big projects. How often are we approaching things as ‘all or nothing’? If I can’t run 3 miles, I’ll just skip it and watch tv. If I can’t write for an hour, I’ll just check email instead. If I don’t have time to make the dinner I planned, I’ll just order pizza. In order to stick with change, it helps to remember than something is better than nothing.
Five minutes of walking is better than watching tv. A baked potato with broccoli is better than the drive through window. Three pushups is better than zero. Grabbing an apple for breakfast is better than skipping it entirely…or grabbing a doughnut at the office. There will be days we can’t do what we planned, but we can always do something. How much different do you feel when you make some progress, no matter how small?
Life is a journey; we are constantly changing and adapting. There will always be something in life you want to improve, and the most difficult part will be getting ‘out of neutral’. Can you ‘just start’ instead of pausing to think of excuses? Can you approach your workout with some degree of appreciation instead of dread? Can you identify one small action or activity that takes you one step further on this journey of change?
Author: Becky Jacobs, Chief Engagement Officer