Have you ever had a friend who was more than an acquaintance and who you thought you knew pretty well, but then, you got on their Facebook and you found out you did not know them like you thought you did? That happened to me!
If you read my last blog, 6 steps to break a bad habit, you may be wondering how to progress past breaking a habit that takes you in the wrong direction, to moving in a better direction and changing part of your life completely.
When I first met Michelle, ahe was what I called a “lean mean fighting machine”. Fit, determined and disciplined. She still is. We get along well. We always have plenty to talk about. We live in the same town and we have friends in common. Michelle invited me to be her Facebook friend. I connected with her there and was shocked at what I saw. In some of her photos, Michelle was obese! I took a double take. I could not believe it was my friend Michelle in those pictures. I thought maybe the photos I was seeing were of her sister or Aunt or someone other than Michelle. The next time we got together, you can imagine what the conversation was about. I wanted to know how she did it. How did Michelle lose the weight, keep it off and go from obese and unhealthy to healthful, lean and fit?
It is easy to shed a few pounds here and there. Just tip the balance. Eat fewer calories and expend more calories. Done. Weight loss. But keeping it off, now that’s a different story. Losing weight and maintaining a leaner, stronger, healthier lifestyle requires more than watching what we eat and exercising. For most people, it requires an intentional lifestyle adjustment that includes a magnifying glass look at habits and daily routine.
My friend Michelle is a John C. Maxwell fan. She quotes leadership expert Maxwell as saying, “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret to your success is found in your daily routine.”
- Have Goal Clarity
Eliminating a bad habit means removing something from your routine. Starting a good habit means adding something to your routine. Habits serve a purpose. So, when considering how to kick-start good habits, it is important to look deeper than the habit itself. Analyze the purpose the good habit will add to your life. Become clear on how it will affect your most important goal. Michelle’s most important goal, for instance, was to improve her health. She did not want to live any longer with the unhealthy repercussions her obesity was causing. She was determined to change. Her goal clarity partnered with her determination is when her healthy habits began.
- Use Addition and Subtraction
Continuing with Michelle’s weight loss as an example, dieting is commonly thought of as subtracting food from the diet. While that is true is some cases, dieting is strongly about what foods you add to the diet. The addition is where Michelle liked to focus. She told me that when focusing on the things she was adding, she felt like she had some control and some power over the outcome. When she concentrated on the subtraction, she felt as if the sacrifice was in charge. This is true of habits as well. Concentrating on the new goal-focused habit you are adding to your routine is powerful. As you intentionally add life-enhancing habits and concentrate on those, the less desirable habits will become easier to recognize and easier to change or break.
- Set yourself up for success
Any new habit needs to fit into the way you live your life. Back to Michelle. Exercising was not a part of Michelle’s obese lifestyle. She never made time for it. So, when it came time to start incorporating exercise into her routine so she could meet her wellness goal, Michelle wanted to set herself up for success. She started by walking from mailbox to mailbox down the street where she lived. She told me that the closest gym to her house was more than a half hour away and she knew that even if she paid a membership, the half hour one-way commute would keep her from making a habit of going to the gym.
When you consider the habit you want to add or change, consider the way it will feel to have it in your lifestyle. Be real and be honest with yourself as you think about it. Michelle added the habit of exercise to her routine by starting with walking down the street. She was confident she could make that happen. Now, she is a member of the local gym and spends a lot of time there. I call her a “gym rat”. She has worked the half hour one-way commute into her routine. Michelle’s goals and habits have progressed.
- Be Accountable
The best way to bolster a new habit is to have someone looking over your shoulder. Social media is a great tool for that and so is a “success partner”. Become accountable to others. Blast it out to the world, if you have the courage for that, or ask one person to walk alongside you. Take charge by being transparent. Your chances of success will increase by a lot if you know someone is watching and will ask you about it.
- Reward Yourself!
Victory deserves to be celebrated! As you make improvements pat yourself on the back. Changing habits is a process and a lot of work that should be rewarded along the way. Michelle tells about how she rewarded herself with a new set of pots and pans, after her kitchen habits included cooking meals from scratch. Find little rewards to give yourself each month, week, or day, if that helps you stay on track. Simple rewards like a warm bath, a dinner out, or a walk along the boardwalk might be the very thing that re-energizes you to continue your pursuit.
- Be Patient
Change is hard and real change usually takes time, persistence and most of all patience. If change were easy, everyone would be doing it. The thing that sets successful people apart from the unsuccessful people is they stick with it and do it anyway. Even if they don’t feel like it. Be patient with yourself and take it one step at a time.
Many people don’t transform their bad habits. They live out their days unhappy and unhealthy. The sad part is, they don’t have to. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. How we use it and the choices we make are up to us. Michelle wanted to lose weight and live healthy. She wanted it badly enough that she changed her old habits and created new ones. She used the same time to change her diet and incorporate exercise and an improved thought life, as the time she would have used to sit on the couch, make poor eating choices and be self-critical.
You can do it! You can move your life from where you are to where you want to be. Go for it!
Karen Creasey is a Speaker, Author, Health Coach and Personal Trainer. She is passionate about motivating, inspiring and educating people to improve their health, wellness and overall life performance. Karen is a cheerleader everyone needs! Find her on www.karencreasey.com