You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.
– Martin Luther King Jr.
Today I am going to wrap up my series on figuring Out What’s Holding You Back by laying out a simple, yet effective way to remove the self-limiting beliefs and actions that are getting in the way of your health and fitness success.
We’ve laid most of the groundwork by creating a list of barriers and actions in response to them, but now we need a plan to set these responses in motion. As powerful as indentifying them is, taking action to overcome them is truly transcendent.
So for our final exercise I will ask you to pull out that trusty list of barriers and actions one more time, as we have one last thing to do before we get started down the path of greater health and fitness.
I’m sure you recall me talking about habit-based change multiple times in my posts, stressing that any changes we’d like to make permanent, are best done by making those changes habit; something we no longer have to even give thought to doing becomes it is automatic. Now you may be thinking, as great as that sounds, it’s likely easier said than done. And while nothing worth anything is easy, there are ways to improve your chances at ensuring habit equate to change. It’s a simple and effective law of change. And it goes a little something like this:
Habits are formed from small actions or behaviors that are easy enough to perform that they become second nature.
So let me reiterate the word small, as this is key to creating action that leads to habit and ultimately habit that leads to change. Going back to our list now, we are simply going to rank our actions and behaviors from easiest to hardest (starting with 1 as the easiest).
– I am eating too many empty calories – carbs and sugar mainly and not working out enough to substantiate it
10. Find a substitute for the high carb/high sugar foods you are craving (tea, protein source).
– I am not moving my body enough, not making it a priority
7. Set an alarm that reminds me to move every hour. Every little bit counts.
– I am not prioritizing myself
8. Take 10 – 15 minutes before bed to just relax and be alone. This could include reading, stretching or any kind of self-care ritual.
– I am lacking motivation
9. Read, follow others that are achieving goals you want to achieve. Remember motivation is contagious.
– I am afraid I will never have the body I did pre-pregnancy
1. Accept that this is ok and embrace that your body has gone through profound changes that produced a beautiful son. When this fear creeps up, say I love what my body brought into my life and no amount of obsessing over my old body can replace the feeling I get when I hold my baby boy!
– I am overwhelmed to start from scratch
2. Just start. No matter how small the step. Starting creates momentum and momentum is what I need to carry me forward.
– I am not able to wake up a little earlier to work out (not a morning person)
14. Set my alarm a little earlier each day until I can wake up 30 mins earlier and fit in a good workout.
– I am not making good lunch choices when at work
11. Start bringing my own lunch to work or if I go to lunch with coworkers, prioritize protein and veggies over carbs and fat.
– I am eating more than my body needs
3. Eat slower and more mindfully. Listen to my body’s satiation cues. Adopt an abundance mindset. Food is not in short supply. I do not need to eat more just because it is there.
– I am frustrated at myself for not prioritizing my health and fitness sooner after pregnancy
4. Remember your body went through a traumatic experience and that you needed to take the time to heal and bond with your baby. There is no guilt in that.
– I am having more cravings than normal for sweets and giving in more than I normally would
5. Eat more protein and vegetables at my meals and try to get a little more sleep. My cravings are up because my diet is not balanced and I’m not getting enough sleep.
– I am weaker in mind than normal, allowing temptation to get the better of me
12. For me, I know that physical strength leads to mental strength. Start there and let it build a little forward momentum.
– I am not getting enough sleep
6. Aim for at least 7 hours sleep. If that means cutting Netflix time down, do that! Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday.
– I eat out of boredom
13. When feeling bored. Go for a walk or read. Do something to distract myself from heading to the kitchen.
Once you have completed this exercise you will see that you now have a ranked list of actions and behaviors to guide your journey. Instead of tying to first tackle EVERYTHING and items with a high degree of difficulty, we will focus on the one thing we can do right now that is the easiest to execute. You may be thinking, this is not going to challenge me enough, but go back and reread my law of change. Although your number one may not look like much, hell, maybe your two, three, four and five don’t either, but think about how you’ll feel when you have mastered these small feats and start to finally tally some wins. This is the kind of stuff that fuels your fire and provides the kind of forward momentum you need to tackle your six, seven, eight and beyond. When you start to amass enough small wins and see that you can start to make habit become lasting change, you start to produce a shift of mindset that not only makes you feel empowered, but completely capable and in control of your health and fitness goals. And this is worth its weight in gold! So with that said, let’s talk a little about logistics and how we move from one action/behavior to the next.
These are the keys to ensuring an action or behavior becomes a habit:
1. Practice it consistently – aim for at least 90% consistent for the week, this gives you a little latitude to not be perfect. As I say, we are after progress not perfection.
2. Track your wins – write them down or use an app like Momentum to track the days you are able to complete the desired behavior or action. There is amazing power in visually seeing your progress. This often is what will keep you going when you feel like quitting.
3. Make your action or behavior visible – post it somewhere where you will see it and be reminded of it often. The refrigerator door is always a great place for me. Even better when one of your actions or behaviors pertains to food specifically.
4. Practice as long as you need to make it feel automatic – generally two weeks is a good amount of time to practice a habit and build a little forward momentum. However this is not a hard and fast rule. Depending on the difficulty of the action or behavior, two weeks may be too much or too little. This is up to you to decide if you want to shorten or lengthen the amount of time you practice the habit.
Once you are at a point where you feel with relative certainty that you have mastered the behavior or action, time to move onto the next and follow the same steps as before, only this time you will be tracking the new and the previous habit(s). The habits you have mastered should continue to get more and more automatic as you practice the new ones.
I would encourage you not to set hard deadlines on habit mastery, as this can set you up for the unneeded stress of feeling like a failure when a habit takes longer to master than another. The key here is to take action consistently and see the process as a journey not a destination. These habits will become cornerstones of your life, so don’t you think it only fair to give them the time and respect they deserve to become a permanent part of your life? It can be so easy to get in a rush, as we seek instant gratification in most aspects of our lives, but in the case of our health and fitness, we can learn a valuable lesson in patience and acceptance, as age, circumstance and hormonal factors all play a role in our ability to execute our habits. Have patience with the process and accept that some days will feel more like a win than others and that is ok.
I wish you the best of luck in working through the process of figuring Out What’s Holding You Back and am here to guide you in any way I can to help you become the strongest version of yourself. If one on one coaching is something you feel would help set you down the right path, do not hesitate to reach out to me. Sometimes all we need is a little guidance and accountability to start seeing a little success.
Stronger one habit at a time,