Changing Habits

"WHY??????" Overcoming Goal Barriers



Anybody who has spent more than a month pursuing a personal health goal understands that long-term success is easier said than done. While there are more reasons than we can count as why some goals don't get met (forgot, sudden life events, illness), a powerful sabateur is attributing false value to your goal. Simply put: You don't really want to. 

You don't really want to stop eating cookies. You don't really want to work less. You don't really want to go to the gym. You don't really want to quit smoking.



You say, "Oh no! I really want to!" Okay. Take this test.
Ask yourself "why?" to your goal.

Why do I want to lose weight? Why do I want to cut out eating sugar?
As with any behavior change, there will be times of weakness, and times of questioning if the pain is really worth the end product. It is important to have these ‘why’ answers before trials occur, not during them.

You may find that your ‘whys’ change as you learn to be more honest with yourself.
Once upon a time, I wanted to quit drinking coffee. My reasons? Because it wasn’t good for me. And maybe because I was spending more money a week at Starbucks than I should have…



So began the roller coaster of success and failure, days where I would have success in abstaining, only to cave to the desire the next day. I felt like a failure, and maybe even an addict. I tried green tea, teeachino, cinnamon water, decaf coffee, espresso, but all I really wanted was a warm cup of coffee. Why was this so hard??? I mean, it’s just coffee!

At the time, I was a health coach, and some of my clients were cigarette smokers who wanted to quit. Or so they thought. One of my questions I would ask them was “What do you get out of smoking?” I remember one woman who explained with no shame that she just really enjoyed smoking.

After talking to this woman for a while, I realized that the benefits of smoking far outweighed the risks. Quitting just simply was not worth it. I admired this woman’s honesty amidst the cultural taboo of smoking. She liked it and wasn’t going to quit. She promptly left the program after this revelation.
I started to get real about my own health goal of quitting drinking coffee. How much did I get out of it? Why am I REALLY quitting?

I realized that quitting coffee was what I felt I was “supposed” to do. How could I be a health coach, yet continue this not-so-great habit? Shouldn’t I be sipping on green tea and eating Gogi berries from the Himalayas?? I also started listening to the conversation between my ears when I would ‘cave’. “Oh just think of your teeth! They will be so yellow!” “Caffeine causes your cortisol levels to rise! Your belly will get so fat!” “Your calcium and iron won’t get absorbed as well.”

In reality, these internal voices were the blueprint of my desire to quit drinking; by instilling fear. But here is what I realized: I really enjoyed drinking coffee. It was  part of my morning ritual, I loved the smell, it gave my something social to do with my co-workers, and I was more productive.

So the real question is: What are the real reasons, and do you care? Be real with yourself. Is it to silence the lectures of your doctor? Is it so your family will be impressed with you? Is it so your insurance goes down? BE REAL.
You may also find that your ‘whys’ will mature and evolve after one or two rounds of ‘failure’. Lets call it learning.

The second question is: do those reasons outweigh the reasons to continue? Is the potential of having less white teeth strong enough to outweigh the joy I get from my morning cup?

You may find that you DO want to eliminate this habit, or, you might want it to stay. Finding out what your real wants are crucial to proceeding with success.

Let me be clear: acknowledging the root desire for a habit it not justification for a habit, but it is necessary if you want to change it. We should not just do what we want all the time. Sometimes I want to shout over the fence for my neighbors dog to be quiet, but it is good to exercise self restraint in this situation. You may be abhorred when you have the epiphany that your root reason is not as selfless or admirable as you thought, but you just got one step closer to success.

Write down your root reason(s) for wanting to make your change. Having a journal (like the one on the right hand side of this page) dedicated to this will be a helpful. It also may be helpful to post your written down reasons on your mirror or nightstand, or maybe somewhere where you feel temptation will be strong.
Review your root reasons about 1 time a month, or less often if you feel you are having success with your goal.

And remember, failure is merely an opportunity to learn how to do it better.

Taking 2 Steps Back(wards)



Every June here in sunny San Diego, thousands of people wake at the crack of dawn and run 26.2 miles; a race known to locals as The Rock n Roll Marathon. While the biggest concern of the non running community is how to avoid the 163 while going to the beach, the runners are packing their race bags, getting race tags, and visualizing their success. 
Some run the race in an impressive 2 hours, some take there sweet time, enjoying all the excitement. And then there are those who wear costumes...and even run the race backwards. Yes, backwards. 



 Now, the first time I heard this, i thought, what kind of loon runs 26.2 miles BACKWARDS! I can't even stand to run more than 5 miles (yaaaawn), let alone backwards!

 Perhaps as a protective coping mechanism, I began to think of the logical reasons a person would run backwards. After amusing myself with all the illogical reasons (having a backwards equilibrium, being born with quadriceps for hamstrings, avoiding conversation with strangers), the most logical reason I could think of was utilizing the principle of change. Using different range of motion and different muscles than we normally do gives our body a change to recover from normal activity, and challenges it in a new way. 
 So as soon as I recognized the value of this strange activity, I started incorporating it into my exercise routine. Not 26.2 miles, but say, a few sets of 100 feet every couple of weeks or so. 
 But I don't write today to shed light on the physiological benefits of changing our workout routines, but the abstract benefit of trying things in a new, unfamiliar way. 

During my cool down after a lovely morning run at Mission Trails, I started walking backwards the last uphill stretch. I thought what an awkward feeling. I actually have to concentrate on how to do this. I wonder what things in my life are backwards? What things are caddywompus on my priority list? If I flipped them around, would it not feel like walking backwards? Awkward, yet strangely refreshing?


So the question I charge you with today, is, what things have you been neglecting? Chances are, this is not a new concept; we are all usually aware of what we want to do, yet cannot seem to muster up the courage or effort to do. Maybe you work too much, read too little. Maybe you participate too little, and let others speak things over you. What stands out to you?

Once you have a little list (yes, write it down!...I'll wait....), ask yourself, What are the consequences of changing this? There are consequences to everything, good and bad. With every change of season, there is always death of the old season, never to return in the original. What will die, and what will be birthed?

A note of encouragement: This is not an exercise to give yourself permission to punish yourself for not following through with changes you would like to make. Humans are not machines; we are never the same at any given second, our life stages and self-awareness are ever-changing and there is not a repeatable scientific method for you to change. Perhaps this is the 2nd, or 20th time you have revisited whatever neglected issue has come to mind, but just because you are not at  your desired end-product does not mean you are failing. 

How ready are you to take action? Be honest with yourself. It's okay that you are not your Ideal Self today. It's okay to say "I don't think I am really ready to commit to going to the gym." If you find that you are not ready to take action, spend some time each week with the questions above. 

And if you have just read this to just pass some time, at least try walking backwards! You may have a personal revelation yourself! 

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