You have just quit your so many-est 7-day-program-to-become-perfect. Over the last decade, you’ve spent hundreds, maybe even thousands of euros on diets, 7-day-programs, and other seemingly magical solutions to become healthier and happier. By now, you’re feeling pretty miserable. It’s like you are the only person in the world who doesn’t benefit from these diets and programs.
I assure you: you are not! Let me explain this so that you can understand what does work, and you too can become the director of your own life.
Old Habits Die Hard
Your life style consists of habits. Eating habits, sleeping habits, moving habits, thinking habits, etc. All those habits have developed over a long time (decades most likely), and are firmly established. Habits are part of our routine and routine provides us with a sense of security. We know what to do and what to expect. However boring that may sound, we still inherently feel good about it. It’s our comfort zone.
Changing any long standing habit takes time. Fortunately not as much time as the habit has been in existence, but still more than a couple of days. On top of that is our inborn resistance to change. During our evolutionary development, sticking to routines turned out to be an advantage for our survival. And even though our circumstances have dramatically changed since then, our brain hasn’t been reprogrammed.
Consider the left side of your brain as the manager of our behaviour. Whenever you even consider making a significant change, your left brain surges to wakefulness and hits the brakes. It will do whatever it takes to sabotage your intention to change. So even though your intentions are really good, your own brain will trip you up and throw you back into your old, familiar patterns.
The Art of Kaizen
There is a way to circumvent this mechanism. A way that allows you to be victorious in the end. It is sometimes called The Art of Kaizen, meaning baby steps. Any big change can be split up into smaller steps. So instead of radically changing a behaviour from one day to the next, you have to be sneaky about it. That means making small changes but on a regular basis. And the changes have to be so small that, both consciously and subconsciously (i.e. your left brain), you go like “Oh yes, I can do that, no problem”. I will illustrate this with a couple of examples.
Example nr. 1: reducing coffee consumption
Imagine you are used to drinking 12 cups of coffee per day. Some of those cups are necessary for you to feel good (awake), but some are just habit. Beware which ones fall into the last category and decide which ones you want to eliminate. Don’t go overboard and be too ambitious. Trying to cut out more than 3 cups at a time will set you up to fail. So pick one or two and when the time comes, instead of drinking a cup of coffee, have a glass of water if you are thirsty, or nothing at all if you aren’t.
Stick with this for at least a week. That is, you reduce your coffee intake from 12 to 10 cups per day. That’s it and that’s all. You stick with this for as long as it takes to become the new standard. You need to feel comfortable with this first change before moving on to the next level.
Let’s say that, after 4 weeks, you are completely comfortable with your 10 cups of coffee per day. Now it is time to take the next little step and reduce to 9 cups. Once more, stick with this new habit until it feels completely normal. Repeat this process as often as you like, reducing your coffee consumption to as little as you want to.
Example nr. 2: move more
I do not have to explain the benefits of movements. You are smart enough to understand them. However, you are working your job to pay the bills, plus taking care of your family. In the evening, when you finally have done all your tasks, you simply crash in front of the television, without any leftover energy. You watch television until it’s time to go to bed, and this repeats every day of the week.
A small step towards change would be to stand up while watching television and walk up and down the room for 1 minute. This way, you don’t miss any of your favourite tv shows, you don't have to change clothes, and you don’t have to leave the comfort of your house. You just have to set a timer, get up and walk up and down for 1 minute.
Once you have developed this new habit (which may take you a week or even several weeks), you can up the stakes and move to the next level: 2 minutes. It’s double what you started out with, but still; 2 minutes is feasible, right? Repeat this process as often as you like, thus getting in the habit of moving your body.
Every journey starts with a first step
The first step is the most important one. Develop a habit of change. Change one little thing every week. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Because if you do, your left brain might get involved and sabotage your effort. It can be helpful though, to make yourself accountable. You can do this in several ways. For example: team up with a buddy who has the same goal, let the world know through social media, or stick a paper on your fridge with a checkbox for each day.
Whatever you do, just do it! Take a first step today, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem. It’s a first step in the right direction. You cannot journey if you don’t take that first step.
One more thing: show yourself compassion. We all experience days when everything and everybody seems to be against us. On those days, we tend to not follow through on our new habits. That’s okay, you’re only human. Just don’t let this one slip serve as an excuse for the next day. Pick yourself up, smile, and move one.
>>> For more in depth information, read the next article: The 6 Most Important Healthy Living Factors That Will Add Years To Your Life