Over the last decade of working with people and their behavior I’ve noticed a pretty consistent pattern. People may want to change something about their lives but stop short of taking action necessary to actually change anything. In my earlier years as a behavior analyst this was maddening. People were hiring me for help but were simply not able to follow through when I wasn’t around.
Thankfully, I worked at this dilemma long enough to uncover a few amazing strategies that actually work, most of the time (because we’re humans not robots and nothing is ever 100% effective with everyone all the time). Here’s what they are and a few tips on how to get your own ball rolling toward the change you want to make but just haven’t yet.
MAKE TIME to TAKE ACTION
The reality is we can’t escape the fact that we will need to give up some amount of time to work on the thing we are trying to change. Sometimes a client just needs a little push to get really clear on whether they are ready, willing, and able to make time. There are trade offs, yes. Often it will require that they take stock in how their time is allocated and make some tough decisions. Sometimes that means removing something from the plate to make room for this new focus.
Whether you are able to carve out 5 minutes a day or 5 hours a week, making time is essential. Yeah, I said 5 minutes. If you can only start with 5 minutes a day you will still make some progress. And isn’t some progress on that goal better than just wishing for it?
BREAK IT DOWN (more, no more, keep going)
As a coach, this is where my work gets interesting. We are all super complex human beings with messy, beautiful lives. I spend a lot of time listening to my clients, and helping them listen to themselves in order to identify the best next step. Ultimately, it has to work for their unique circumstances.
Here’s the basic process we work through:
Identify your Big Picture Goal but don’t stop there…
Name a Focus that when addressed will contribute to that goal but keep going (there are often plenty to pick from)…
Get down to a daily level and name one specific Action that you will start doing. (but make sure it’s the right one; one that you are 98% sure you can accomplish)
In other words:
1- BPG – Big Picture Goal (the thing you really want or want to accomplish)
2- Focus areas (pick one; there often way more than you think)
3- Daily Action (you can also think of this as the 1 thing you will do this week)
Let me walk you through a few examples.
BPG – Drop 10lbs
Focus – Healthy Snacks
Action – Keep 3-4 different healthy snack options in your kitchen
BPG – Run a sub 8 min mile
Focus – Scheduling
Action – Using the calendar on your phone, book your runs like appointments with alarm reminders
BPG – Have energy throughout the day
Focus – Sleep
Action – Turn lights down 2 hours before bedtime
Note that there are tons of possibilities in terms of focus areas and actions one could take. When selecting something, remember the “right” next step is the one you feel confident that you can do right now. Give it a try! Break it down into that one thing you can do this week and make it happen!
As a coach, I often end up helping folks select a focus and an action that will actually help them move the needle. Most of the time my clients know what needs to be done generally speaking, they just need a little accountability and support to break it down and follow through.
This process goes on rinse and repeat eventually leading to several new habits and actual progress toward that daunting goal that until now has always just been a wish.
Now you might be thinking “Oh! That’s all I need to do? One tiny thing at a time, consistently?”
Or, you could be thinking “Oh! Great. Won’t it take me months to reach the goal?!”
The answer to both responses is YES!! I have found personally, professionally, and within the research that if you want to change something, especially something related to having a healthy lifestyle you need to accept the fact that it’s a slow process. On the flip side of that, it can feel quite amazing to take steps that enable you to chip away one day, week, and month at a time. Progress, however small, feels really, really good. (You just need to make sure your definition of progress is a helpful one and that’s a whole other blog post for another day.)
CONFRONT YOUR STUCKNESS
Sometimes there’s something preventing even the tiniest steps toward that goal. I call this the stuckness. It’s a wall or blockade of some sort – emotionally, metally, there’s an unidentified thing getting in the way. This is a particularly fun place to be, and I’m totally speaking from personal experience.
Look, I’m no mental health professional but I can say with absolute certainty that working on your goal will be either impossible or an absolute slog, costing way more energy and time than is necessary. If you’re in the stuckness the first step is to acknowledge it to yourself and possibly even a friend or family member. Then, you guessed it. Make time and take action to address IT. Get curious. In my situation, seeing a qualified mental health professional helped tremendously. I’ve also had clients experience success only after they worked with a therapist. The way I see it, mindset kind of trumps everything. It’s like the leader of all the other parts of our body. I think that when you’ve cleared the way your work on health and fitness goals will feel like a sunny vacation.
Want help with that big picture goal you’ve been dreaming about? Reach out to me! I love all things change and behavior and health. Just ask my husband! I’m always trying to change his behavior 😉
M.Ed, CrossFit L2, Nutrition Coach, Gym Owner