So you keep having a thought. It’s been nagging at you for a while. When you roll out of bed in the morning feeling exhausted before the day even begins. When you’re eating fast food for the third time this week. When you wake up with a hangover. When you lose your cool with your significant other or kids.
You want to do better, but it seems pretty overwhelming. You wake up tired which lessens your patience. So you snap at your kids in the car on the way to school. You forgot to grab your lunch from home because your mind is a little foggy from the 3 glasses of wine last night. So you grab a burger instead.
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Slow And Steady
Okay, maybe this is a little specific, but you get the point. Occasionally you may feel the inclination to do better in all areas of your life at once. Then changing your diet, signing up for a gym membership, developing more patience, and cutting back on the booze all land at the top of your to-do list at once. I doubt that ever in the history of mankind has this approach worked.
There’s nothing wrong with starting slow and making small changes to your lifestyle. In fact, in my experience, it’s far more effective. The accomplishment felt from doing better in one aspect of our lives tends to give us a huge boost of the initiative to achieve more in other areas.
Small Steps In The Right Direction
So, you cut out fast food this week and increase your water intake. Next week, maybe you have less to drink. You’re starting to feel better. You have more energy and you’re feeling motivated. The kids are grumpy because you removed all the chocolate chip cookies from the house but, you don’t let it get to you. By the next week maybe you’ve shed a few pounds and you’re feeling ready to click on that yoga app you downloaded a month ago.
Write It Down
But…what happens when the motivation isn’t there one day or week or even a month? What if you don’t feel like doing the things you know you should do? You’ll be prepared. That’s what. You’ll have written down somewhere the reasons why you started all this in the first place.
Don’t just write down the good that has come of your lifestyle change. The pounds lost. The mornings that you felt great getting out of bed ready to start the day. If you only write those things, you’ll know that you can get those things back after a few days of slipping. You did it once, and you can do it again. Write down the things you want to leave behind, and the things you’d like to overcome. Document the negative effects of bad habits that led you to want better.
The Path Of The Quick Fix
You’ll always have impulses to return to previous bad habits. Impulses are your brain’s response to pain or weakness. But, you’re not weak. You are quite capable of making changes, but your brain becomes accustomed to taking the same path. If something bothers you or if you have a craving, your mind feels a certain way about it. It wants to take the path that was taken in the past to fix it. The path of the quick fix.
Remember Why You Started
Your mind knows that in the past you would numb this feeling with a bottle of wine, drown it out with television or distract yourself from it by getting on social media and reading about other people’s bullshit that seems worse than yours. It’s a cycle that must be broken more than once for your brain to get the point. It took more than one day to create bad habits. It will take more than one day to recreate better ones.
So.. when you feel an impulse to do the things you said you would not do, refer back to your reasons why. I have a sign in my office that says ‘Remember Why You Started’. It originally pertained to my journey to recover from mental health challenges. It’s meaning has grown to cover a lot more areas of my life.
Personal Development Goals I’m Working On :
- Effective Communication: Saying what I’m thinking or feeling instead of keeping it to myself and communicating it in a productive way.
- Emotional Intelligence: Remembering that feelings are temporary and even negative emotions sometimes need to be felt.
- Practicing Self-Love: Countering negative thoughts about my self and my goals with positive affirmations.
If you’re like me and like a consistent flow of inspiration, check out some of the personal development resources I’ve been using lately:
What I’m Listening To
The Three Day Effect Audiobook
Florence Williams explores the effects that spending time in nature can have on mental health from a scientific standpoint.
Click on the link to Audible below to start your free trial and receive four free audio books!