You know what it takes to be healthy. Eating cleanly. Keeping hydrated. Getting healthy sleep and regular exercise. Maintaining an emotionally, physically, and spiritually fulfilling work/life balance. It seems simple enough in the abstract. But, in practice, the matter is often far more complicated.
The truth is that if you’re looking to implement a healthy lifestyle change, desire is not enough. If it were, then that fitness club membership you purchased for the New Year would not be collecting dust by mid-February. That Peloton would not be sitting neglected in a shady corner of your den.
The Myth of Willpower
One of the most important reasons your fitness regime fails before the ink is even dry on your latest gym membership is because all too often you’re starting on the wrong foundation. Our good old American can-do spirit teaches us that we can do anything if we just set our mind to it.
If we fail, well then, the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves. We simply did not want it badly enough. We simply did not have the willpower to see it through.
Psychologists are increasingly proving what anyone who has ever gone on a diet or tried to embrace a new exercise regime already knows: Failure is not merely a result of lacking enough self-control or willpower. And with every perceived “lapse” in willpower comes another cudgel to beat yourself up with, another chink in your self-confidence, and further erosion of essential self-compassion.
Lasting change requires loving the result of the new choice more than the old result. It also helps to have a coach illuminate any unconscious commitments holding you back from creating the new habit long-term.
The Process of Behavior Change
The myth of willpower being the key to success is predicated upon the idea that if you want to change your behavior, all you need is the desire to do so. We’ve all seen how well that premise plays out in real life.
Behavior Change is About More than Knowing What to Do and Having the Tools to Do It: It requires a deeper motivation. If know-how and resources were all that was needed to achieve optimal wellness, we’d be a nation of Mr. and Ms. Universes by now. Our society would be teeming with paragons of physical, mental, and spiritual health. It doesn’t take an Einstein to know we’ve fallen far short of that ideal, both in our private lives and in our workplaces According to a recent study by JAMA, though more than 80% of large firms in the US have some sort of employee wellness program, these initiatives have in fact yielded no significant effect on overall employee health, workplace performance, absenteeism, or healthcare spending. How do we explain this and what is to be done?You know what it takes to be healthy. Eating cleanly. Keeping hydrated. Getting healthy sleep and regular exercise. Maintaining an emotionally, physically, and spiritually fulfilling work/life balance. It seems simple enough in the abstract. But, in practice, the matter is often far more complicated.
Behavior Change Is a Process: A lifestyle centered in health and wellness isn’t some grand pivot you can be expected simply to make and maintain just because you have the information and resources. Rather, it’s a slow, systematic, and recursive process that needs to be fun and meaningful in order for it to become a habit.
The Transtheoretical Model (TTM): One of the most useful models for describing effective processes of behavior change is the transtheoretical model (TTM). This model describes a five-step process involving precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. The reason so many wellness programs fail is that we leap directly from precontemplation to action, spending very little time examining the intention behind the behavior change and devising clear and specific strategies for success.
Understanding Goals: As the TTM framework suggests, there are a number of essential steps that need to be taken before a behavior change moves from thought to action. And that’s where the greatest support will be needed.
SMART Goals: One of the most important reasons why wellness goals generally fall by the wayside before healthy habits can form is because we just don’t know how to set effective goals. It’s not simply enough, for example, to say “I’m going to get healthy,” or “I’m going to eat better,” or even “I am going to join a gym.” These are abstractions with no clear objective and no specific action plan for achieving it. SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound), on the other hand, provide a rubric for moving wellness goals from the vague to the specific. They clearly define the ultimate wellness goal, necessary milestones for charting your progress toward that goal, and the actions to be taken to achieve that milestone. So, if your goal is to reduce your blood pressure by 10 points, then you might set a SMART goal to reduce your daily sodium intake by X number of milligrams and to walk at least one hour per day every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.
A Breadcrumb Path To Wellness: One of the best strategies for setting up the conditions for success when it comes to wellness is to focus on addition, not subtraction. Instead of immediately purging your cabinets of all your favorite treats, try adding a heart-healthy salad or an antioxidant-rich smoothie to your daily diet. Instead of driving to work, consider walking or biking to the office. Rather than rewarding yourself for a hard day with an evening in front of the television or laptop, why not enroll in a salsa dance class or a local bowling league? Even if you’re not ready to commit to something as formal as a dance class or sports club, simply scheduling 15 to 20 minutes each day for physical activity, such as a brisk after-dinner walk around the block, will significantly increase your odds of actually doing it. And once you get out and get moving, you’re already making your first tremendous strides toward the fit and healthy lifestyle you covet--and the momentum of that change will carry you through far more effectively than willpower ever could!
Make it fun: By selecting something you love, it’s easier to stay committed to it. For example, if it’s exercise, find the thing you can’t wait to get out and do, the type of movement that doesn’t even feel like exercise. If finding motivation for all types of exercise is challenging, then pick your favorite motivational music and setting (maybe out in nature) to give yourself other reasons to love it. And remember, sometimes it takes that initial motivation before the endorphins kick in and make it easier to want to return.
Casa Alternavida was founded on the principle that there are healthier, “alternative” ways to balance life and work. This alternative is to stop the unconscious addiction to stress, overwhelm, and struggle to focus on a healthy, balanced lifestyle that yields better results. Our practitioners are trained to support you with unraveling those unconscious commitments so you can actively create the lifestyle you want to be living, take charge of your well-being, and reset bad habits. We are experts at creating playful experiences in nature that inspire deep personal insight and long-term positive behavior change. Teams walk away from our facility with new excitement for their projects, practices to work smarter, and a deep appreciation of their companies. If you are a business that cares about your employees and wants to enhance your workplace culture, we are dedicated to providing alternative ways of building resilient leaders and teams.