When you know there’s a lifestyle habit change you need to make, but day after day you feel stuck in what you’re doing, here are my top strategies to get unstuck:
Make a List
Chances are good there is more than one change on your mind. Often, we think of two or three that go hand-in-hand. The thought of making several at once slows us down all by itself. To get unstuck, list all the ones you want to make, then circle the ONE that you can most reasonably accomplish right now. Cross off the rest for now. Give yourself permission to focus just on the one, and see how different that feels. After all, you are letting go of the others for good reason, you’re not abandoning them forever.
Set a Mini-Timeline
When we talk about lifestyle change, we’re always saying it has to last a lifetime. Oh.My.Gosh. It’s hard to picture forever. Let’s throw that out for right now. Pick one short chunk of time and commit to that. You can do the one thing differently for a day, right? Maybe just for this hour? Do that and don’t think about what you will or won’t do past that point in time – put a mental wall right there. Then you can consider doing it again in an hour or tomorrow too, but think about that then. One moment at a time, one day at a time.
Set a Mini-Goal
Identify something that will give you a sense of control. Walk 10,000 steps? Not likely. Walk 250 steps per hour for a set number of hours? Totally do-able. Drink 2 gallons of water? Maybe, if you’re really thirsty, but a great start is one glass per hour. Eat a plant-based diet? Well, how about starting by incorporating fruits and vegetables (not fried, mind you!) into each meal for one day. Meditate for an hour? Maybe a monk can do that, but you only have to incorporate a brief breathing or mindfulness exercise, say three or four times today. Say not to sugar? Shoot for getting through that one meeting without grabbing a doughnut. Talk about a sense of accomplishment!
Write it Down
Remember that list you wrote down, then crossed off everything but the one you circled? Write it down with your mini-goal and your mini-timeline. Look at it. Can you do that? I bet you can.
Find a Buddy
Whether it’s someone close to you that wants to do it too, someone who will pester you to see that you did it, or a support group on Facebook. Don’t do it alone, you’re not as likely to cheer yourself on or “nag” yourself (go ahead and give then permission). Social support really does help, so do yourself a favor and reach out to someone.
Manage Your Biggest Obstacle
What’s the biggest “if only I didn’t have to” or “xxx is always tempting me”? Focus all your problem-solving on that thing. Maybe it’s your sedentary computer job. It’s easy to get so engrossed in what you’re doing then look up and see hours have passed without having done what you planned. Give your computer a hard shut-down at lunch time, or set a buzzer to get up and walk, do a body scan for tension and breathe, or drink that water every hour.
It may be the food the rest of the household likes to keep in the pantry that doesn’t fit your goal. Keep a supply of grab-and-go fruits or veggies right in the front of the fridge or on the counter, so it’s more in your face than the junk everyone else is eating. Stick a motivational note on it if you have to.
Do the Thing
You don’t want to just plan, do you? Go ahead and do the thing real quick, so you can put a check mark next to it. Take that sip, do a quick stretch, walk a lap around the office. Now, doesn’t that feel good?
Pat Yourself on the Back
Don’t overthink the quality of this goal. It doesn’t matter how small or big it is, it’s movement. The first goal should always be to move toward what you want, not just “be there”. Research shows the more you build your confidence up through small successes the more likely you will be to keep at it.
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