Last week I talked about the word willpower and how choice may be the better way to look at it. I talked about how people tend to get in their own way when it comes to their goals and that generally people are able to do more than they give themselves credit for. This week in part two of this three-part series, I want to talk about what drives a person to make bad choices and prevents them from changing. Unfortunately, I don’t have some magic trick that will make your mind change like the flip of a light switch. I do, however hope that I can make you think about what may be stopping you from reaching your goals.
You see, for a person to make the right choices and use their willpower the key component is they have to want to change. If a person does not really want to make changes, then they are pretty unlikely to make choices that will lead them to a healthier lifestyle. If you are doing it because someone else is telling you that you need to, instead of wanting to do it for yourself, chances are you will struggle. You’ve probably heard this expression before, but I think it’s true. If you don’t think it’s important, then you make excuses, if you do think it’s important, then you make it happen.
While making changes does come down to choices, it’s not a single choice that makes up the change. To really change we have to change our habits and our lifestyle. To me there are three major steps that need to take place in order to do so:
1) You have to make the decision that you want to change. How badly you want to change is going to be a big factor in how likely you are to succeed.
2) You have to discover what it is you are doing that’s keeping you from changing. What bad habits do you have and how can you change them? What kind of triggers do you have and how can you realize them or avoid them?
3) Once you figure out what you need to do to change, figure out a way to enjoy the process of becoming who you want to be. If you don’t enjoy the process, it will be difficult to make sustainable change.
There are many different methods to changing a habit and each individual will find success in different ways. Some people respond well going cold turkey. They just cut things out of their life and force themselves to change. (On a side note it seems like the majority of people I know who were successful at quitting smoking did it this way – something to think about.) Some people need a gradual drop off. Some people respond well to a reward system. No matter what works for you, to really change you have to alter your habits. Regardless, one single poor choice doesn’t mean you have failed. One poor choice doesn’t mean it’s time to throw in the towel. Learn from these mishaps and look for patters. In my opinion failing isn’t falling down, it’s falling down and not getting back up again, or worse – never trying to begin with.
For me personally, I’m more of the cold turkey type. What I like to do is figure out what I want to do and then announce it to the world. I will tell everyone I know what my plans are, because I really hate going back to people and telling them I didn’t do what I said I would. For me that’s the ultimate accountability. I always hear it takes 16 or 21 days, or whatever the number is, to really break a habit. I find for me that by forcing myself to do something, it becomes real. After a time I no longer crave the things I used to, or even if I do, I’m proud enough that I haven’t had them in so long that I don’t want to mess that up. That’s what works for me, but not everyone is the same.
One thing I’ve noticed that is a big factor for many people is a low self-esteem. This is where getting in your own way comes into play. Call me crazy, but I really believe everyone out there can make positive changes to their body. Sure it’s going to be easier for some than it is for others, but it can be done. Anyone can change if they dig deep and really try. I haven’t met a single person yet who was out of shape and decided to change that wasn’t able to do more than they thought they could. I understand you may not have a lot of self-confidence to begin with, but if you give yourself a shot and stick with it I bet you’ll be surprised by what you are actually capable of. It’s not really a question of can you? It’s a question of will you?
Changing your ways may not be all about a single choice, but a single choice is what will start the process. You can’t change a habit overnight, so you must keep working on it. I believe that working on thinking about choices is a good way to start. That said, as with all my material, it’s all based on personal experiences and observations. If you have different ideas or thoughts on how people can overcome their self-doubt and make better choices, I’d love to hear it!