So you want to change your lifestyle? Why is it so damn difficult? We start out to change our routines or habits with a spurt of enthusiasm, we are going to lose that weight, start that exercise programme, cook more wholesome meals, change our destructive self-talk and then a few days in, all our good intentions have virtually disappeared! So what are the elements to change and what is most important?
Is it Goals That Help Us Change?
The natural inclination is to focus on the result we want, we want to run a marathon, be healthier, be more productive, buy the new car, live in a beautiful mansion. Getting really clear on your goals is crucial and why you want to achieve them of course. Goal Mapping is a really excellent tool for this. Like any change we use these goals to provide us with a clear direction to head towards but we also need to figure out how to get from where we are now to where we want to be. It’s a bit like baking a cake, we know we want the cake but what’s the recipe to produce it. You can set yourself as many goals as you like but you need the right ingredients and method to produce the results you desire.
Is it the Process that Brings Change?
The natural thing to think of next is what are the changes or actions we need to make, the process, if you like. We often begin with grand plans to make major changes to our routines and habits but how successful is this approach? Bearing in mind that 90% of our brain operates unconsciously; we are relying on 10% of our cognitive ‘thinking’ brain to keep us on track. I don’t know about you but I might start on a Monday morning full of optimism and enthusiasm and maybe make it through to Tuesday or Wednesday before life takes a few twists and turns and I find I have completely lost focus on my plans. Whilst I do have lots of tools and techniques to help with this, that is not the topic of this blog.
Is it the Person We Are Being That Needs to Change?
Today I want to focus on self-identity, this is one of the most crucial factors that influences successful change. How we view ourselves is integral to how we approach life. We have all evolved through years of experiences and influences, we repeat thought patterns and habits that help form our identity, much of this is held subconsciously. Our view of the world is completely unique to us. Our identity contains beliefs that tell us what we are capable of and what we are not. How many times have you heard people say things like ‘I’m useless at being organised’ or ‘I’m terrible at maths’, or ‘I can’t cook’, or ‘I’m ugly’. These beliefs are very powerful, we reinforce them each time we think them and say them, repeated enough, they become unquestionable beliefs. They slip past our conscious mind, we don’t even notice them.
Even when we know factually and logically that our behaviour is self destructive we still behave, think and act in accordance with our underlying self image and identity.
How Do You Change Your Self View?
Your identity and behaviours are intertwined the more you behave in a way congruent with the person who want to be, the more you assume that identity. Each time you go for a run you are proving to yourself you are a runner. Each time you go to bed on time you become a person who prioritises their sleep. Each time you refuse that second helping you are demonstrating that you are person who manages their eating. Getting clear on the person you want to be and behaving in congruence with that, consistently, is the game changer. The small choices we make every day are the ones that matter. They propel you toward get your goals and, more importantly, they help to reinforce beliefs about yourself and what you are capable of. Willpower and motivation have their place but at the core of successful change is an altered self identity.
It’s useful to spend time thinking about the values and qualities that you identify with and assess if your current actions and thoughts are in line with these. There can be a mismatch between how we behave and our values. If you say you value your health but you eat large amounts of junk food you are not being true to yourself. Starting to view yourself as a person who values their health helps you to choose the behaviours that you want to develop. The more time you spend in the identity of the person who lives in a way that supports your goals the more you gradually assume the version of yourself that is congruent with your goals and aspirations.
I use a tool called Self Mapping to help my coachee’s develop a clear vision of their best self. This supports them with their goal attainment but crucially it helps to reconfigure unconscious programming and shif the paradigms and views we hold of our Self.