If you’re frustrated because you’re not taking care of yourself the way you know you should, take heart; there is a great chance that there are better ways to go at change.
There is science behind developing healthy habits. The research shows ways to make it simpler and to increase the chance of quick success and lasting change. The bad news is that change probably won’t happen until you are ready to invest some energy. The good news is that done right it doesn’t take a good memory, tremendous willpower or self-sacrifice.
The starting point is three things – a change of perspective (E.g., “I can’t do it!” switches to “I haven’t figured this out quite yet, but I’m going to.”), a supportive helper (a coach, group, friend, etc.) and practice (think repetition). If you haven’t tried each of these with help you’ve probably worked too hard for too little results.
Habits are ruts. Ruts are deep grooves caused by repetitive thoughts or actions. If we think a certain thought enough times (like, since our teachers started complaining at us), we create a pathway in our brain that channels our thoughts in that direction. If it is a negative assessment of our abilities, it makes it extra difficult to develop new abilities. Change your perspective, reframe the thought, and you start creating the pathway for a new ability.
Will new thinking mean you can change? Given how hard it is to pay attention when the old habit is the automatic one, I would expect that you will need positive feedback and new ideas to keep on track until the new way has a chance to take hold. Here is where a coach is helpful. Positive acknowledgement without silly, happy-face style nonsense is a learned skill and a good coach should be an expert at it.
Once you have a different way to talk to yourself about past disappointments and support to fuel your motivation, practice becomes crucial. This is another place where a coach can help. Practice isn’t hard; it’s just tricky to remember to practice when the easiest thing to do is settle back into the old routine. Our brains beg for simplicity in daily habits. Everything is designed to let the habits slip into the background and not take up any of our decision making energy. A coach can help you learn judo so that you can flip your old habits on their heads without so much effort.
Research gives us ideas about how to approach building new habits. A knowledgeable coach can give you ways to fool your reluctance, easily increase your willpower, time your attempts to coincide with high energy periods, supercharge your motivation, keep things simple and much more.
It isn’t difficult, but then neither is riding a bike, but at the beginning it sure feels hard until you get a sense of what’s involved and that usually comes when someone is holding you up while you get a chance to practice a few times.
Read more on building new habits and making good choices.