Have you ever started to work on a new habit geared towards improving your health and didn’t follow through? Maybe you were going to start stretching every day, drinking more water, working on your posture, or losing weight and you did “pretty good” for a few days or weeks and then something happened to throw you off your plan?
If that hasn’t happened to you before, I’d be shocked. (Or I would assume you’ve never tried to change a health habit.)
It can be as simple as a change in weather, or one night you can’t sleep, or a flat tire. Almost any break in your schedule or routine can throw you off your intended action steps and derail even the most well thought out plan. And that’s when the negative self-talk begins…
“I’ll never have good posture.” “Why can’t I follow through with things?” The beating up begins and you don’t want to start the healthy change because you failed at it before. Or worse, the “failures” pile up and it becomes too painful to even want to try again. It becomes easier to stay how you are than to make the change that will improve your health and get you to another level.
It happens. It happens to all of us, including me. There’s likely something you’ve been wanting to do right now that you’ve not started… but already feel bad about. “Oh, I know I should be doing…” and “I keep wanting to do that but I don’t…”
What if you skipped the beating and just went to the action step you want to take?
I realize this happens when I run into a patient I haven’t seen for awhile outside of the clinic, maybe out having lunch with friends. My first thought is, “Oh, I haven’t seen her in a long time! Hope she’s doing well!” The patient’s first thought is, “Oh geez, there’s Dr. Cordova. I haven’t been in for over a year. I just know he’s going to make me feel bad about that.” You may say hello, but it sounds more like, “I know I should be coming in… I’ll get there soon…” Then, because you feel bad, you delay returning to the office for another year.
I understand life gets in the way. Your pain goes away and you don’t feel like you have time to be preventative or make chiropractic a part of your healthy lifestyle. Your kids got sick and you just haven’t had a chance to call back in. Your job changed and now you’re working twice as hard as you used to. Whatever it might be, I know these things happen and the last thing I want is you to associate our office with anything but a positive health experience.
So, let’s stop the “beating ourself up” process and get right to the good part.
Here’s some lessons I’ve learned (and am still learning) that seem to help:
Remember why you want to change
There’s no more powerful motivator than a strong “why” you want to do something. If you’re having trouble getting or staying motivated, it’s likely you don’t have a strong enough reason to start or stay on track. Stopping smoking is one example; “I’d like to quit smoking so I can feel my best.” Meh. Probably not a strong enough motivator. If you have a health scare and the doctor says you’ll die if you don’t change – suddenly you are super-motivated. Find a good reason “why” you want to change — or many. The more reasons you can pile on, the easier your change will be. When you find yourself off track, remember why you started down that path and get back on.
Be realistic about the steps needed to change
You don’t need to see the entire path, but you need to understand that there will be many steps. I see that some discouragement happens when we realize that the thing you want to change won’t happen in a day or a week. With chiropractic care, it can take a month for every year you’ve had the problem (not the symptom) to make a full recovery. That doesn’t mean it takes long to see or feel a difference, but it does take time for the change to last. Expecting overnight results is a sure-fire way to feel like you’ll never get there. Instead, look for any victories to help you stay on your path. You’re lifting 5 lbs more than you used to, you lost 1 pound or you haven’t had a headache in a week. The small victories are your encouragement that you’re on the right track and can keep you going.
You can’t do everything
There’s a great book called “The One Thing” that explains the power of focusing on just one thing at a time. One part that particularly stood out to me is that “priority” didn’t used to have a plural form. How using “priorities” doesn’t make sense since the whole point is to have just one thing to focus on. While I don’t have just one thing – I still wear a lot of hats – I have trimmed down my list considerably after realizing there are limits to how many things can be my priority.
Realize that it’s not that you’ve given up on a particular goal, it’s that you’ve made a choice. You’ve decided that this is the thing you want to direct your attention to and that it’s just not possible to do everything well. Do you want to get a little done on a lot of things or do you want to see fewer things but have them completed? If you really sit down and look at your list of goals, you’ll find that just a few are the most important to you. If you completed a bunch of goals but didn’t get to your top 3, you’ll still feel like a failure. Start with your top 3!
Build back your reputation with yourself
If you’ve told yourself you’ll lose weight and haven’t done it, you’ve broken a promise with yourself. The next time you say, “I’m going to lose weight,” your brain will say “Yeah, right.” You’ve defeated yourself before you’ve even begun. You’ve got to restore that reputation with yourself. That means finding a more realistic goal to build back that trust. Instead of focusing on losing 20 lbs, start with 1 lb. Or start with, “I will have 3 salads this week.” Or “I will work out 3 times this week.” Pick a goal you are committed to hitting and get it done. I wouldn’t even start with “I’ll work out 3 times per week for a month.” Just start with this week. You can do that.
Skip ahead to part where you get back on track
One of the biggest problems with falling off track with our goals is the length of time it takes for us to get back to them. We spend so much time angry or defeated that it takes us weeks, months, or even years to summon up that courage again to make a change. If it’s important to you, you know you’re going to want to get back to it. The sooner you do that, the sooner you can get the result you’re after.
Just skip ahead to part where you start working towards you’re goal again. You’re not a robot. You’re not perfect. It’s your goal, and it’s you that decides how quickly you will get there. Some progress is still better than no progress. Give yourself a break and just get back to it without beating yourself up. There’s no benefit to the “beating up” process, so let’s stop that.
We are a chiropractic office and believe that the health of your nervous system is vital to your ability to get and stay healthy. However, we recognize that there’s a lot of components to helping you be your healthiest self, and much of that is a mental game. We’re here to help you achieve your health goals, whatever they may be. If there’s anything we can help you with, please don’t hesitate to let us know!