If you have ever struggled with "staying on track" or adopting a new habit, this post is for you. I'm sharing a tool to help you pick (and stick to) any key change you want to make!
Best laid plans...
"In preparing for battle, I've always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable."
- Dwight D. Eisenhower
Particularly with dietary and lifestyle changes, they can get overwhelming so quickly can't they? I see this in my patients all the time... and admittedly, I also see it in myself! I've always a big fan of big fancy plans, protocols lists, etc. (It's sometimes an obsession: #letsgetorganized!) But here's the kicker - they usually just don't work out.
I've noticed that sometimes an ultra-baby-step executed perfectly has so much more lifetime impact than a half-executed and then ultimately abandoned big-fancy-plan-that-I-spent-sooo-much-time-on.
Maybe you've noticed this with your exercise intentions? Or with trying to start meditating? Or even just eating healthier? Or getting to bed earlier?
Experts will tell you that behaviour change is hard, next to impossible even - ever heard the phrase, "You can't change people"? That's baloney. It's totally possible and doesn't have to be that hard. While you just can't expect a complete transformation in 30 mins, with commercial breaks; you can expect to make amazing progress if you take it in smaller bite-sized chunks.
You see, its all about your willpower reserves...
I've found that willpower is more like a muscle than an inherited trait. Absolutely everyone has it (even if you swear you don't), in some it's stronger than others, and it is always a limited resource.
If you use all your daily willpower to say, not eat the cookies at the office on your break, then you've got none left to go for that walk when you get home. (I'm sure your willpower is strong enough for both of course, but it illustrates my point.)
Now bring in all the other areas of life that you need to use your willpower muscle for: family, finances, work, relationships, even just everyday interactions with other. Moreover, consider your life-stage... the demands of each stage can vary drastically. This means the amount of willpower you have to commit to something new can vary based on so many factors.
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I'll let you in on a secret... at the end of the first visit for all my new patients I give a set of initial steps and instructions that typically they can complete within a week before our next follow up. Most of the instructions are pretty simple, but I give a healthy list of them. Secretly, I don't actually expect all of them to be executed perfectly. I try to give them just a little more than I think they can handle because I am gauging the strength of their willpower! (When they find this out they are relieved and delighted - not to mention more aware of their own willpower levels!)
But I digress...
I’m going to give you a simple strategy that will dramatically increase your success with making healthier habits stick, and with this tool, you’ll get much MUCH better results...
THE "SHRINK THE CHANGE" STRATEGY
The key to behavioural change is to "Shrink The Change", as Chris Kresser says. (I think he got the idea from David Allen who wrote the book "Getting Things Done". A book that revolutionized my personal organization systems, FYI. told you I *love* organization, lol.)
The idea is to pick an action so imperceptibly small that you can sit back, laugh and say "Of course I can do that!", and then get it done, forget about the big-fancy-plans, and get on with your day.
Here's what to do:
Here's an example to get you started:
PERSONAL "DO-ABILITY" RANKING
(Clearly, the ranking you choose is personal based on the realities of your life. In this case, my choice would be to focus on water intake and then let the rest go... for now.)
TRACKING AND CELEBRATION
So there you have it, one of the most powerful habit change strategies I know of. Isn't it delightfully simple?! Isn't it nice to give yourself permission to just do one tiny little thing and call it success? Yes! That's how I can say that behaviour change is not all that hard. You just have to go slow and steady the smart way. That's how we really move the needle with your habits and your long-term health.
Dr. Laura Nurse, BBA, ND
P.S. If you are overwhelmed by big-fancy-plans, try the "Shrink The Change" strategy and consider booking in to see me. Together, we can put the right steps in the right order to help you move the needle on what matters to your health.
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This self-assessment quiz will help you give yourself a quick, but thorough check-up on your health habits in 8 key health performance areas.