We all are guilty of procrastinating change because of our quest for the perfect life scenario. In other words, we are waiting for the moment that we have the exact right amount of time in the day, exact right amount of energy, and the exact right amount of money in our life before we commit to improving our health. Sound like you? It’s a common feeling, but it will paralyze you if you let it.
I regularly talk with people who claim to be motivated to start a journey toward better health (modifying eating habits, increasing exercise, improving sleep habits, etc.) but are stuck in the “if only” state. “If only _____[I could get knee surgery or l had more time or…] I would start exercising.” “If only ____[my family was more supportive or I had more money or…] I would change my eating habits.” For years or even decades the “if only” tricks people into thinking they have to accept less than optimal health. None of us have to have to accept less than optimal health; what we have to accept is our life situation as-is. We have to stop the “if only” cycle (or its cousin, the “yeah, but”).
I have to reluctantly admit that I, too, am regularly guilty of “if only,” especially in terms of time and energy. I distinctly recall that when my babies were tiny infants I said “I’ll exercise when they are sleeping longer, because then I’ll have more energy.” Well here we are, and both my babies sleep about 10-12 hours a night. Me? I’m staying up late having “mom time” watching mindless TV or working on homework. I’m still not exercising NEARLY enough at the moment. Sometimes we actually reach the “if only” goal, yet we quickly realize it was just an excuse we used to provide legitimacy for our procrastination (or we delusionally create a NEW “yeah, but”). Once you come to accept that you are simply making excuses (like I am), you are on the path to some really cool personal interventions!
You might be asking what comes next, as in you’ve accepted that you are making excuses but how do you stop making excuses? The key is figuring out what really motivates you by asking yourself “but why do I want that [to lose weight, to have six-pack abs, better sleep, etc.]?” Peel back the layers of “why” until you get that punches-you-in-the-gut-and-nearly-brings-you-to-tears moment. If you have no idea what that feeling is, then I hope you are realizing why you’re struggling. Maybe you’ve had that feeling before but you’ve lost focus of it. At any rate, “that feeling” is the secret to bucking the “if only” cycle.
I’ll share with you a glimpse into my world. There are plenty of times I’m in a situation where, for example, I am surrounded by donuts. When I don’t give in and have a donut, I’m faced with comments like “wow you must have such control!” or “you are so disciplined!” Well, folks, those who really know me know that I’m not that disciplined. Sometimes I have zero discipline. But more often than not, I have some success with passing up things that aren’t very good for me by using a few tricks:
- First and foremost, a “junk food” has to be worth my time. If we’re talking crappy grocery store donuts, then I have no interest in blowing my sugar quota. I’d like to waste empty calories on delicious, quality junk foods.
- I force myself to think about how I’m going to feel both mentally and physically after I eat that. Hint: it makes me feel like ish physically, makes me crave sugar the entire rest of the day, and makes me feel guilty being a nutrition professional who just ate a worthless, not-that-good donut.
- I FORCE myself to think about why I want to be healthy and fit. My motivation is that it is EXTREMELY important to me to practice what I preach. In other words, I want to—NO, I need to—live as an example of good health. I won’t get into the details, and I know it doesn’t sound like much. But it is THAT important to me that it serves as my motivator more often than it doesn’t.
I know those 3 steps don’t sound like much; but I hope they can at least serve as a rough outline to help YOU set up your own steps to success. Think if it like a plan of action. You can apply your motivation to nutrition, exercise, sleep…whatever you want. When I make myself think about my motivator (and I mean truly give it at least a few seconds of meaningful thought), it can be powerful enough to get me off the couch and onto the treadmill.
Take some time to literally write down some reasons why you want whatever it is that you want. Really think deeply about it. If you don’t get a little misty-eyed, then think longer. Here are some examples I’ve heard from others regarding their simplified “why”:
- “I need to live long enough to walk my daughters down the aisle.”
- “I want to be fit so I can do all the outdoor activities I’ve always wanted to do.”
- “I am a role model to my kids/grandkids. Monkey see, monkey do.”
- “I want to be active later in live, and be able to enjoy my Golden Years.”
- “My body is a temple.”
- “I don’t EVER want to rely on medication to stay healthy.”
- “I just lost a family member to a preventable disease. I can’t go out like that.”
Remember, we are not seeking perfection; rather, we are seeking purpose. When we find our purpose in terms of health, we start to produce our own little ball of energy to use toward actually acting on our goals. For things to change, WE HAVE TO CHANGE. We cannot do the same things (or nothing) and expect glorious results.
Go forth and seize the day! Well, start tomorrow 😉
xoxo – Casey