In Part I of this series, you learned that we are made up of both mind (rationality) and heart (emotions). That the two don’t always see eye to eye, and that ultimately the heart will always win. This is a problem because the heart is about short-term immediate gratification, and most goals are about short-term pain for long-term pleasure.
How can we get around this?
The way that doesn’t work
We know what doesn’t work (for long), ‘white knuckle it’. Grit your teeth and make it happen. Hate going to the gym, force yourself anyway. Want ice cream? Stick broccoli in your craw.
The problem – willpower is finite. It eventually runs out, and then the heart takes over and we move back to immediate gratification. Thus the typical 1-3 weeks cycles we see.
What we really need to do
Is conserve our willpower. So, what does that mean? How do we do that?
Choose goals / activities that are exciting and fun. Things you WANT to do, rather than things you SHOULD do. Hate going to the gym? Then don’t. Love riding your bike? Dancing? Do that instead. After all the purpose isn’t to literally be in a gym, it’s to move your body. Strive for a minimum of ‘gritted teeth’ moments, and save your willpower for when you really need it.
Create an environment that supports your goals. Want to stop going face down in ice cream and eat more ‘good food’? Don’t have ice cream in the house. That way you don’t have to use willpower to resist eating that pint sitting in your freezer. Have your fridge stocked with easy, tasty ‘good food’. That way when you’re hungry and are looking for something, you can grab something out of the fridge and eat.
This is all about setting up your environment (work, home, car and other places) to minimize temptations, and make the thing you want to do the easy choice. Can’t resist getting a ‘bad’ meal when you go to a certain restaurant, don’t go there (maybe once in a while as a special treat, but not on a regular basis).
So, what do you need to do, to make your environment supportive to your goals? What do you need to get rid of? And what do you need to add?
Know your situation. Is your life outside of your New Years resolution using up a lot of willpower? Do you work in a job you hate? Are you around people you don’t like? Is your daily life using up a lot / most of your willpower? Is the idea you’re thinking of, sound completely overwhelming? I’ve had people burst into tears when we’ve talked about diet changes. That’s okay, it’s where you are. You may need to scale back your goals to what you can handle in your life right now. The ‘big, hairy, audacious goal’ (BHAG) may be just too much right now, and will lead to failure and feeling bad about yourself. Avoid that, pick something that is doable for you, that you feel you can do.
We’ll continue in part III of this series.
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