When it comes to making a change (health-related or otherwise), I hear all the time, “I know what I need to do, I just need to do it.”
But the space between the knowing and the doing can be vast!
You can’t just jump from thinking I should eat more veggies to eating more veggies. The middle stuff, the bridge in between, is the gritty stuff. That’s where the work happens.
And you have to think about all the moving parts and pieces. The logistical stuff, like… How will I fit going to the grocery store into my weekly routine? Where can I find good, easy veggie-filled recipes? Or what cooking methods and strategies can I use to make sure I’m always including lots of veggies in my meals? What tools do I need in my kitchen to make veggie prep easier?
We need to figure out the strategic pieces of the bridge, otherwise we’ll continue to have this Oprah moment, week after week.
So how can you actually build your bridge and start doing all the things? Glad you asked.
Step 1: Align the change with your values
When looking to make a long-term, sustainable change, it’s best to align it with something stronger and more stable—your self-identity and values.
To get started with this, ask yourself:
- How do I view myself?
- What are my values?
- What parts of me am I proud of?
Then tie your desired change back to your self-identity. Peel back the layers of your “why” until you have a fire in your belly to do the damn thing!
For me, using the example of eating more veggies, it might sound like this:
- I want to prioritize veggies because it’s important for me to feel well. Feeling well to me means being consistently energized—not having highs and lows in energy.
- I need to feel consistently energized because I work with people to be their best, healthiest selves. When I am not energized, my coaching is not as effective.
- Being a high quality, effective coach is a huge part of my identity.
- Prioritizing veggies helps me stay in alignment with how I view myself as a wellness professional.
Have you identified your core values? If you need a little help, check out the worksheet below to narrow down what’s truly most important to you…and use it to fuel change!
Need more help getting motivated? I got you. Read more about how you can create stronger motivation here.
Step 2: Start small and anchor
To build a new habit, the key is to start small. Really, really small. Small-enough choices actually stand a chance of competing with (and replacing) the autopilot decisions our brains make.
So be kind to yourself and focus on one behavior to start with (maybe some low hanging fruit), then break it down into smaller behaviors, if possible. It’ll be less painful and have a better chance of sticking.
What else gives it a better chance of sticking? Try fitting the new behavior into your existing autopilot habits or routines. These consistent activities—like brushing your teeth, or checking your smartphone in the morning—are already built into your daily life and can help you anchor new, small behaviors.
Going back to the veggies example, I could choose one small behavior—eat more veggies for snacks—then build it into my current routine: “When I pack my lunch, I will also pack veggies for snacks to eat during the day.”
What small behavior do you want to change? And where could you, as seamlessly as possible, add in that new behavior?
Step 3: Work backwards and strategize
What needs to happen to get you to follow through on a new behavior? I talk about this a lot when it comes to things like morning exercise routines, turning off Netflix and sticking to a reasonable bedtime, or weekend meal prep.
Because the truth is, there are a ton of choices, events, and actions that influence whether or not we do something—I call it a “behavior chain.” It’s helpful to get familiar with this sequence and assess weak links in your “behavior chain.”
For example, here’s a possible behavior chain for a morning exercise routine:
Ask yourself, what are the links in your behavior chain, and which are the weakest? Put yourself in your “future self’s” shoes: Tomorrow morning, what will help you get out of bed and make that workout happen? How can you set “future self” up for success? You might have all the motivation right now, but tomorrow morning you might be tired, it might be cold in your bedroom…and maybe you’ll hit the snooze button a few times until it’s too late to fit in the workout you’d planned on (Been. There.). Be honest with yourself about the challenges your future self will have to face and plan for them. And reward yourself when you follow through!
Step 4: Feed your new behavior with attention
To keep your new behavior going, it helps to remind yourself why the behavior is important to you. And keep planning for it!
In addition, it helps to create a ton of external reminders for yourself, such as:
- Calendar reminders
- Lock screen on your cell phone
- Inspiring quotes, images, etc. in visible places
- Enlist a coach or reliable friend to hold you accountable
These kinds of prompts can remind you, “Yes, that’s right, that’s what I want to focus on,” so you can break those old patterns and build new, lasting habits in their place.
Step 5: Evaluate and redesign
Ok, so you’ve gone through the first 4 steps…what now? It’s time to reflect and evaluate. How are you doing? Are you having trouble getting started? Crushin’ it so far…but not sure if you can keep it up? Have you had any setbacks?
Keep in mind that all plans—all designs—have an expiration date. Expect this! If you’re feeling bored, slipping back to old behaviors, or experience anxiety or guilt…that’s a pretty sure sign your design has expired.
Which means it’s time to take a step back, breathe and objectively reassess:
- What’s working?
- What’s NOT working?
- What’s changed in me and in my life?
- What new factors did my old design not account for?
Considering these questions, you’ll be ready to redesign and adjust your plan so it really works for YOU and your current circumstances. No shame in making some changes! We all have to do it at some point. Life shifts and so do we, ‘cause we’re only human 😊
And if you’re craving support and accountability in making a change or two, I’m here for you! Download the worksheet below to create a step-by-step design for making change that sticks.
Please reach out with any questions…or leave a comment below!