Getting Unstuck and Creating Your Non-Negotiable
You know that feeling when you are sort of paralyzed and can’t seem to get any traction with a goal, project or task? You know in your head what it is you need to do, but you struggle to either get moving or to find the motivation towards the pathway of meeting your goals. That, our dear friends, is what we call the dreaded “Big Stuck”. The good news is, you’re not alone; we have all been there. Trust us, everyone has been here or will get to this moment in their life at some point. "It’s just the nature of the way the world works."
It can be anything, really. Those little things in life, like cleaning up the house, doing laundry, cleaning out the closet; or bigger goals like losing weight, sleeping better, being more social, or getting that new job...being stuck just happens. As health coaches, the biggest frustration we hear from our clients is that they are stuck. These individuals are smart, talented, inspiring people; they know what they need to do and they know where they want to go, but they are hitting roadblocks when trying to get there.
Let’s try to understand why we get stuck. It’s pretty simple: it’s all about change. There are very few of us that thrive when confronted with change. Everyone thinks they like change, and we all probably do, when it’s fun or doesn’t cause discomfort or pain. But, when the reality of something new presents itself to us, most of us cringe away. We like the comfort of our lives and the routine we’ve built for ourselves. Let’s face it, we are wired to avoid pain. We might want change, we know it will be good for us, but it’s “too hard”. We are the masters of making legitimate excuses and putting off our goals and tasks we know we should do. We can talk our way out anything, and momentarily feel good about it. But then the dread and self-doubt and self-hate sets in, and we’re miserable. It may take a while for us to crawl out of this hole we’ve dug for ourselves. Once we suck up the courage and talk ourselves up enough to find our way out, we are inspired to want to achieve our goals. We might even try for a few days, or even a week or two! Until we lose our steam. And we are back in that “Big Stuck” again; so we give up, and make excuses why it’s ok. We tried our best, we really did. We put in the effort and look, it just didn’t work out. It wasn’t meant to be.
How to get out of the “Big Stuck” and make lasting sustainable change:
To be honest with all of you, 9 of 10 times, all of us can’t get started or give up because we are so drastically unrealistic about what we want and how we can get there. We are not patient at all. Especially these days, as we live in an instant-gratification-world. We live with this same mentality when we set challenging goals for ourselves.
Since about 90% of the population would say they would like to lose at least “a little weight”, let’s use losing weight as our example. We need to think about what this means and define it realistically. Do we want to lose 25 pounds in a two months? That may not be doable, depending on a lot of factors like age, current weight, general health etc. But more importantly, we should be asking “how much do I want to weigh in 1 year; how do I feel today; how do I want to feel in 1 year?”. Also, we should ask ourselves “how will my life change if I lose this weight?”, and be very clear on the resulting benefits. This approach changes the perspective from an immediate, short-term goal, to one of lasting change that has broader benefits. You also need to be clear on how much effort you are realistically willing to make and how disruptive you want your current lifestyle to be impacted by the changes you will need to make in order to reach your goals.
Once you have these questions written down and you are honest with yourself, then you can create the pathway to lasting change. The key to success is simple in concept, yet profoundly challenging in reality. First, you must outline small changes that you can conquer that will lead to achieving the larger goal. Second, these changes in behaviors need to become your new habits and become sustainable non-negotiables. You must achieve each step and sustain it, before adding in more changes. Third, you need to be patient; we can’t stress this one enough. And lastly, you need to be held accountable, either by yourself or a buddy/partner. It is a process, or rather a marathon and not a sprint.
So, how might this look? Let’s look at the goal of losing 25 pounds in 2 months. This is likely not very realistic. You may be able to achieve the loss, but odds are very good, you will gain it back. Why? Because you were far too aggressive in the changes you undertook to lose the weight to sustain it. The two-months probably looked something like this: You reduced your calorie intake by 25-40% and adhered to some low carb, low fat, trending diet. You might have worked out harder and more frequently than you ever have before (at least for the first few weeks), you stopped drinking and eating all your favorite foods, which most likely cut into your personal and social life and you very likely became cranky, while craving those foods you gave up. But good news is, you did it!!! You lost the 25 pounds! Fast forward to a month later, the pounds start coming back as you stop working out as aggressively, you gave up that crazy diet and started to be a social person again, and you started living the life you had before you started out on this path... Yay, you! You have your life back as well as those 25 lbs (and maybe even more! eeks).
Let’s instead look at the path to success. You want to lose 2 pant sizes and keep it off (notice the shift in the ultimate goal). When you do this, you will sleep better, be able to get new clothes that fit great and make you feel really amazing wearing them, and you’ll be more relaxed and less stressed. In addition, you’ll be more active, have more energy and get sick less often. Goals set, benefits defined! Win-Win (you know we love that)!
So, you start with a small habit of drinking more water every day. Next, you agree to stop eating at least 50% less processed food than you are currently. To achieve this, you agree to cook those meals from scratch instead. Then, you decide that you can get some quality movement/exercise in at least 3 days a week for 15 minutes. Lastly, you find healthy alternatives to the sweet cravings you have, because those aren’t just going to disappear right now. For one month, you pretty much nail this about 80% of the time. The other 20% are treat times or just those times you give yourself a break. At the end of the month, you notice your clothes aren’t so tight and are fitting a bit loose. The next two months, you tackle a more formal meal-planning schedule that includes new recipes, grocery shopping and food prepping for an hour on the weekends. You find yourself eating even less processed and sugary foods, and surprisingly, you’re not craving them. You also increase your movement to about 20 minutes 3-4 days a week. You are still enjoying a pizza or burger with a beer or glass of wine on the weekends with your friends, but are pretty on track the rest of the time. After a total of three months, you have lost a full size in your pants! You continue on for the next two months, staying committed to your new habits and lifestyle. A few times, you fall off and few weeks you really rock it more than your “new normal” days. At the end of 5 months you have lost a full 2 pant sizes, you feel amazing, you have a ton of energy and you are not looking back. This is your new non-negotiable.
Focusing on the long term benefits and choosing a goal that can be achieved by changing bad habits permanently will result in lasting change. This is just a simple example of how you can do it, but we promise you it’s possible and it’s easy. We’ve personally seen it and lived it.