Two lessons about successfully changing your behavior that are not fun.
Written: 08-27-2017

When you want to make a change in your life it is important to first have a solid understanding of where you are today. This is true whether the change is associated with your health, fitness or any other aspect that is open to change. This seems like a fairly basic principle, however it is something that is easy to avoid. The self assessment process is the piece that creates uncomfortable answers, while day dreaming about what life will be like after everything has changed is inspiring and motivational. The self assessment piece requires that you take account for the behaviors that have been previously established, it also includes the the resources, skills and ability that you have available.

The following is a discussion of:

1. Why you should embrace a little discomfort during your self assessment.

2. Two statements about your personal assessment that are sabotaging your current progress.

Embrace discomfort today:

When individuals come to me and want my support to improve running, increase their fitness or lose some weight, they nearly always ask if I can help them reach some imagined outcome. The fact that they can visualize themselves at the end of this journey is a valuable part of the process. I might argue it is a critical piece of the process. I also think that it is the easiest part of process. Most people can envision a life that is totally different than the one they have today. We can imagine what it would be like to run faster. We can imagine how it would feel to be 50 pounds lighter. The person may have low self-efficacy associated with the outcome and it may be difficult to accept that those outcomes are possible, but in those moments of inspiration, we can at least envision our faster, fitter and healthier selves.

What I like to hear people talk about when they ask for support is their vision for what they want to achieve, along with acknowledgement of behaviors or habits they have identified as an opportunity for early success. Let’s look at a couple hypothetical examples:

“I would like to be prepared to run a marathon in 5 months. I feel like my current running schedule is not adequate to be ready. I also have been wondering if I should add some cross training or strength training as I progress.”

The reason I like this inquiry is because she has a clear goal. She acknowledges that her current program needs addressed, but is also willing to consider other ideas for her program.

“I want to lose 40 pounds for my daughter’s wedding, which is in 6 months. I have been doing some exercise, however I have a habit of going to happy hour every Thursday and eat pizza with the kids at least once a week.”

The value that I see in this inquiry is that the goal is specific and time bound. He also shared a couple observations he has already made about his current behavior and how it could be leading to his current status. Initially, I am much less concerned about what those specific observations are. The behaviors of focus can be addressed later in the process, the value is that he has already embraced some of the discomfort that is required when doing an honest self assessment.

In both of those scenarios it would be easy to be ‘committed’ to running a marathon or losing 40 pounds. It is uncomfortable to start digging through the sacrifices that will need to be made, behaviors that will have to change and the habits that will need to be added or subtracted from our life. A willingness to embrace some of that discomfort early is essential.

Two statements about your personal assessment that are sabotaging your current progress.

When doing a self assessment, two damaging statements include the following:

1. “If only… “

2. “I wish… “

I personally find it easy to follow up the process of doing an honest assessment with a list of excuses to justify the results of the assessment. Those excuses often begin with the words, “If only” or “I wish”, here are some commonly considered excuses:

  • If only I had started doing this ten years ago, it would not be so hard to get started.
  • I wish that I had more time to dedicate to this issue.
  • If only I didn’t have to spend so much time doing other things.
  • I wish that it was as easy for me as it was for her.
  • If only I didn’t have to worry about all the other things, I could focus on this issue.
  • I wish my body would let me do everything I needed it to do.

The list can actually grow fairly long. The damaging part of these type of lists that we create in our minds, is that with each statement, we lose a little power and control of our personal lives. Each one of the statements I just shared give power over to someone or something else. While there may be elements of truth to all of the reasons we have, to elicit changes in our behavior and improvements in our lives, we need to focus on where we do have control. Once we optimize the all the opportunities we have complete control, it can be amazing at how much impact we have had on reaching our desired outcomes.

If you are serious about making a change that will lead to a healthier and happier you, then there are some steps in the initial phases that will not be any fun. Embrace that discomfort and do an honest assessment. Then take some time and review your logical and emotional responses to that assessment. As you review those responses, if you have any “If only” or “I wish” statements, write them down and commit to taking control of your mindset. Once you’ve completed this identification and personal responsibility commitment, you will have established a great foundation for your future self.