“The me of tomorrow!”
We know we are strong and in control and we know that we add things to our plate every day. And tomorrow is the perfect time to start going to the gym, avoiding cake, and learning French. We can do it! With nothing more than an iron will and a resolution to get up 30 minutes earlier.
When tomorrow comes, we are left with the “me of today”. The same person who—despite super human ability to be bread winner, care taker, and chore master—still excuses herself from starting that new resolution today because, well, today was hard.
We know we have what it takes to master our inner selves and take on new commitments that will reflect the person we are. So why do so many good habits get put off, taper off, or fall by the wayside?Why We Fail
When we rely on our self control alone, we set ourselves up for failure. From the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep, a million tiny things tug on our will power and self control. All the minor irritations that tug at you to loose your temper, the fun-free duties you have to fulfill but would rather skip, the expensive temptations to bust your budget; all these add up to a lot of strain on a limited and quickly depleting resource.
Often, when trying to start a new good habit or change an old one we try to ‘muscle’ our way through it, setting our will against the temptation to indulge. We fail, not because our self control is not strong enough, we fail because we do not set ourselves up for success.
Setting Ourselves Up For Success
When we think through and plan for our new habit, we are giving ourselves the best chances of success. Questions like ‘when?’, ‘how?’, ‘what do I need?’, and ‘how do I remember?’ are important to answer and give us a plan of action. We are more successful when planning, “I will go to the gym one block down the street after work on Tuesday and I will put the clothes and shoes I need in the car Monday night and block off time on my schedule so no one sets up a late meeting” than saying only “I am going to start going to the gym.” With a plan we can make circumstance our ally and have external influences supporting us, rather than having to face them down.
To create our best plan of action, we have to start by understanding what answers will make the circumstances work best for us.
Translating Self Knowledge to Success
One of the most impactful questions you can ask yourself is: how do you view accountability? People commonly fall into one of four categories. No category is better than another at effectively implementing positive changes, what makes people successful is learning to work with your view point.
Gretchen’s Four Tendencies:
- Upholders: Accountable both to themselves and to others, this type is less common. Upholders have no trouble meeting their own expectations and the expectations of others. They need to have clear expectations, however, but once the expectations and rules are clear they can meet them with little else needed.
- Questioners: Accountable to things that make sense, this type is one of the two more common. While Upholders need only know that the expectation is set in order to meet it, Questioners need to understand ‘why’ the expectation should be met. The purpose behind the request must be sound before the expectation will be met. They do not do well with arbitrary rules. They can often prioritize expectations based on how deep the purpose is and benefit from asking themselves ‘why’ multiple times. “I want to loose weight to look good in a swimsuit this year” is not as meaningful to them as “I want to loose weight to regain control over my health so I can be there to watch my grandchildren grow up.”
- Obligers: Accountable to others, this type thrives with accountability partners. Fitness coaches, co-workers, or even the dog can inspire Obligers to keep a commitment. If a co-worker needs a report, the dog needs to run twice a day, or the coach wants an Obliger to meet him at 7am every Tuesday it will be done, on time, every time. Obligers struggle with internal accountability and can use tricks to turn internal accountability into external accountability. One the examples is a classic: want to start running every day? An Obliger does well when they get a dog, a coach, or a running buddy but would often fail if they just tried to “muscle through it” and go by themselves. This type is one of the two most common.
- Rebels: Accountable to no one, if you are this type get ready for a ride. It’s more difficult for a Rebel to learn to create good habits (even the word ‘habit’ is a turn off) but they can definitely choose to create a better behavior. If you’re a Rebel even that phrasing made it seem better, “choose to create”. Rebels do not meet expectations, they make choices and if one choice is the expectation they are almost guaranteed to do the opposite. If you are a Rebel, you decide what you’d like to do and then chose every time there after to continue that path…or not. Parents of Rebel children often find that the best way to get the child to do something is to explain the options “empty the dishwasher and have dessert or do not empty it and do not have dessert” and then walk away and let the child decide. This type is relatively rare like our other extreme, the Upholder.
Questions can often display either Rebel or Upholder tendencies. This can be important to remember if you are a Questioner and feel yourself rebelling against a sound decision just because someone asked you to do it. Try rephrasing as “it makes sense so I choose to do it.”
Setting Yourself Up for Greater Success
Your view on accountability is just the start, next you can begin answering questions around when and how to set up your new behavior. Such as:
- Are you a Lark or a Night Owl? This can determine if you should plan to start your gym habit at night or in the morning. Personally, I go to the gym in the afternoon so keep in mind that you may not fall firmly into one category but these give you a good starting point.
- Do you like to take big steps or small steps? Do you find it easier to build a habit slowly over time or rush in? You may want to build up slowly, start by going to a gym and walking around. Then build up to an easy 5 minute workout, an easy 10 minute workout, and on up to a demanding 20-30 minute workout. Or you may want to dive in feet first with a commitment to a 25 minute workout 5 days a week and then give a little leeway to make it sustainable once the novelty is wearing off and it’s become a strong part of your routine.
- Are you motivated by competition? This can be useful as there are many apps and online communities that track gym attendance, weight loss, and many other positive changes.
- Are you someone who likes or needs a schedule? Many people like to schedule even things such as “spend time reading” and often, in scope of a day with work and family, we have to set aside a specific time so we can say “no” to other requests.
These are just a few examples, but when you are looking to change a behavior, think through a plan and set yourself up to succeed!
Planning for Obstacles
The last thing to ask yourself is “what can get in my way and how can I overcome it?” Changes are difficult. We slide easily back into old, comfortable habits. You have a resolution to eat go to the gym twice a week after work but at the end of the week you haven’t gone because you’ve had long days and you’ve been stressed and tired. Adding to how tired you feel, you now feel bad that you haven’t kept your resolution. Pre-empting this and creating a plan can be the difference between success and failure. “If I can’t or won’t go to the gym then I will workout with resistance bands at home/run with the dog/ play soccer with the kids/etc.” Come up with a Plan B that you would consider a success. In fact, come up with a Plan C and Plan D! The more back ups you have and the more you think through your potential stumbling blocks, the more you can ensure your success.
Take ownership over your health, weight, and well-being.
Source: Rx Primal Blog