A vibrant life has many advantages. Lasting energy, protection against disease and quality of life are just a few. Having great health doesn’t just happen, though. It requires an investment of time, energy and resources, but most would agree that the payoff is worth the investment.
I have spent most of my adult life working with individuals on health goals and I’ve come to realize that their action, or inaction, lies in the strength of their motivation. Too often, people lack specific information that provokes the right amount and type of motivation. Generic goals such as “weight loss” or “better health” aren’t compelling enough to initiate or sustain change. Most theories suggest setting SMART goals which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely, and this certainly isn’t a bad place to start, however, I find that this formula does very little to stir people to action. Wanting to be fit, for example, won’t magically make it any easier to get out of bed in the morning for exercise. Setting a SMART goal for your blood sugar targets doesn’t make meal planning any more glamorous. The fact of the matter is that achieving goals requires good old fashioned hard work and effort, and at the end of the day, you need to feel rewarded for your efforts. It’s psychology 101.
YES, BUT WHY?
Goals are not enough. As I said, even if a person does set SMART goals, this does not necessarily motivate them for action. The only treatment for lack of motivation is understanding the “why” behind the desired change. Do you want to lose weight? Why do you want to lose weight? What will losing weight allow you to do? Do you want to be fit? Why do you want to be fit? There are easily hundreds of different questions a person can ask themselves when they start digging in and asking the hard questions. Eating vegetables is good for your health, but what if I told you that eating a rainbow of colored vegetables every day helped your body to fight inflammation, cancer and disease? What if I told you that the food you eat could either fight disease or promote disease in your body? What if I told you that your genes are not your destiny, but that your lifestyle choices determined the fate of your health? These are the types of questions and answers that motivates people to change. Having information is not enough. In order for a lifestyle change to occur, a person MUST ask the hard questions. They must go deep and return with the answers to these hard questions that are unique to only them.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE REWARDS
Healthy habits should be rewarding and not punishing. The mindset must change from, “I have to workout” to “I get to workout.” When saying “no thank you” to the person pushing you junk food, understand it’s not that you CAN’T have it, but that you are CHOOSING NOT TO. That’s the big difference between being on a diet and a lifestyle change. The former is about deprivation; the latter involves choice and the choice is, and has always been yours. When people change behaviors, they only do so because they recognize the rewards of the new behavior. They shift from seeking instant gratification, to seeking long-term rewards and satisfaction. It’s about empowerment. No longer having to take medications for your diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol because your doctor says you no longer need them is rewarding. Being able to get on the floor to play with your grand kids is rewarding. Enjoying food you prepared that is both nourishing and pleasing is rewarding. People who have successful lost weight and kept it off have connected with the many rewards of a changed lifestyle. In the end, it’s not about the number on the scale, and when they’re honest, they’ll tell you that it never really was. After deep reflection and a lot of wrestling, most people will say that the reason they finally opted for a lifestyle change is because they wanted a freedom that they didn’t have. So don’t ever feel ashamed or discouraged, and don’t shy away from asking the hard questions. Seek the truth, and you shall find it, but don’t forget to grab an extra dose of support and encouragement because you’ll need it along the way.