Letâ€™s be totally honest about making healthy eating changes: itâ€™s super easy to get excited about the changes when you start, but thing tend to start getting in the way.
The problem is that there are little sources of friction, or big ones, that start to make the changes harder. For example, thereâ€™s a birthday party, a work conference, your spouse or roommate cooks you an indulgent dinner or dessert, you are busy so you donâ€™t have time to cook, youâ€™re tired from a couple bad nights of sleep so you arenâ€™t motivated to eat healthy, you are feeling sad for one reason or another and seeking comfort food â€¦ and so on.
These frictions add up, so that eventually we are back to our old way of eating.
Hereâ€™s the thing: each of these things is solvable. You can find solutions to each of these things. Or donâ€™t solve all of them, but take the bumps in the road in stride.
What you really want to do is keep going, despite the slips and bumps and falls. You want to stay on the road, even if you get sidetracked, instead of forgetting about it.
The problem, then, isnâ€™t that these are unfixable problems â€¦ the problem is that you lose your motivation. You run out of energy. You give up, rationalize, talk yourself out of sticking to the changes.
So how do you solve this problem? We all face it, and if we can address it, weâ€™ll be champions.
There isnâ€™t one answer, but here are a few approaches I recommend trying:
- Social motivation.
- Deeper motivation.
- Learn to sit with the hopelessness, instead of running.
- Learn the skill of iterating, getting back on track.
These are all great approaches that have worked for me, and you can use them in combination with each other. Letâ€™s talk a bit about each one.
Lots of times, our environment is set up to make us likely to fail at these changes. Building social motivation is one powerful way to change that.
You can get into a social group in Sea Change, or find another forum online to be a part of, and that helps you stick to the path. You can do challenges with your partner/spouse or a good friend, or get a group of friends or family in on a challenge. I do challenges with my wife Eva and I find it motivates both of us a lot.
Social media like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are often used for motivation and accountability â€” people form Facebook groups to do challenges, or post progress pics or other updates on Twitter or Instagram.
We talked earlier in the course about your deeper motivation â€” wanting to make changes because it would be nice, or youâ€™ll look a bit better, arenâ€™t strong enough when weâ€™re faced with all of these friction points. Deeper motivation is required.
Review your deeper motivation â€” are you doing this for your long-term health, to feel better about yourself, to be empowered? Are you doing it to set an example for your kids, your parents, your spouse? Are you doing it to inspire the world, to teach others what youâ€™re learning? Are you doing it to give yourself the energy and health you need to fulfill your life mission?
When things get hard, remind yourself why youâ€™re really doing this. Really think about this motivation, and see how it is a strong enough reason to find the courage to face your difficulties instead of running from them. You owe it to yourself, or to others, to do this.
Face the Problem, Donâ€™t Run
Most of our problems in life are caused by running from difficult feelings that arise, not wanting to feel them or wanting to comfort ourselves when we have them. This is why we overeat, and itâ€™s why we give up on difficult changes rather than facing whatever feelings are coming up for us.
What feelings come up for you? Maybe youâ€™re discouraged, maybe you feel hopeless, maybe you feel like you canâ€™t do it or youâ€™re not good enough to do these changes, after you fail a little. Maybe youâ€™re feeling bad for yourself because youâ€™re tired or busy or having a hard time. Maybe youâ€™re feeling like you donâ€™t know how to do this, or donâ€™t think you can succeed.
We run from these feelings, we quit because we donâ€™t want to think about them. But you can find the courage to just sit. Just stay with the feelings.
Sit now and think about what feelings have been coming up for you. Are you having a hard time? Someone making this a difficult process? Are you uncertain? Face the feeling, sit with it, stay and pay attention to it. See that itâ€™s just an energy in your body, nothing life-threatening, not such a big deal.
Smile at this feeling, give it some friendliness. Be curious about it, explore it, become intimate with it. Give it some space in your heart, and turn on some loving kindness towards it.
In the end, facing the feeling rather than running from it is the best strategy, and itâ€™s a skill you can develop with practice.
The Skill of Iterating
One of our biggest problems with motivation is we think one or two failures is the end of it. We think, â€œDarnit, I didnâ€™t do it, so I canâ€™t do it.â€ This is the wrong way to look at it.
Instead, look at each attempt as an iteration â€” itâ€™s just one attempt, one method youâ€™re trying. If you failed, itâ€™s not failure, but a lesson â€” what can you learn from this data? Look at each attempt as an experiment, and all youâ€™re trying to do is learn. What works best? How does your mind work? How can you change things?
Each time you attempt something, youâ€™ll learn, and you can get better. I took 8 attempts at quitting smoking before I finally got it right. If Iâ€™d given up after the first couple of attempts, Iâ€™d still be smoking. I failed at eating changes dozens of times over the years, and still do, but Iâ€™m learning a lot each time. If I gave up each time I failed, Iâ€™d never get better.
The key isnâ€™t succeeding each step of the way. The key is to see it as an iteration, to learn, to figure out an improvement, to try again. Get back on the horse. Fail six times, get up seven. Donâ€™t let a little discouragement stop you.
Every improvement in my life, from healthy eating to exercise to meditation to simplifying to productivity â€¦ theyâ€™ve been filled with so many iterations, I canâ€™t count. Looking back on all of them, the real key skill has been coming back each time I failed and got discouraged, and looking at it through the lens of learning, rather than success or failure.
Simply review whether you’ve practiced these four approaches during this course, and if not, which ones you’d be willing to try next to get yourself on track. Discuss in Slack.