Do you ever wonder why, for some people, being ‘healthy’ appears so effortless?
It must be part of their genetic makeup, you tell yourself – ‘I could never be that disciplined,’ is probably your self-narrative.
Yet, the truth is that people who practice healthy behaviours day in, day out, have made this a part of who they are – their identity. This is the key to long term success, whatever your goal.
Identify Based Behaviour Change
Whether intentionally or not, people who get results are people who have internalised positive behaviours, they no longer have to think about doing the ‘right’ thing, it just occurs naturally.
They also do not have the mindset that they have to eat veg all day tomorrow as a punishment for eating badly yesterday. Nor do they see the gym as a short term fix to reach that magic number on the scales.
Quite the opposite; they have identified with the ‘thing’ that gets them results. They have BECOME the person who eats veg every day or the girl who lifts weights. It has become effortless because it is a part of who they are. They never ‘forget’ to add broccoli to their evening meal or have to muster up the energy to get their gym gear because it comes as naturally as brushing their teeth in the morning.
It most likely did not happen over night, however. They identified the habit they wanted to instil and they practised it over time. It is this accumulation of efforts that gets results.
The issue for so many of us is that we give up far too soon; the progress is not immediate and so we do not allow enough time to identify with the person we truly want to be. We tell ourselves it is an impossible dream and end up back in the same rut.
How To Implement Identity Based Behaviour Change
In order to believe in a new identity, we have to first believe that it is achievable – that we can be the person we desire to be. This means pushing self-limiting thoughts aside and remembering that we are ultimately in control of how we act, react, talk and listen each and every day.
Of course, life happens. Situations, often difficult ones, occur each day to test us. It is how we respond to those challenges that makes all the difference.
In order to develop true self-belief, we must prove we can do it.
The most effective way is to first identify the small things you want to work on immediately that will ultimately lead you to your overarching goal. Perhaps you need to be more active – start by increasing your steps by 500 each day. Maybe sleep is an issue – go to bed 10 minutes earlier each night to begin with.
Decide your focus then write it down; this will be your personal contract.
Then, follow these steps:
Attach it to an existing goal
Maybe you need to remember to take a supplement each day. Great, put it next to your kettle to take with your morning brew.
Maybe you have vowed to do 20 squats; do them while brushing your teeth.
Attaching a new habit to an existing one means that you are less likely to forget or neglect it.
Make it part of your routine by doing it each and every day. Don’t just do it for a day or two – keep repeating over and over so it becomes ingrained in your memory.
When you have repeated the habit for an identified period of time, i.e. 7 consecutive days, reward yourself. No, not with a huge chocolate bar! Try a nice bath or a relaxing massage.
Once you have started, begin a habit check list to positively reinforce your new habit. You can do this on a calendar or create your own chart, whatever works for you. Motivation will probably be high initially but this inevitably dwindles. A visual reminder of how you have come can, however, be a powerful way to keep you focused.
If you do miss a day and the chain breaks, don’t give up. Start again and aim to improve on your last score. If you find that this happens regularly, however, then you may need to rethink your habit; was it too ambitious, maybe you need to strip it back a little. If you have never been active before and suddenly try to run 5k a day, you will find it hard to keep it up!!
It takes an average of 66 days, not 21 like some will have you believe, to make a new habit stick. Missing one day has no log term effect if you get back on it. It is the summation of positive action that makes it part of our identity.
Our habits are ultimately a reflection of who we believe ourselves to be. If you perceive yourself to be someone who cannot lift a weight in a gym or who cannot cook from scratch, then you will live that out. But is this who you really want to be? If so, crack on!!
If, however, you want to be that girl who can wear a bikini on the beach this year or that bloke who can bench three times their body weight. Or even that parent who always has enough energy to run after their kids, then start working on becoming that person TODAY!
If you would like more advice and guidance on how to achieve your health and fitness goals, please get in touch.
This was brought to you by Rebecca Flannery, Evidence-Based Nutrition Coach.