We can all relate to that rush of motivation of wanting to make changes in some aspect of our life. We develop a plan and promise ourselves that we will commit to it, we will succeed. This time.
Everything starts out well. We keep our gym habit five days a week, we have eaten vegetables with every meal for a week, no alcohol, no chocolate, no takeaways. We’ve even been getting a solid eight hours in bed each night. And we are feeling the benefits. This is a breeze!
The second week rolls around. There’s a project deadline which keeps us back at work. We get home late, and that project is keeping us awake. The next day we are tired from lack of sleep, no gym tonight – we’ll go tomorrow. We are exhausted when we get home and don’t feel like cooking tonight, pizza takeout is a great solution – back to the vegetables and better eating tomorrow. Our gym kit isn’t clean in the morning; we’ll go next week – not worth it this week. There’s a birthday at work – cake, may as well start a fresh next week, along with the gym and sleep. In that case we may as well go out on Saturday night for drinks as we have that clean slate planned for next week.
Monday comes around and…
Trying to completely overhaul our lives in one go is an unrealistic expectation. It comes with a huge pressure to be ‘perfect’, which ultimately leads to the collapse of our well-meaning intentions.
Real life will get in the way. There will always be something that comes up that needs to be navigated. If we don’t have a lifestyle that allows for and accommodates the unexpected, we will revert back to our ‘old ways’. We need to let go of trying to be perfect and focus on progress.
By working on small step changes over a longer period of time, they become part of our everyday lifestyle. Even in the toughest of situations, these changes have a chance of standing true.
These small changes will sum to much larger, and importantly, sustainable changes. When we look back from where we have come from, we realise just how much progress we have made.
And the best thing about this approach? Because the progress is slower, becoming part of our lifestyle – we almost won’t realise it. And we are far less likely to slip back into old patterns.
Little Bit Better
The best way to start this approach is look at what we are currently doing and ask ourselves, how can I make it ‘a little bit better’? Look at your focus area, be it exercise, nutrition, alcohol, sleep or mental wellness, on a spectrum of:
Where are you now?
What would be a significant improvement?
And what would be your ultimate target?
Then, decide what is the smallest change you can make today to move you along one step on that spectrum. For example:
· Your usual breakfast is a couple of pieces of white toast with jam, a croissant, a latte with sugar
· The first week your daily little bit better is to swap white toast and jam for a yoghurt and fruit, keep the croissant, forego the sugar in the latte
· The third week the muffin is replaced with muesli which you add to the fruit and yoghurt, the latte becomes a long black with a side of milk
· The fourth week you try out a smoothie for breakfast even throw in some spinach for added greens, you’ve skip the milk in your coffee
· The fifth week you made a vegetable frittata at the weekend which is breakfast, some fresh fruit and you’re going caffeine free this week so trying out green tea – who even are you?!
Something better, no matter how small, is better than nothing changing at all. Each day we can make a choice to be a little bit better and we are always on the progress path. Moving a step better each time feels and is more manageable and sustainable.
The Curve Balls
Life will get in the way; something will come up to throw us off track. However, if we are always trying to make progress, no matter how small, we will be constantly moving towards our goal. Step by step.
So, when you get stuck late at work and can’t get to your planned gym session, think what could you do instead? Could you walk home? Could you do an online class at h
ome? Take the dog for a run around the block? There will ALWAYS be an option.
What change can you make today to be a little bit better?
Be a little bit better. Not perfect.