How do some people manage to get in shape and consistently enjoy their healthy lifestyle habits? Maybe you’re thinking their willpower is limitless and simply wish you had more. But the truth is, willpower is not the answer. In this blog, I’m sharing 3 secrets to creating healthy habits without relying on willpower.
#1 Your compelling reason
People feel ready to change when their motivation is greater than their resistance and fear. To better understand this, think back to when you mastered a major skill or created a positive habit. Something compelled you.
When I was around 5 years old, my father bought two bright yellow bikes for my sister and me. While the training wheels were attached, riding was awkward and slow but manageable. I was compelled to get better because beyond those clunky training wheels was my freedom to escape from my parents and explore. The prospect of being free was far greater than my fear of falling on the sidewalk.
Regarding healthy lifestyle habits, I was highly motivated to adopt plant-based nutrition because I needed to eliminate my prediabetes, feel better, and continue raising my daughter, who was 12 at the time. Those were clear compelling reasons for me to beat procrastination and inertia.
Successful people have a certain level of confidence–a feeling of certainty in something they cannot see. Even if you don’t have confidence, you can get help and build it incrementally. You do this by working on baby steps with a supportive coach, mentor, or trusted friend providing guidance and encouragement.
With Daddy’s coaching, his firm grip on the bike, and the training wheels I had very little fear of falling. Similarly, we rely on teachers, professors, coaches, and mentors to teach us new skills and build confidence successfully. The same process works for developing a healthy lifestyle.
#3 Zigzag is the way
Nothing worth learning is mastered overnight. Growth rarely happens in a straight line. There will be periods of enormous progress interspersed with setbacks and rough patches. You’re going to have many ups and downs.
I’ll never forget the day that Daddy detached my training wheels. I was bursting with excitement but quickly realized I couldn’t just jump on the bike and go. Balancing on my own was harder than I expected. Momentarily it felt like a setback. After several attempts, falls, and near misses, I got better and was able to zigzag my way down the block. For a while, I continued awkwardly zigzagging down the street until my balance and control finally kicked in. Soon I was able to ride nearly effortlessly.
Perhaps right now you’re learning a new skill or trying to get better in an area of your life such as health, work, love, or play. More willpower is not the answer. Focus on your clear compelling reason. Along with that, get support from a mentor who can help you develop confidence and incrementally succeed. Embrace the zigzag path toward your goal, and know that everything is working for your good.
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Carla Hightower, MD, MBA is a physician, health coach, workplace wellness consultant, and speaker. She helps people heal themselves with food. Through wellness workshops and courses, she helps companies create healthy, energetic teams.
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