Small Steps to Success
I have just finished reading a fascinating book called Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg. It was one of those books that after I had finished reading it, I wish I had read it years before.
As a health coach my main aim is to get people feeling healthier, more energised and as a result living a happier and more fulfilling life. I work with my clients to assess where they currently are at in relation to their heath, and where they would like to be instead. From there, we create a map of how they are going to get from A to B, by implementing healthy habit change into their daily lives.
Poor health usually isn’t an overnight problem that suddenly arises. Instead, it is a gradual change in behaviour which accumulates via the choices we make on a daily basis over a long period of time.
Recognising that you want to be healthier is the first step. Sometimes, people have a life changing event that makes them step back and scrutinise the way they are living their lives (I am sure some of you reading this will have done this with Covid over the past year). For others, it may be waking up one morning, and simply looking in the mirror and wondering how you had let yourself become the version of you that you see in the reflection.
To get from where clients currently are, to where they would like to be, I work closely with them to encourage healthy habit change. The suggestions I make often aren’t ground-breaking, it simply breaks the autopilot cycle that many people find themselves living day to day. Duke University stated in 2006 that 40% of our actions in a day weren’t actual decision but habits. Do you shower before breakfast, or after, do you put on your right shoe before your left, and do you automatically grab a packet of crisps or some baby tomatoes to accompany your lunch? So many of our actions we perform routinely with little thought behind why we do them, no wonder it is easy to slip into undesirable behaviours.
Transforming habits isn’t a quick or necessarily easy process, but the good news is, it is possible to change habits to help people live a healthier, more energised and fulfilling life.
Fogg suggests that to make a new habit successful you've got to make the actions tiny to start and allow them to grow. People who want to run a marathon shouldn’t start out by running 26 miles, instead they initially need to put their trainers on and run a very short distance. Once this becomes normal and part of their daily/weekly routine, this is when the distance and time running can increase.
In January, we have got a new chin up bar, and when it arrived, I could only do a single chin up. I said to myself every time I go under the bar, I will do one chin up. Sometimes, it is more than one, but so long as I do one, I am happy. In about a month my strength has increased, and last night I got a record of six… tiny steps lead to bigger success.
Behaviour change requires motivation. This can come from within an individual, from the desired outcome (for example being able to be fit enough to run around with your children/grandchildren in the park), or from the environment you surround yourself in (all my friends are doing it, so I want too as well). Habit change will last a lot longer when you have motivation i.e., you want to change, not feel like you’ve got to. Motivation levels waiver from day to day, and throughout the day; your willpower to achieve something reduces from the morning to the evening, which is why it is harder to motivate yourself to make complex decisions or go for a run later in the day.
Your ability to carry out a task will influence how successful you are to change your habits. Change is tough, the brain doesn’t like variation, and therefore it will seek out actions it is familiar with. When you learn to drive, there are so many elements that have to work in unison, it is really hard, but once you’ve been driving for many years, it is easy to get in the car, drive the same route to work every day, arrive and not be able to recount anything that has happened during the journey, you realise you’ve pretty much been on autopilot. To initiate new habits, you will be more successful if your ability to achieve them is simple and easy – one chin up, not ten! Fogg reinforces that simplicity changes behaviour time and time again throughout the book. Therefore, if you want more energy in your life, one easy way is to drink more water. Make it easy for yourself and fill up two water bottles at the start of the day, and make sure they are next to you when you work, take small sips throughout the day, and by the time you go to bed they should be empty. Simple yet extremely effective.
Having prompts is a great way to motivate yourself to change your behaviour. If you are trying to lose weight, putting a picture of you at your desired weight on the biscuit tin will encourage you to go to the fruit bowl for a snack instead. You could use a person to prompt you and hold you accountable to exercise daily. For example, you could arrange with a friend to meet up daily for a walk. Also, you could change your environment to remind you to carry out your desired action (buy a chin up bar and walk under it numerous times throughout the day)! One of the best prompts is to link your newly formed habit to something you currently already do (known as an anchor). I often suggest to my clients that whilst they are brushing their teeth, this is a perfect opportunity to do some lower body strength building exercises such as lunges or squats. It may be that when you open the curtains in the morning you open the window and take a few deep breaths of fresh air, after you’ve dropped the children at school, you walk a longer route home to get more movement into your day. By linking your new behaviour to an existing one is a great way to prompt you to carry it out.
The brain has a remarkable ability of finding happiness. Therefore, behaviour change happens best when people feel good, not bad. Fogg suggests the best way to feel good about yourself is to celebrate when you are successful. By recognising what you’ve achieved as a positive action, this in turn releases dopamine from the brain, a feel good. This then helps re-enforce you to repeat the accomplishment which causes you to feel successful. Celebration may be anything an internal voice saying, “well done Claire”, to a high five with someone around you. The celebratory action itself doesn’t matter, so long as you do something to get that ‘feel good’ feeling. Each time I accomplished one chin up, I congratulate myself, and as such I come away feeling positive.
Change and habit formation is like any other skill, it will get easier with time. The more you do it, the simpler it will become. For example, you won’t go from being unable to type a word to being capable of accurately touch typing 70 words per minute overnight. However, if you are motivated (really see the advantage of being able to touch type as a time saving exercise), make the action simple (by staring with only the f and j keys, then progress gradually), and give yourself a prompt (perhaps by doing 5 minutes of a touch-typing program every day when you sit down at your desk, with a reminder post it note on the side of your screen), you will take small yet steady steps to success in no time.
If you have tried changing your behaviours in the past with limited wins perhaps now is the time to give me a call. Maybe, now is your time to get serious about improving your health, reducing your weight, improving your energy levels, and decreasing your daily stress levels.
I have various levels programs I offer from online health series, to group coaching and workshops, to individual 1-2-1 coaching programs. Through every option I provide you with the support, accountability and tried and tested methods to help transform your life forever.
Remember, our quality of living depends on the choices we make every minute of every day. Hopefully this blog has inspired you to make the initial step towards living a more fulfilling and energised life. Click here to book a complimentary 'energy review' half hour call with me to address where you are lacking in energy, and where you'd like to be instead. I will provide you with small, actionable habit changes that will help inject some energy back into your day, providing you with an extra spring in your step! This offer is only available until the end of March so please click HERE to book your session. If you are already feeling spritely, please forward this blog on to someone who you think would benefit, as the world needs something positive to focus on right now!