In my recent post, The ABCD Method of New Beginnings, I acknowledged the power of fresh starts. Declaring change is like a drug. Blood is flowing, thoughts racing, and energy bounds.
Making a decision to change your life is the first step. The easy step. Signing up for a fitness class, a gym membership or buying your first blender so you can begin your 3 day cleanse? Terrrrrific! Acknowledge you’re in the honeymoon period of lifestyle change.
Want to be married to your change? That’s going to take commitment, willpower, discipline, and re-commitment. Here’s how.
Changing your “lifestyle” for good is another way of stepping on the path to mastery. Mastery is a life long journey. Much like religion, you’ll have revelations but will never stop learning.
There are 5 consistent intentions I have committed to for 25 years to keep myself on the path of living healthy. I nicknamed those steps VIPER because it’s easy to remember. I love the metaphor because vipers (snakes) have huge fangs that dig in. Not to mention “viper” comes from the latin word “vivo” which means “I live.”
V is for VISUALIZE
I constantly visualize my ideal lifestyle as if I had mastered it. Only with a clear vision can I make sure I’m on the right path. Through commitment and baby steps I bring parts of that vision into my reality daily.
Visualize cooking a healthy, delicious meal that your family raves about. Visualize buttoning those jeans you haven’t worn since high school. Visualize your closet perfectly organized. When you turn even a part of your vision into a reality, what will you feel? PRIDE. And pride is a great motivator!
I is for INDIVIDUALIZE
Your visions have to make you proud of yourself, not just someone else proud of you. External motivators are tools I encourage you to use. But lifelong change begins and ends with you. To turn a vision into reality, you have to be able to pat yourself on the back. The real work necessary is frequently done when no one else is looking.
Think of gyms, trainers, diets, apps, etc. as tools only! If the craftsman doesn’t use the tools correctly or within his realm of expertise, his project is doomed from the start.
Back to the ABCD method. Admit your starting point. Admit your triggers. Become intimately familiar with what works for you and what doesn’t. Write them down.
For example, eating dessert in moderation doesn’t work for me. I’d rather have no cookies than limit myself to one. When I do splurge, I want the size I want and I’m going to eat the whole thing! But I have a friend who can nibble at a dessert and feel totally at peace and satisfied. So in the next step, I plan ahead so I avoid dessert tables at parties and on Thanksgiving or my birthday, I have a huge piece of pie:).
Jump start success based on facts you already know about yourself.
P is for PREPARE
Effective and measurable change does not happen living “on the fly.” Especially lifestyle change.
The rear view mirror is always there. You must create barriers, layers of protection, and hurdles to avoid resuming a life now in that mirror behind you.
Do you overeat at restaurants? Snack after dinner? Push the snooze button too many times? Drink too much?
If you really want to change (and this will confirm if you do), you will admit the hazards you face and prepare strategies ahead of time. Deciding what you’ll order by looking at an on-line menu and then not taking a menu when you arrive, is an example of a strategy.
Reduce the load on your willpower. Using willpower to follow-through with your strategy rather than willpower to create a strategy “on the spot” will increase your success rate ten fold!
E is for ENGAGE
This is when fear rears its ugly head. You step off the path and struggle to step back on. When you’re not in the mood for broccoli and crave potato chips. When the scale doesn’t budge, kids are sick, bills are due and all you want is comfort.
Skitz tips for engagement that work for me:
- Time Trials: Set times for experimentation where you don’t require yourself to follow-through. Try new things and if you don’t like them, stop! By declaring a time frame a “trial”, 3 things will happen. One, you’re not starting something you have to continue for life or you’ll feel like a failure. Two, you’re giving yourself time to find what works for you for the long haul. Three, you’ll be much less likely to throw in the towel and give up on your vision. A time to learn and experiment not a time to judge success or failure.
- Planned Detours: Plan to engage in a behavior totally inconsistent with your vision. Plan a splurge, a day off your exercise plan, a fast food meal–whatever. At the same time plan what you will do next. Big piece of birthday cake on Friday evening, a run and yoga class on Saturday. BOTH must be planned ahead. This trains you to maintain power over your emotions. It reaffirms that no matter when you veer off track, you can get right back. Learn this skill and instead of an “oops” being an excuse to throw in the towel, the towel will be wiping your sweat.
- Rewards: Choose your reward and requirements for earning them. If your reward is a massage, swimsuit, time to yourself, or an ice cream sundae. If it’s worth working for then it’s a good choice. Only you can determine the carrot at the end of the stick.
- Key Questions: Ask the right questions and you’ll get the answers that will empower and reward you along your journey. See my series, The Enormous Power of Questions–a must read if you’re serious about your health.
Key questions and planned detours have been critical to my lifestyle path. A guilt-free splurge is incredibly rewarding. My momentum is reinforced not by a number on the scale but by answering yes to the question, “Did you complete the workout this morning that you planned to do?” of “Did you eat what you intended at the party tonight?”
R is for REPEAT
The “yada, yada, yada” part no one wants to hear. Where I say there are no quick fixes or magic pills. Where I tell you I got my six pack abs by working at it for 25 years and doing 1000 crunches at a time. My family gave up meat and it helped improve our health dramatically. I know you don’t want to hear that either.
I want to turn 50 and be fit. I want to look and feel 10 years younger than I am. I have a vision of being a mom and grandmother who can run with her kids and encourage them to be active and healthy. I keep reminding myself of those visions. The visions are strong and well rehearsed in my head so I can retrieve them when they get buried and I’m off kilter.
Re-committment, discipline, and effort is necessary. It doesn’t have to be CrossFit or Ironman. Your activity doesn’t have to be miserable or agonizing. You don’t have to eat tasteless blobs of tofu or liquid kale. Remember, habit first. Details later.
A healthy lifestyle is not a destination. It is a constant wave of effort and accomplishment. Effort is where we invest. Accomplishment is the payoff. Energy compounds just like money.
Isn’t energy the key to life? All of our gardens have weeds. We just need the energy to deal with them.
Be a VIPER in 2013! Uncoil, release fear, shed your old skin, dig in and enjoy the sun on the path!