Generally speaking, we all know which foods are better for us and how to lead a healthier lifestyle. And we feel the benefits when we make better choices. Yet many of us struggle still to make this our daily reality. Why is this?
Lots of fascinating books have been written about behaviour, goal-setting, habits, willpower, etc. but the one I’ve rated most highly recently is James Clear’s ‘Atomic Habits‘.
He has some spot on themes around:
- Success being the product of daily habits, not once-in-a-lifetime transformations. All big things can be traced back to lots of small decisions and actions, consistently taken. We need to spend more time focusing on the ‘how’ and making that as easy as possible, than the ‘what’. Goals are often shared by many people – some who achieve them and others who don’t. So the goal clearly isn’t the differentiating factor.
- Typically many of us apply very all or nothing mindsets to nutrition & health goals and by focusing so much on the end goal, the only outcomes available to us are to succeed or fail. And once either happens, the process typically ends.
- Similarly, we often spend so much time trying to find the ‘best’ way to do something, that we often fail to take any action at all. This really resonates with me. And my nutrition coaching techniques rely heavily on the premise of taking a 5-minute action whenever a client is stuck. Getting started and finding motivation can be hard, so the action needs to be as simple and quick as possible to get the ball rolling. And when you do, the action will inevitably gain momentum.
- We really don’t need to achieve perfection. Studies have shown that even being 50% consistent with your eating habits (which isn’t that difficult to achieve) can result in great progress. (The sweet spot is around 85%).
- Clear talks a lot about identity and the challenge that occurs if you don’t actually see yourself as the person who does the habits that you’re trying to stick to. We need to change the narrative around how we see ourselves if we want to change.
- Linked to identity is the concept of pride. If you’re proud of something, you’re much more likely to fight to maintain it, so find something to be proud of that connects to your habits and goal.
- Finally (well for this post, there’s a lot more in the book!), his approach focuses on the systems we put in place to help us repeat small powerful actions daily, which eventually become automated. His motto is around being the designer of the world you want to live in, not a consumer or victim of it.
So your challenge today is to have a think about who you want to be (both generally and more specifically in terms your nutrition, exercise and health). Ask yourself what that kind of person would do consistently. And prove to yourself that you are that kind of person by doing exactly that!
“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it—but all that had gone before.” – James Clear