Today it is my pleasure to introduce a guest writer who has kindly written an article for us. Natalie Joffe is a local nutrition coach who has a helpful perspective to offer on behavioral change. I’ll be writing more about how to change behaviors in the coming year because much of our work revolves around supporting self-directed change. I’m sure you’ll find that Natalie’s ideas align with our philosophy and can improve how anyone approaches goals and habits.
Creating sustainable change is challenging, but when the focus shifts from goals to values, the effort becomes more rewarding and intrinsically driven, and the likelihood of creating lasting change goes up dramatically.
Habit change is typically approached in an all-or-nothing fashion. New Year’s resolutions and fad diets are perfect examples. A goal is chosen and then we attempt a behavioral overhaul. We expect the “us” of tomorrow to have more discipline, energy, and interest than the “us” of today, which often leads to the frustrating experience of “falling off the wagon.”
Part of the issue is that we often set what I call “performance- or appearance-based goals.” These are things like, “I want to lose ten pounds,” or “I want to run a marathon in under two hours.” Academically, these goals might look like getting into a certain college or getting a certain grade in a class. There is nothing wrong with performance or appearance-based goals, but they are often a distraction from one’s core work of creating lasting change.
It isn’t uncommon to achieve a performance or appearance-based goal, perhaps losing the ten pounds or landing that promotion, and still not be happy or feel it’s enough. This is because it’s the values and life we associate with the goal that we are really striving for. For example, the external goal might be weight loss, but the real desire is to create a healthy relationship with food and self. We assume losing the weight will mean we find a balance with food or a habit of consistency with exercise, but this is often not the case. We can crash diet the weight off but still have the same unhelpful habits, leading to weight regain.
To address the behavioral pattern, I challenge my clients to define their “Future You 2.0.” This is the version of yourself that embodies your values and how you uniquely define them. For example, someone with a weight-loss goal might define her value of health as reduced emotional eating, better stress management, improved sleep hygiene, and more consistent and joyful exercise. Another person with the same goal might define health as something totally different, and that is okay. Unlike cookie-cutter approaches to change, individualizing values increases willingness when discipline is required to remain persistent with a task.
To correct the all-or-nothing mindset that impedes lasting change, I encourage you to think of life as a series of daily elections, where every action is a vote for either the current you or the future you that you’d like to become. While a landslide victory is nice, only 51% of votes are needed to win. This mindset allows for greater self-compassion and focus on the progress that comes from small victories. If the value in question is strong work ethic, then the daily victories might include getting to classes on time, engaging and asking questions, completing required homework, and getting help outside of class when needed. Shifting the focus away from the exact grades–the external goals–and onto the consistent achievement of the behaviors that move you in the right direction creates greater self-esteem and the motivation to continue trying in difficult times.
In summary, change doesn’t come from having the goal to lose those ten pounds or get into that particular college. Sustainable change comes from becoming the type of person who more consistently exercises, eats healthy food, gets better sleep or sets aside time to more consistently study. Act like the future version of yourself now and trust that the external results will follow accordingly.
Natalie Joffe is a certified nutrition and wellness coach passionate about helping individuals create lasting change in their lives. She uses behavior change tools to help clients identify their core values, as well as what is getting in the way of living in line with those values. Natalie then provides the guidance and accountability that allows for full realization of each client’s unique vision. www.nataliejoffe.com
Title Image: Creative Commons Public Domain. Courtesy of Pixabay. https://pixabay.com/en/silhouette-fitness-bless-you-bike-683751/. Text added.
Ballot Box: Creative Commons Public Domain. Courtesy of Pixabay. https://pixabay.com/en/ballot-vote-box-voting-296577/.