Do you want to create change in your physical, mental and/or spiritual health that lasts longer than a few weeks? Are you tired of jumping from one FAD to the next with little lasting success? Do you find yourself basing your behaviours, decisions, and actions upon a feeling, such as a lack of motivation?
“We are what we repeatedly do. Greatness then, is not an act, but a habit.”Aristotle
If you blame lack of motivation as a reason for missing your goals, you are not alone. What most people fail to realise is that motivation is a temporary, emotional state that does not create lasting change. Motivational speaker and educator Craig Harper believes that long-term change occurs when you change your hardwired habits, or what he calls the ‘“normal operating system,” of your brain (e.g., brushing your teeth before bed). He teaches that lasting change occurs as a result of creating habits that do not rely on emotion; but rather upon changing your cognitive thinking process.
The only way to change your cognitive thinking process is through self-examination. Below are three key steps that will enable you to change your thinking and create a path to long-term change:
- Create your own definition of success
- Identify your values
- Determine your non-negotiables
STEP 1: CREATE YOUR OWN DEFINITION OF SUCCESS
If you cannot define what success in a target area looks like or feels like, then you will be unable to create it. It is great to say things like “I want to change,” or “I want to improve my health,” but you need a concrete definition of what that success looks like to achieve it.
Everyone has a different definition of success. For example, the statement “I want to improve my health,” could mean improved flexibility and mobility for some people, and lower blood sugar levels for others. Parents may want to improve their stamina so they can keep up with their children while some individuals would just like to move without back pain. Others would feel like they had improved their health if they could reduce the amount of medication they take (e.g., blood pressure, cholesterol tablets). This one concept can mean many different things so each person could define successfully improving their health differently.
STEP 2: IDENTIFY YOUR VALUES
Your values are what make you feel good about yourself. They are your life’s roadmap; the rules and guidelines governing your thoughts, actions, and behaviors. Knowing what your values look like in your everyday life is essential because when what you do and how you behave align with your values, you feel fulfilled, happy and capable of creating the change you desire.
On the flipside, when what you do and how you behave are not aligned with your values, you experience discomfort, pain, and dissatisfaction. It is not uncommon to feel unfulfilled, miserable and even lost in such instances. If you reach this point and rely on motivation to get you back on track, you are destined to repeat a losing cycle. If, however, you focus on your values, you will be able to clarify your commitment to personal success.
If you don’t know your values, ask yourself these questions:
- What is important to me?
- What is important about the way I live my life?
STEP 3: WORK OUT YOUR NON-NEGOTIABLES
Once you have clarity on your values and your definition of success, your final step is to determine what you are willing to sacrifice to get there. What things in your life need to become non-negotiable for you to move forward?
Non-negotiables are things that happen no matter what. They are the habits you develop over time to help you live in alignment with your values. They are your new auto-pilot. As John C. Maxwell tells us, “You will never change your life until your change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” You need to do something consistently to make it a habit. The more times you repeat an action, the stronger the habit becomes until it ends up becoming part of your normal operating system and you do it because it is part of your routine.
THE STEPS IN ACTION
Let’s return to the people with the goal of improving their health and take the example of the people whose definition of success in that area is having the stamina to keep up with their children. One of their values could be engaging in physical activities with their family. One of their non-negotiables could then be exercising 3 times per week to ensure that they train their body for the desired level of stamina. To achieve their definition of success, they would then need to make a habit of exercising three times per week, no matter what.
You may have noticed that the above example does not talk about feelings or motivation. This is because when you allow emotions to run your life, you have no idea where you will end up. If you want to change some aspect of your life, you need to look at the driving force behind your actions. Are you basing your behaviours, decisions, thoughts, and actions on how you are feeling in that present moment or are you turning up whether you want to or not because you have made it part of your routine? When you use the 3 steps to change your thinking, you create structure, direction, and purpose, all of which lead to long-term change.
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