Think back to the last time you started a new diet or exercise program. How did it go? If you’re like most people, probably not too well.
After a few weeks of eating better, exercising more, or drinking less alcohol the odds are you fell off whatever wagon you had forced yourself to climb on to. You started with the best of intentions and yet there you were, back where you started: unhealthy, unhappy, and just a little bit more guilty and ashamed than you were before.
Again and again, you find yourself stuck in this old, familiar pattern that starts with energy, excitement, and hope…and ends in disappointment. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are three keys to success that will help you action your good intentions and turn them into real, lasting results.
Give Yourself Permission to be Imperfect
The problem with skipping a workout or having a cheat meal isn’t the fact that you aren’t perfectly perfect. The problem lies in perceiving your imperfection as failure.
Let’s be honest. You will cheat on your diet or skip a workout at some point. We all will. And by building permission to be imperfect into your plan of action, you can avoid feeling like you’ve failed when the inevitable happens.
One way to build this permission into your wellness plan is the 80/20 rule. When using the 80/20 rule, you commit to being on-target, all about it, sticking with it and nailing your goals eighty percent of the time. The other twenty percent, allow yourself to be human and imperfect.
Take food for example. Using the 80/20 rule means that eighty percent of your meals are perfectly in-line with your nutritional goals, whatever they might be. The other twenty percent of the time, they’re not. If it’s exercise, stick to the program like it’s the air you breathe eighty percent of the time. Build in the other twenty percent to skip a workout or two when you don’t feel like going.
Maybe you think the 80/20 rule sounds too intense and you would rather have a fifty-fifty split to start with. That’s okay.
Maybe you think the 80/20 rule sounds too easy and you would prefer to cut yourself less slack. Then move the bar to 95/5 or wherever you feel comfortable.
The point is, it needs to feel right to you. Whether it’s 80/20, 50/50 or 95/5 this is about creating a safe space to fail…because you are not going to be perfectly perfect with any diet or exercise program. None of us are. Use the 80/20 rule as a tool to recognize, accept, and even cherish that imperfection in yourself.
Recognize Your Physical Self Doesn’t Stand Alone
The last time you resolved to do better at something – eating better, making more money, decluttering your home – did you focus your efforts solely on making changes in the physical system alone?
Probably so. Most people do. It is our favorite area to focus on!
The physical system of self is what health and wellness websites, blogs, books, and medical doctors focus on when offering advice: how and what to eat, drink, clean and exercise your way to health and happiness. This is the stuff you can see and touch. It’s the way your clothes fit, how messy your closet is, and how much money you have in the bank.
Because you can see it and touch it, it gives you the illusion of control…at least temporarily.
Let’s say that your doctor tells you to lose weight because you are prediabetic. You go to the store, buy some healthier foods and sign up at the gym. But what about your relationship with food? Do you use it as comfort or punishment? And what about your relationship with yourself? What does that inner voice say to you when you look in the mirror? Does it tell you that you’re worth the effort? Do you feel like you have purpose in life and a reason to get out of bed in the morning? Because if you don’t, it will be tough to follow through on losing weight just for the sake of your physical health.
Your physical self does not exist in a bubble. It is intricately connected with and dependent upon the other aspects of self and when imbalance exists in your mental, emotional, or spiritual systems, you see the results as balance or imbalance in the physical plane. The physical self is just where the results show up, it’s not where the roots are.
To realize deep and lasting change in your physical self, you must work across all systems – mind, body, heart, and spirit – from the inside-out as well as the outside-in.
Appreciate the Journey
At the end of the day, wellness looks different for each person in every season of life. Balance and wholeness is a moving target because life is a moving target. Life is not static. Everything is changing all the time…including you and me.
Sometimes you feel like you can conquer the world. Other days, brushing your teeth feels like too much to manage. Wellness and wholeness are fluid, so maybe it’s best to not think of “wellness” as a goal or a target. Rather, it’s simply continuing to take intentional steps – day by day and moment by moment – in the right direction.
You can break the cycle. You can achieve your goals. And you can turn your good intentions into real results. Give yourself permission not to be perfect. Recognize that your physical self is just where the results show up. And appreciate the journey.