As a trainer, and now as a life coach, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a wide array of people. From entry-level employees to front-line managers to executives and CEOs, I’ve trained and worked with them all. No matter what their job title or income, I’ve noticed when it comes to making real and lasting changes in their lives, all of them face the same hurdles.
Whether it’s a New Year’s resolution to lose weight (New Year's is just around the corner) or a vow to finally quit smoking, we all face the same challenges. However, there are some very simple things we can do to overcome these formidable obstacles.
Often the changes we want to make are pretty major. Giving up a pack a day habit or losing 75 pounds is no cake walk. Yet, at the same time, we make it larger than it really is by focusing on the big picture – the really, really BIG picture.
“A pack a day is 20 cigarettes. Everyone knows that a nicotine addition is one of the hardest to overcome”
“75 pounds is a small child! That’s a whole lot of weight.”
We get exhausted just thinking about it! As a result, we never quit before we ever begin, rationalizing that it’s just too much.
There is an old joke that asks, “How do you eat an elephant?” People who have never heard the joke think of all sorts of elaborate answers but the truth is that you eat an elephant one bite at a time. That’s the same way that you lose weight, or start exercising or stop smoking. You do it one pound, one workout or one cigarette at a time.
Let’s say you want to start an exercise program. The reason you haven’t started is that it’s just so expensive. After all, you need the gym membership, the new fancy tennis shoes and of course some new outfits to go with them. It would be great if you could also get a hold of one of those ab-crunching whatchamajigs you saw late last night as you watched Saturday Night Live (while munching on some potato chips). If all those things fell into place, then you could work out.
Likewise, you might put off starting that diet until you have removed every bad food from your pantry and replaced it with its healthy alternative, joined a weight loss program and invested in a fancy new scale.
The truth of the matter is that you’ll never have everything in place and if that’s what you are waiting for, you’ll always be waiting.
The thing to do is to start where you are with what you have. Wear some comfortable clothes and shoes and start taking a walk around the block. Invest $15 or less in an exercise DVD (Walk Away the Pounds is a great one to start with), and walk, tonight.
Let’s say you get over the overwhelm and the need to overhaul and you actually begin to work towards your goal. And then, it happens. You have a bad day. You reach for that Krispy Kreme or that cigarette or forget about going on that walk. The next day, you are frustrated and disappointed. You messed up. Now, you ask yourself, “Why even bother?”
As you plan to achieve your goal, you should also plan for setbacks as they will occur. It’s not a matter of if but when. This is not pessimistic but realistic. The thing to remember is to be gentle with yourself but firm. Yes, you made a mistake but it’s not the end unless you decide it is. Forgive yourself and get back on plan as soon as possible.
Over the years, I’ve learned that regardless of the kinds of change you want to make, the secret is to approach it slowly and instead of making big, sweeping changes, make small incremental ones.
Want to go back to school? Then take it one step at a time. Research your schools, fill out your applications, and make an appointment with a financial aid counselor. Each of these mini-goals makes the task of getting an education a lot less daunting.
Looking to lose weight? A week at a time, make one substitution. Replace that sugar 20 ounce soda with a diet one or water. If you do just that and nothing else, you can lose over ten pounds in a year. The next week, replace the chips with low-fat popcorn. Trade in the fried chicken for broiled, you get the picture.
Finally, if you want to make lasting changes, commit to the long haul. All real change takes time, so give yourself the time you need to succeed.a