You know the drill.
We should all be doing these things – things that we know are good for us, will improve our quality of life and things that are actually quite “simple” to do. For example, eat carrots, not chips; meditate, instead of watching Game of Thrones; and walk around the block instead of watching more Game of Thrones.
As an entrepreneur, my best avoidance tactic usually looks like skipping Thursday-night yoga so I can cram in more work. But then something comes up – an injury or imminent swimsuit season – and I’m forced to face the consequences of neglecting myself. A couple of years ago, I had a horseback riding injury and I took the path of least resistance, avoiding the one thing that would make me stronger when I got back in the saddle – exercise.
So why do we choose to not do the things that we logically know could make life a heck of a lot better? And how can we overcome this resistance by building effective habits (not pipe dreams). I asked corrective exercise guru, Janis Isaman, and professional coach, Cheryl Keates, what we need to do – physically and mentally – to overcome resistance to change and bring out the best of ourselves.
Commit, Don’t Quit
Isaman is the owner of My Body Couture, a private movement studio in Calgary, Alberta. She provides a customized approach to health, fitness, and nutrition and works with injured athletes and executives whose sedentary lifestyles have led to injuries they need to heal. I asked Isaman to explain the physical reasons that we resist good habits like exercise.
“Generally people jump to programs or plans that require major, jump-to-the-deep-end-of-the-pool kind of changes,” she says, noting that we’re setting ourselves up to fail when we do that.
“I’ve heard dozens of clients say something like ‘I should start running.’ But they actually don’t enjoy running,” she muses. “There are a few scientific facts about exercise, but basically it boils down to ‘get off your ass and move,’” she says bluntly.
Isaman’s approach to her own training involves doing things that she actually enjoys, like Yamuna Body Rolling and Pilates, as well as scheduling “non-negotiable” sessions with her trainers. (Yes, trainers have trainers, too!)
Her biggest recommendation is to break things down into smaller steps toward your goal. So if your objective is to eat healthier, then set the goal of trying a new fruit each week, but don’t try go vegan “cold turkey”.
“Commit to five minutes,” Isaman says. “If you can’t do that, commit to two minutes. Or one minute!” The point is – commit to something do-able and then move.
Like Attracts Like
With something like a fall or injury, it is all too easy to stop trying. Using my back injury as an excuse, I have avoided jumping horses and skipped many a gym workout, placing the blame on my old-lady back. But after embarking on this quest to build better habits, it quickly became apparent that I wasn’t only suffering from scar tissue and soft muscles; there was a broken record playing in my head.
“Motivation comes from something being really desirable or really intolerable,” explains Cheryl Keates, a certified professional coach. Keates works with clients globally via Skype, and helps them balance emotional, physical, and financial health while working through resistance and fear.
“We attract whatever we put our attention, energy, and focus on. So those who are more positive, [and who] commit and execute will have greater success,” she explains. “If one focuses on the negative or what’s not possible, they will achieve more negative results.”
Just like Isaman’s observations about physical training, mental training is an area where we can expect too much, and be quickly disappointed because we can’t meet our goals.
“One can get shifts quickly, however, it takes time and consistency to form new, sustainable habits,” says Keates.
When she coaches clients to overcome blocks, she helps them to identify the negative thoughts or emotions that may be getting in the way, and then teaches them re-framing techniques. But even the strongest of us have to fight moments of weakness.
“Whenever I start to see myself going down the road of self-sabotage or procrastination,” says Keates, “I practice the same techniques I use with my clients. And if I need to go deeper, I reach out to my coach.” (Yes, coaches have coaches, too!)
But you won’t get anywhere without mental commitment.
“Taking ownership, investing in one’s self and being willing to do the work is critical,” she says. “When one operates from a place of overall health and balance, the possibilities are endless.”
The Mirror of Myself
So rather than longingly (and enviously) stare at the strong, toned bodies of Monday night’s Dancing with the Stars pros, the wisdom from Isaman and Keates has inspired me to set some goals and step into the shallow end. My weak riding is either going to get depressing or land me in the hospital, neither of which will get me back over a cross rail. These words from Isaman have become my new mantra, and maybe they’ll stick with you, too:
My results will mirror my efforts.