It is said that the only constant in life is change. However, when it comes to improving our health, fitness, and body composition the changes that need to be maintained can be elusive to put it mildly. So why is it that changes that are desirable seem to be so difficult, while changes that we don't appreciate just seem to find their way into our lives?
The answer to this question according to the authors of Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success has to do with six sources of influence working behind the scenes which can either be pushing us toward success or failure. The six sources come down to personal, social, and structural motivation and ability.
In a nutshell you can alter whether each of these sources of influence is helping or hindering your change goals with a little detective work. I highly recommend that everyone gets a copy of the book to read and re-read until the principles are second nature. In the absence of having a copy of the book I'll offer a few key nuggets of how to do some of the work to align your sources of influence with your goals.
When it comes to personal motivation it helps to have a way to succinctly remind yourself why the temptation of the moment is small in comparison to the long-term change. For instance if you are trying hard to give up unhealthy foods it may be worthwhile to look at where your current path will take you if you don't change. This is referred to by the authors as visiting your default future. Make the picture as vivid as possible with every little detail. Continuing on with the idea that you're trying to improve your nutritional habits, perhaps it's fair to say that diabetes and heart disease are in your future. Now picture a daily regimen of pills and injections to control the diseases. The fear in your family's faces as decisions are being made about what care facility will look after you, the long hard struggle to recover after bypass surgery. Being dependent on someone to give you sponge baths and take your bed pan because you've become too weak and sick to move yourself and too large for others to safely move... you get the idea - Make it detailed and vivid. Perhaps visit a nursing home and look at what your future looks like without making positive change. Keep this vivid picture close and when temptation strikes see if the fleeting joy of that chocolate bar or extra helping of bacon is really worth it in the long run.
Personal ability is bolstered by taking an honest look at what skills you possess and what skills you don't. If you lack the understanding about nutrition to make positive changes you can either outsource to someone who is trained in nutrition, or you can educate yourself. The more honest you are with yourself about what your limits are the better able you'll be to alter those limits.
Social motivation and ability are tightly knit together and can be helped by recognizing who in your circle of influences is actively helping you with your changes (friends) or keeping you stuck in the patterns you wish to overcome (accomplices). Ultimately you can either work with accomplices to make them friends or distance yourself from them and their influence.
Structural motivation and ability are largely referring to the physical environment around you. Do goodies live in a bowl on the counter calling to you each time you walk by? This is a strong influence to succumb, Check out what factors are in place that are sabotaging your efforts. When it comes to junk food, keep in mind that if it is in the house it will almost inevitably be eaten.
Put it into effect. Pick one specific change you'd like to focus on. Start small and be specific. Once you have your precise change in mind, identify crucial moments when you know you'll be weak and likely to fail. Upon discovering these crucial moments you can then creat vital behaviors to mitigate the risks associated with your crucial moments or to avoid certain crucial moments altogether. Do some detective work to get your sources of influence on side and watch the changes take shape. One final and important step involves realizing that set backs are the rule and not the exception. Don't beat yourself up over them, but do use the information you can gather. Take a close look at why you didn't succeed with your efforts on a given day. What sources of influence were at play? What were the crucial moments? How can these influences be altered?
Wishing you all the best in your healthy change efforts!