Imagine you have a messy desk and you set a goal to clean it. If you summon the energy to tidy up, then you will have a clean desk—for now. But if you maintain the same sloppy, pack-rat habits that led to a messy desk in the first place, soon you’ll be looking at a new pile of clutter and hoping for another burst of motivation. You’re left chasing the same outcome because you never changed the system behind it. You treated a symptom without addressing the cause.
Achieving a goal only changes your life for the moment. That’s the counter-intuitive thing about improvement. We think we need to change our results, but the results are not the problem. What we really need to change are the systems that cause those results. When you solve problems at the results level, you only solve them temporarily. In order to improve for good, you need to solve problems at the systems level. Fix the inputs and the outputs will fix themselves. (Adapted from Atomic Habits by James Clear.)
Applying that same idea to your health and wellness is crucial to long-term success. So often, we hop from fad diet to fad diet hoping each time that the outcome will be different. That this time, it will work. And invariably, it doesn't. Then we are on that yo-yo roller coaster once again. With another example in front of us of how "nothing works " and "I can't stick to a plan."
We look at the external wondering why nothing changes instead of looking inside ourselves and seeking to change who we are and the systems we use everyday. So what is the answer?
1. Look for a health plan that is NOT a fad. One that is sensible, do-able, doesn't ask you to eliminate food groups, doesn't require calculating and counting. (PS--I've got one of those for you!)
2. Identify systems you can use to help make yourself successful. It's the small things day after day that lead to results. Problem is, that slow, steady approach doesn't lend itself to flashy hooks to get your attention on Facebook or a quick fix by any means. Buckle up, because this is going to be a long ride. And that leads me back to #1--if you can't sustain the labor intensive, macro-counting, meal-timing, all-consuming plan, it's not going to be what you need over the long-term.
3. Pay attention to how you talk to yourself. You are not your thoughts. You are the thinker of those thoughts. You get to control the narrative going on inside your head. Is that narrative serving you? Do you need some outside perspective on the things inside your own head? (This is one area where coaching has been a HUGE help to me personally and a service I offer to my clients.)