Last week we discussed implementing a process of continued habit-based change. This week I’d like to focus on an important underpinning of habit change – confidence.
When I’m doing an intake with a prospective client, I always like to gauge their level of confidence in implementing change. Doing so allows me to determine a starting point for their program, but it also requires that the client be honest with themselves.
During that initial client meeting, we go through a brief assessment phase that involves some paperwork and an assessment. The information from this initial meeting gives me a basis for designing their program. Usually, the client is very motivated, and their motivation tends to dictate the answers I receive.
For example, a client might say that they’re a 9 on scale of 10 (or 90% confidence) for implementing a 5-day per week workout. However, if they’ve never worked out before it’s quite possible that their motivation will wane and they will lack the discipline to follow through consistently.
Therefore, it’s critical that the individual be realistic when setting expectations for themselves. Consider the following factors when deciding your level of confidence for taking a given action:
Ability: How skilled are you? Can you distinguish a barbell from a kettlebell? Are you unsure about whether chicken is a carb?
Experience: Have you been consistently exercising for a while, in a variety of ways or is this new territory? Do your healthy eating habits need fine-tuning or are we starting from scratch?
Schedule: How will you make time for your new habits? Do you travel? Have a spouse? Kids?
Flexibility: When life throws you a curve ball, how will you deal with it? If you had 30 minutes planned for the gym, but a sick child has you at home, will you adjust and do a bodyweight workout?
Discipline: The more difficult the change, the greater the discipline required to make it. While finite in terms of capacity, discipline can be scaled.
Be honest with yourself. When you take all of the factors above into account, if you can’t say that you’re 90% confident in your ability to execute the proposed change, then scale it back until you can.
I was once consulting with an overweight client, who expressed a strong desire to make changes. She was frustrated because she didn’t know where she was going wrong. She was exercising and eating healthy. After some discussion, she admitted that she drank 6 Mountain Dews - almost 300g of sugar - per day!
However, it never occurred to her that what she was drinking was as important as what she was eating. With the problem identified, we needed a plan. Rather than tell her that she must cut out all Mountain Dews (a losing proposition), she had to start small, cutting them out one at a time, over time.
The same goes for you when it comes to creating change. Establish a baseline for what you can reasonable expect to execute consistently. If three days at the gym is too much, but three 30-minute walks are doable – start walking! The gym will be there when you’re ready. If you can’t eat 5 servings of veggies per day, can you eat 3 or even 2? Find the place where you’re 90% confident and go from there.
Remember, habits should be scaled upward. Avoid scaling backward due to outsized expectations whenever possible. Think of it like this: if your adherence to a 3-day workout is 2 days, doubt and negative self-talk might creep into your efforts, because you’re not adhering to the goal. If you start at two, and crush that goal for a few weeks, adding a third day will feel like a big win. Ultimately, the amount of effort is the same, but your feelings about that effort are dramatically different.
Lastly, we live in time where quick-fixes, short-cuts and “hacks” are all the rage. Habit change is not that. It’s small steps, executed consistently over and over again. It’s tough, challenging work that focuses on getting 1% BETTER each day. Challenges will pop up from time to time that throw you off – don’t get discouraged. Keep moving forward, tweak where necessary and execute your habits at 90% confidence.
Creating change with confidence is not easy, especially when you’re just starting out. The road ahead can seem overwhelming. But each small change gets you one step closer to your goals - pick ones that are doable for you.
At Vitalifit, we believe that creating sustainable habits one at a time is the best way to create lasting change. If you’ve tried instituting health habits before and are looking for a new approach, contact us today to join the Vitalifit Coaching Program that is right for you.