Stop Lying to Yourself! The Required Self-Discipline to Change Bad Habits

‘Tis the season to be jolly! But it would be interesting to know the number of lies that people tell this time of the year. You’ve heard them and may have even said something like, “Starting January 2, I’m going on a diet to lose twenty pounds and implement an exercise program.”

True enough, on January 2 the diet begins (after New Year’s celebrations) and you enroll in a gym. During the next couple honeymoon weeks, the euphoria fuels the new diet and exercise. But then the euphoria begins to crack when you tell yourself, “Eating just one piece of cake will be okay.” Once the standard is lowered, we’re setting a new standard and more easily fall to other food-sourced temptations. The “what the heck” syndrome takes control and sabotages the self-control necessary to maintain the goal to lose weight.

Sometime during the decaying euphoria, interruptions begin to emerge that side-track your gym performance, and soon you’re back to your “normal” pre-January status. But first you’ve got to forgive yourself for yet again failing to lose that extra twenty pounds as you regain the five pounds that were lost. You may have walked this road before with the same end result and concluded, “I’m not good enough to…”

The fact is you are good enough when you use the right tools.

The required self-discipline to change habits is a challenging, daunting task. Our bodies want to do exactly what Newton’s Laws predicted – a body at rests tends to remain in that position. So, let’s discuss the tools.

1.NEED: Prepare by listing the disadvantages/advantages of staying as you are. You want the disadvantages to help make the decision: remaining as-is is not an option.

2.WANT: Prepare the disadvantages/advantages of your desired behavior. This time you want the advantages to magnetize your body: I just have to have it.

3 IMAGE: Create a positive image of you crossing the finish line. Only do what you see yourself doing (I don’t see myself picking up a snake!)

4.BELIEVE: Establish a firm belief that you can exert the necessary self-discipline to achieve your desired goal.

5.EXPECT: Expect to be successful. Think and talk positively in terms of achieving your goal. You can even place reminders on achieving your goal that can be seen throughout the day.

6.LAUNCH: Begin the change process and enjoy the euphoria of finally making your desired change. Create a schedule. For example, my schedule when working out of my home office is to be in the workout room by 11:30 to participate in the schedule of activities to maintain good health. Personal systems support your change efforts so put this accountability tool to work.

7.MONITOR PROGRESS: At the end of the day, answer this question: Did I do my best today? Use a seven-point Likert Scale to rate yourself and put the score in your calendar to easily monitor progress over time. Remember the cliché, what gets measured gets done.

8.PRACTICE: C hange is hard work! Neuroscience tells us a new neuropathway must be strongly established through focused practice before the desired behavior change becomes a habit. Use every day as a practice day.

Robert Schuler famously said, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” If you’re like most people, success is not a straight-line function and the temptation to say, “Oh, what the heck…,” can be strong. Keep your eyes locked onto where you want your body to go as your body tends to follow your eyes. Looking back to your starting point increases the temptation for your body to do the same. Now is the time to study the ratio of disadvantages/advantages that you’ve created to help you reignite the excitement to stay on track.

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