As we run up to Christmas every man and his dog will be talking about what they're 'going to do' in 2017, so I've thrown together some of my favourite hacks for creating change but more importantly, for making it stick! Hopefully some of them will be new to you, and remember that although they're mainly focused on changing your health for the better, these can be applied to all areas of your life.
1. Get Clear on Where You're Going
First and foremost, you've got to know where you're heading. A well-defined end goal provides you with the direction, and from there on it's simply completing the necessary tasks each day that will afford you the pleasure of reaching that ideal! When things get tough it's far too easy to fall into the trap of 'analysis paralysis' where you find every excuse under the sun not to start or continue to the end. Overcome this by finding someone who's already achieved what you want and consistently reminding yourself of them, this will inspire hope and motivation for the emotional side of the brain. Also, on the road towards your destination, don't obsess about falling off the cart, everyone does - recognise it, brush yourself off and get back on it! Keep that dream alive with hope and distinct direction.
2. Use Large Contrasts
I was going to suggest breaking your larger goal down into smaller ones but everyone says that - let's try something else.
Our brains are naturally pre-wired to ignore small changes, it's just how they work. Checking yourself out in the mirror every day will give the perception of little-to-no progress because day to day changes are so small and incremental. That's why I suggest taking progress photos every 30 days and using those as comparisons rather than relying on your daily vanity check in the mirror. Your brain will accidently trick you otherwise, don't fall prey.
3. Simplify your Daily Habits
Habits drive most of our everyday tasks and free up valuable thinking power for more complex situations. We want to build habits that are stitched into our everyday routine, essentially we want to create autopilot actions. Whatever change you're attempting to make, whether it's to stop nipping down to your favourite restaurant every lunch break or simply drinking more water each day, habits have to start easy and small otherwise they become overwhelming. Try making a simple salad for just one of your meals each day or carrying around a 2L water bottle - these are simple yet small nudges towards kick starting a new habit. As well as designing constructive habits we need to be wary of destructive ones.
As the famous investor Warren Buffett says - "The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they're too heavy to be broken." What destructive habits are holding you back?
4. Use The Environment as your Ally
By altering your surroundings, you can either make change much easier or significantly harder. Most people take a step in the right direction but let's go a level deeper. No doubt you've been told that if you don't have 'bad' food in the cupboards then you simply can't eat it. This is definitely true and unsurprisingly works every time! Now, if you're among the few that can resist the temptation to even place said evil item into your basket then well done, but some of us aren't that lucky. Maybe a more effective strategy would be to order your shopping online as to avoid stumbling upon unwelcome items in the store. Or paying at the pump instead of in the shop where you spend 5 minutes queueing alongside some of the most tempting confectionery known to man. Yes, they know what they're doing! Simply put, you can't rely on willpower alone so how can you shape your environment and ease change?
At the end of the day, change requires commitment and effort, but it is possible, and small tweaks can achieve amazing results! Hopefully these tips have given you a few more ideas to take forward into the New Year. Why not start now, and see what you can achieve by then?
This blog post previously appeared on the Hall Training Fitness and Nutrition blog.