Change One Thing!

Published on 12 May 2023 at 11:45

Making long lasting and effective positive changes is tough for a number of reasons.


It’s in our nature to not want to change unless we feel it necessary, and by that time we often find that wholesale changes are needed – we need to alter aspects of our lives that cover a whole range of things – from sleep to diet to exercise.  


The first problem with this is that making a huge number of changes is overwhelming; it can be difficult to know where to start. Do we start by going to the gym? By improving our diet? By trying to get more and better quality sleep?


This is further compounded by an overload of information; the internet is a wonderful thing but the sheer volume of different and contrasting information can leave us feeling confused: should I be doing HIIT or strength training? Cardio or not? Which diet is best?   Feeling overwhelmed can often prevent us from getting started and leave us feeling hopeless.


The second issue is that making even one change is difficult – let alone wholesale changes. The amount of determination and willpower required is phenomenal. I’m not saying it cannot be done, just that it is incredibly difficult and more often than not, will end in failure in at least one of our desired changes. This leads us to the third major problem:


We are our own worst enemies. We criticise ourselves much more harshly than we deserve and hold ourselves to a higher standard than we do for others. What does this mean? When we slip up in one area, we are likely to see a domino effect – We miss the gym one day and think ‘sod it, I’ll get a takeaway and a six pack of beer’ and one by one we see all of the positive changes we have been attempting to make fall by the wayside and we are back to square one. In fact, we are worse off than before – we feel even more useless and depressed because we see ourselves as having failed. Sound familiar?  


So what can we do?


The answer is deceptively simple. So simple, in fact, that you would probably assume it wouldn’t work.  


The answer is this: Change One Thing!


That’s it, just one little thing, one step, one habit or behaviour at a time.  

So how would that look in reality? Here’s a case study: Client A approaches me. They are unhappy with their health and fitness, they’ve been putting on weight, they feel tired all the time but never get enough sleep. They are overworked, have a busy home life and are still trying to fit in some sort of social life. They feel they are sinking and desperately want to make a change. On paper the solution is straightforward: Get to the gym more. Eat a better diet. Go to bed earlier etc, etc.


The problem with this is there a hundred things which need to change, not just for the client but also for the people around them. How can they be a loving and present partner and parent and still make time for themselves? How can they still be an effective worker and still have energy to train?


So what do we do?  


We focus on one aspect at a time, and establish the goals and obstacles.   For example; exercise.


The goal is to get to the gym three times a week but the client doesn’t see how they have the time – their evenings and weekends are busy with family activities so when can they train? That part is easy – get up earlier in the morning.


Now, speaking from experience, whenever I’ve tried to implement a morning workout into my routine it has typically gone like this:  

Day one – wake up an hour earlier, force myself to the gym, be miserable.

Day two – Force myself out of bed and to the gym.

Day three – Press snooze once but still manage to get up.

Day four – Forget it, I’m staying in bed.

Day five – Back to normal, experiment over.  

This process is failing because I’m trying too much too quickly – changing my sleep patterns, changing my exercise habits, changing my eating habits.  


The solution is to break the process down into steps and, you guessed it: Change One Thing!


So, for the first week I tell my client to gradually adjust their alarm clock in the morning to wake up ten minutes earlier each day. That’s it, nothing else. Wake up a little earlier each day and just spend a little longer on your normal morning routine. Have coffee, listen to a podcast, pick your nose for a bit. It doesn’t matter, just focus on adjusting your waking time.  


Week two – start going for a little walk in the morning. It doesn’t have to be far, to the end of the road, around the block, to a park. Just get out of the house and get moving.


Week three – start ensuring your walks are at least thirty minutes long, and your pace is a little faster.


The client has now spent 21 days waking up earlier and getting used to moving around in the morning and is on the way to forming a solid habit.


Week four – on two days a week, walk to the gym, you don’t even have to go in (though you can if you want to!)


Week five – on two days, go into the gym and do a short 10-15 minute workout.


And so on and so on.


By focusing on changing one thing, it becomes to easier to be successful. When we feel successful, we feel motivated.


By avoiding wholesale changes we avoid shocks to the system and ensure that our end goal becomes something that is both achievable and manageable.  


So, if you want to make huge changes in your life – start by doing something small and Change One Thing!


Be lucky! x

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