There’s a lot of talk about the power of now- and while staying present is definitely something I work towards daily- the power of why has been sticking out in my mind as of late. So often we seek behavioral changes without having a solid why in place. In my experience, the stronger the why, the more likely I am to shift a bad habit into a better one.
Whenever I am embarking on creating a new habit it is easy to jump in with full gusto without attaching the change to a “greater why.” Whenever I try to modify current habits toward healthier habits I can only stick to them if I remind myself why I am doing it in the first place. And that why is always a “greater why.” What is a greater why? A why rooted in feeling, and spiritual upliftment- not just vanity and pleasing others. I have found that when I root my why in superficial causes I am quick to abandon them at the first sight of resistance.
For example, in the past, when I have tried to give up sugar and unhealthy food, in order to be a certain number on the scale, it has never resulted in a long term habit change. I might stick to my plan for a few days but I would inevitably give in to “temptation” and it many cases make up for all the ‘good’ I had done in the previous days. This inability to stick to a diet left me feeling low- like I didn’t have enough discipline or will power to make the changes I wanted to make. After years of beating myself up enough, it started to occur to me that maybe I needed to change my approach.
I began to search within for answers. Was eating healthier just about my weight? No. It was about my energy, my mood, my spirit. I noticed when I could eliminate sugar my energy levels would skyrocket and my anxiety levels dropped significantly. It was only when I started to mentally connect eating healthy with feeling better, that the change in eating habits was actually able to stick. Now, whenever I see a sugary treat I remember my ‘greater why’ – which is feeling good and being less anxious by choosing better foods.
Shifting toward my “greater why” to fuel my habit change allowed me to really hone in on my feelings instead of results. In the face of unhealthy foods, I weigh the feeling of temporary satisfaction the sweet indulgence will give me against the long term dissatisfaction I will feel after I eat it- and it is very easy to say no. Instead of focusing on weight loss, I focus on feeling better.
I remind myself that destructive behaviors no longer serve me- so if something doesn’t make me feel good then I am not under any obligation to do it. Guilt and shame are a choice, and so by reminding myself of that, I can take back power over my decisions and chose to make decisions that align with my goals. That being said, when I do fuck up – I remind myself that I don’t have to beat myself up over it. Nothing on this planet is absolutely perfect – perfection is an illusion- so we can let go of the idea that anything and everything has to be perfect. As a matter of fact, I’m not even sure I know what that word means. I believe it is a negative term that keeps up from our goals. We think we have to get it right the first time to succeed, but in my opinion, success is the accumulation of mini failures, over and over again. Each time we fall we learn a lesson about how to do it better the next time. It’s those lessons, over time that result in success. So by allowing ourselves to imperfectly chase our goals, we can more than likely achieve them. It’s not so much how often you fall, but how quickly you can get back up that keeps you in the game. When I beat myself up over poor food choices- it stops me from making the better ones needed to get back on track. So now, I just allow myself wiggle room and remind myself that feeling good is the ultimate goal.
At the end of the day, when trying to shift toward a healthier habit, it is important to figure out what feeling good means for you- and that can be different for each person. I don’t believe there is a foolproof plan or strategy to get anyone to adopt healthier habits- because we are all so different. I do think that by turning within, being gentle, consistent, and open to trying new things we can find a way that works best for ourselves.