Effective behavior change involves making small changes that will actually stick long-term. We discuss some of the sustainable strategies our health coaches use to help patients define and achieve these goals.
Redefine Your Goal
Author James Clear of Atomic Habits suggests that we replace our outcome-based goals with identity-based goals.1 For example, instead of aiming to hit the gym 3 days a week, refocus to become a gym-goer. Remember that friend who tells you to dress for the job you want? Apply that to your health goals. Embody the version of yourself you want to become.
Big changes require lots of motivation. Unfortunately, that burst of energy you get to start making a big change probably won’t last very long. Small changes that require less energy are easier to acquire and maintain. Dr. Jeffrey A. Morrison suggests starting small with the Daily Benefit program to initiate the process of impactful change. Pair this action with health coaching to take on smaller dietary habits that cause less friction.
First of all, what is friction? In science, we refer to it as the resistance that occurs when two surfaces rub against each other. With people, it’s the conflict that arises when ideas clash. When talking about changing habits with our health coaches, friction is whatever makes achieving your goal more difficult. Our current habits (both bad and good) exist because they reduce some kind of friction. Take your morning coffee as an example. You may drink coffee in the morning to reduce the friction of having to get up early. Your reward is a tasty brew that stimulates your mind and body. When trying to adopt a new habit, think about how to reduce chances of it causing friction, and ways it can directly reduce existing friction.
Be Very Specific
When introducing a new habit, be as specific as possible. If you are going to be someone who eats more vegetables, consider making a list of what vegetables you would like to eat more of. Take it a step further and jot down how you’ll prepare these vegetables. Next, plan when you’ll eat those veggies. Try your best to make this introduction as failproof as possible.
Sound weird? Well, you actually already do it and it’s called your routine. Introducing a new habit involves fitting it into that routine. Let’s continue with our vegetable-eating example. You can stack this new habit with your already existing habits of shopping for your own groceries and cooking dinner at home. If you tend to eat out more, order a side of veggies or a more-plant based dish whenever you go out for lunch during the workweek. Bottom line: connect the new habit to an already existing one.
Consider Working with a Health Coach
We understand that all of this can be easier said than done. You are not expected to go through it alone. Our team of health coaches is happy to help you identify the triggers for bad habits, rewards for good habits, and personalized strategies to help you become the health-conscious person you want to be. Call our office to find out more: 212-989-9828.
- Clear J. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. Penguin Random House; 2018.