Do your decisions feel like a chore or a choice?

A blog popped into my inbox last month from my colleague Conni Medina titled Choose Your Words Wisely. I recently wrote about elevating the conversations we have with ourselves so I eagerly read her piece. Spot on.

Her focus was on a particular set of words, those that hint at obligation rather than choice, like “should” and “have to.”  These are words I hear in every coaching call. In every prospect call. In almost every conversation I have with myself and others. We say them without question.

Many years ago, I trained with a Registered Dietician to learn nutrition and intuitive eating concepts. She told a story of finishing with her last patient of the day and as they left together, she casually said “I have to go to the gym.” Her patient, wheelchair-bound, said “you don’t have to go to the gym; you get to go to the gym.”

Consider the times you say those words:

  • I have to cook dinner for my family
  • I shouldn’t eat any more
  • I should exercise

Can we say drudgery? Deprivation?

But what if we change those around:

  • I choose to cook dinner for my family
  • I’ve decided to stop eating when I’m satiated
  • I’ve committed to regular exercise

When we use the language of choice, we use the language of freedom. And our brains like that much better than feeling forced to do something. But as Conni wrote, sometimes feeling obligated may indicate that you’re over-committed or doing things you don’t enjoy. How do you know the difference?

Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

Ask yourself and trust the answer. For example, would you commit to the project/position/task all over again? Would you bow out if given the opportunity? Would you make a difference choice today?

You don’t “have to” do anything. Sure, there are consequences to not doing the thing (like paying taxes), but be honest with yourself that it’s a choice.

Once you identify what you genuinely don’t want to do anymore, consider how you can remove yourself from those duties.

For the others, be purposeful with your words. Use the language of choice. You’ll notice an entirely different relationship to the tasks. Doing the things becomes easier. In some cases, effortless.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if losing weight and keeping it off, felt more effortless? It can be. Let’s talk!

Time travel…the helpful trade secret of women who know how to lose weight

I was bored. It was a Wednesday night. I could work more. Do laundry. Read a book. Clean the bathroom. Cook dinner. But none of that felt satisfying.

My brain thought a glass of Chardonnay and a slice of six grain bread with locally pressed olive oil from the farmers market would solve my boredom.

I could even imagine it. I could taste it. It tasted good. It felt good. So not boring.

Nice try, brain.

But I have both in my house. They’re not “off limits.” You might wonder, “what’s the big deal, Heather?”

The big deal is trusting myself in the small things. Like not eating food I don’t need an hour before dinner. And not drinking on a Wednesday night.

So, I travel in time to Thursday morning and I imagine having not given into the urge and how that would feel. Pleased and well rested came to mind. Empowered that I can keep my word to myself in ways that seem insignificant but add up to big results.

I also imagine how I would feel if I drank the wine and ate the bread, an hour before dinner. Thursday morning Heather felt foggy and a little off. She felt disappointed.

In that moment on a Wednesday night with the urge to drink wine and eat bread, I simply allowed myself to feel bored. I knew it would pass. It wasn’t a problem to solve. I went about the task of making dinner, occasionally noticing boredom and being okay with it.

The helpful trade secret of women who know how to lose weight. I was bored. It was a Wednesday night. I wanted wine & bread. Nice try, brain.
Photo by Anna Kumpan on Unsplash

Giving in to a momentary urge only makes it easier for us to give in the next time. And the next time.

You probably have goals and a picture of your future self having achieved them. Spend time imagining what it feels like to be her and how she would counsel you today, in a moment when you feel less than motivated. When you don’t feel like it. When you think “eff it.”

And here’s another thing – celebrate the small win. Later that Wednesday night after dinner, and the urge had long passed, I gave myself kudos for sticking to my plan and taking care of myself. That makes it more likely I’ll keep my word to myself next time, too.

What time travel allows you to do is to become the watcher of the present moment. You don’t get hooked into the primitive brain’s desire for instant gratification but can observe it as your future self. From a place of love and care, wanting the best for you, she gives you just the advice you need.

Losing weight in the moment often doesn’t feel good. Peeling away layers of unhelpful habits, sitting with urges and feeling crappy, making new decisions and trying new things…it can feel really hard. That’s why things like celebrating the daily wins and imagining “Tomorrow You” are so important. Each time your honor your commitment to yourself it gets easier the next time. And the next time.

And then you are the future you. And she gives you a big high five.

5 tested strategies to achieve what you really want

She said, “I’m trying to lose weight.” But her actions are off and on. She’s trying, but what really happens?

Not much.

Trying is the verb we use to justify our lack of action. Our excuse. Then we struggle with the cognitive dissonance of wanting to do something and feeling like we can’t.

Someone trying to lose weight is trying to do things like:

  • exercise in the mornings
  • drink more water
  • pack a lunch for work
  • get to bed earlier
  • stop snacking

But she does it haphazardly, if at all. She has a lot of reasons why she’s not doing it.

Here’s the thing. If I tell myself I’m trying but never make progress, I feel like crap. I reinforce that I can’t do it.

This “someone” is a picture of hundreds of people I’ve coached and talked with over 20+ years. I’m also in that picture. But I’ve discovered how not to let my excuses sidetrack me from what’s most important.

trying to lose weight
Photo by Nitish Meena on Unsplash

Trust me, it’s possible to go from trying to doing. Here are five powerful strategies I use to follow through on what I really want:

  1. Determine importance: On a 1(low)-10(high) scale, how meaningful is what you’re trying to do? If it’s not at least an 8 consider two options: 1) find reasons to increase the importance (your reasons, not your mom’s or partner’s) or 2) focus your attention on something else that’s more important. Chances are you’re “trying” in that area, too. I’ve set goals that I later decided I wasn’t that interested in. It felt great to stop trying!
  2. Expect difficulty: When we think about our plans, they’re reasonable. But in the moment, we feel like doing something else. In fact, we’re used to doing something else. Plan for it to be hard. And remind yourself of past hard things you’ve done. Feel free to borrow a mantra many of my clients use: “This is hard and I can do hard things.” Repeat it. Over and over.
  3. Decide ahead of time: You know your partner offers you ice cream after dinner. He’s so sweet that way. It’s not a surprise. Decide: will you have ice cream? If so, how much? Be specific. If not, what will you say when he offers? How will you handle the urge to eat ice cream and not eat it? Practice it mentally beforehand. It will still be hard, but practice helps. And you can do hard things. 😉
  4. Focus in: Don’t try to change too many things at once. If you want to stop overeating, drink less wine and start exercising, choose one. Then apply all you’ve got to that one thing. Build up integrity with yourself for follow-through. Then choose another. Cool thing is, clients often see positive changes in one area leading to others.
  5. Outcome above time: If you emotionally invest in a timeline, you can get all twisted up. Like losing weight by a certain date or for an event. Set the date and kick into gear. Believe you’ll succeed. But if at that time you haven’t reached it, so what? You can keep doing what you know will get you there or stop and revert back. What will it be? (Hint: KEEP GOING)

Losing weight is hard enough without trying. That doesn’t mean you want to go on and on about how hard it is. That makes it harder! Simply notice and respond.

Accomplishing anything important requires we dig deep and become an even better version of ourselves. Trying to lose weight is no different. Think of the skills you will acquire to reach your goals? Think of who you are when you follow through and keep your commitments to yourself.

How amazing will that feel?

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