(How to not fail in your healthy lifestyle plans)

Article by gill Cummings-Bell BA (Hon’s) M.Sc. MBA. PGCE

New year resolutions concept with open notebook, pen, colorful sticky note and eye glasses on wooden desk

Many of us have heard of, or read, the book by Stephen Covey, ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’. When I think of the book, I often can’t remember the 7 habits however, I do remember the title, especially when I am feeling less effective than I should be. When I go through periods like this I always want to dig the book out to remind myself of what I might not be doing that is making me feel less effective

Sticking to the habits of a healthy lifestyle to include healthy eating and active living through daily movement and exercise is one of these times. Why do I fail at my healthy lifestyle choices? and what can I do to make myself more effective and succeed with a healthy lifestyle? It is all about ‘living right’.

Stephen Covey explains in his book that the habits are basic, and primary. When I think of that statement alone, I agree. Healthy eating and active living through daily movement is basic and primary. I believe it is! I also believe that the environment in which we live, our addiction to comfort living and to food leads us to override what is a basic physiological need. In overriding it, we live in a different way.

Covey goes onto explain that we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. (Aristotl). I firmly believe that our failure to stick to our healthy plan is founded in this ethos.

Is living healthily something you repeatedly do? That is an interesting question. If you have set yourself healthy eating plans, exercise or active living plans on a weekly or daily basis that are not what you normally do, and do not fit in with your lifestyle, then how can you possibly hope to achieve excellence in them. I believe you need to make healthy eating, movement and exercise something you always do. A habit. How do you create the habit?  According to Covey there are 7 crucial steps.

These are the 7 habits.

  1. Be Pro-active

Slide2Around you, you will have a circle of influence (an environment or people that will help you succeed, cheer leaders and buddies) and a circle of concern (an environment or people (saboteurs, hecklers and poor environments, that will lead you to fail). This may be work colleagues, family, your work canteen, the garage on the way into work.

Consider these and decide what fits into your circle of influence (your help to change) and what fits in your circle of concern, i.e. what may lead you to fail. Actually, sit down and draw the two circles and put everything that influences your food choices in one of the two circles. Healthy,  in your influences, and unhealthy in your concern.

Look for ideas on how to expand your circle of influence and how you can reduce your circle of concern, or avoid environments or people in your circle of concern. You must do this so that you can be prepared to face the challenges that could lead you to fail.

  1. Begin with the end in mind

Draw yourself a picture in your mind of what life might be like when you achieve healthy eating and living. Visualise yourself in that new outfit, or taking up that new activity, becoming that healthy person. If you don’t have this vision how can you plan to reach it. Share your vision with the people in your circle of influence and let them help you plan towards achieving your vision.

  1. Put first things first

Business and healthy lifestyle concept. Portrait of young office woman sitting cross-legged in half lotus yoga pose at workplace. Smiling business lady meditating after finishing her work

Are you a leader, and or, a manager? I believe you need to be both to succeed in a healthy lifestyle. Firstly, you must manage food, movement and exercise choices every day. I meet a lot of clients who say to me ‘I couldn’t do that today because I had a work meeting and they provided xyz for lunch’. Succumbing to someone else’s choices, is you being neither a leader or a manager. That is you being led. If you have a nut allergy and work provided nuts, would you not manage that situation and tell them beforehand. If your life depended on it, you would. Well ‘wake up and smell the coffee’. Your life does depend on your food, movement and exercise choices. You are ruining your health with unhealthy choices and slowly killing yourself, if you are not moving every day and eating a healthy balanced diet.

You need to take control and be the manager of your lifestyle. You need to lead the people around you to help you change the environment in which you live, work or travel. This will lead you to success. You are an adult, and adult choices are yours to make. Manage your circles, lead your circle of concern people to become your circle of influencers. Show them that it can be done.

  1. Think win win win

This is looking for mutually beneficial solutions that allow everyone in your relationships to be winners and benefit from your healthy lifestyle choices. This will ultimately lead to healthy long term relationships. Look for long term resolutions, not just ‘New Year resolutions’. If there are environmental influencers or people in your circle of concern that will lead you to failure, you need to change this long term. i.e. If you’re having a bad day and you drive home and go to a garage and buy chocolate, then look for a better resolution. Drive to the garage and use the pump with just the card machine. Don’t fill the car when your down or hungry. Go straight to the counter, don’t wander around the shelves. Look for the long-term resolution that can become a habit.

  1. Seek first to understand. Then to be understood.

Start to learn about food and movement, what is good healthy food, where can I buy it, how can I make it interesting and exciting. How can I move more everyday?  What is bad food, why should I avoid it. Why is it bad. Having confidence in anything we do as an adult, comes from knowing and understanding what we do. How can we hope to achieve something we don’t understand? Once you understand, share this knowledge,  use your leadership and management skills to help others understand. You can use your influencers to work with you to help your circle of concern people understand your journey.

  1. Synergize

Combine the strength of your influencers. When you’re feeling, you can’t make the right choices then let them know, hang out in your influencer environment. Use their influence and strength to help you make the right choices. Don’t try to do this on your own. You live your life with people and relationships. You need to synergize those with your healthy lifestyle choices. 

  1. Sharpen the saw

Balance and renew your resources, energy, and health to create a long term effective healthy lifestyle. This will take good work life balance (some YOU time), good movement and exercise, healthy eating, fluid, sleep and fresh air. Service your body and mind like you would your car. You wouldn’t run your car for years without repair and an MOT.  This is about developing the habits and keep working on them. Grow them upwards towards success. Commit to them and consciously work on them. Give yourself the power to make choices and you will move yourself along the path of success and change.