1) Your health, fitness and wellbeing is mostly influenced by your most frequent health behaviours; the things that you do day-in, day-out that affect you for better or worse. You can get a bit fitter and healthier in 7 days, even more so in 21 days and achieve even more in three months, but you also have to keep doing these things to stay that way, and that never changes. It is a lifelong quest, the ‘game’ of life if you like, and you have to learn to play in a way that works for you, one that’s sustainable and allows you to do more of the better things, more often, so that you feel good the majority of the time.
2) You have the absolute power to control these behaviours, and therefore to control your health, fitness and wellbeing. For some of you, there are absolutely things that impact your health and nothing you can do about them. The key is in accepting that some things are beyond your control and focusing on improving and expanding the bits that are. You’ve got to work with what you’ve got.
3) There is no failure, only feedback. Change is not the same for everyone. Sometimes making a change is quick and easy, at others it’s long and complicated. We will not always succeed in our attempts first time, second, or even third. We will however succeed eventually if we keep going. We definitely won’t if we give up. Even staying the same requires persistence; you might have a ‘bad’ week because of a holiday or a celebration, but that’s cool, it’s just about learning from it and as mentioned above, accepting it and moving on.
These are the three tenets of the new balance book and online challenges/games that I’m working on. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share some of my thoughts around these with you in more depth; coping and behaviour change strategies that I use with clients to help them discover a mindset that makes the changes they want more likely.
Let’s start at a really important place; your ability to control your health, fitness and wellbeing. There’s this thing called Locus of Control; nope not locusts, they’re giant insects! It’s all about whether we feel we have control of something, giving us an ‘internal locus of control’ or if we feel it’s beyond us to manage right now, meaning it has an ‘external locus.
So, for example, health behaviours that have an internal locus of control for you might be:
• I can choose to swap an alcoholic drink in the evenings for a non-alcoholic choice; I know I can as I’ve done it before and it was easy
• I know I can walk or cycle into work as I have all the kit and there are showers and secure bike storage there
• I have an hour spare in the evenings where I could do a workout at home or go for a run.
Whereas things in your external locus of control right now might be:
• I have an ongoing medical condition; it’s genetic and some days it can leave me feeling too tired to do anything
• I have to get the kids to school in the mornings and then get to work so I know there’s no time for me to exercise there
• I don’t buy the food shopping so I can’t control what we have in the cupboards
The aim over time should be to increase the size of our internal locus of control, whilst reducing the external locus. If it helps to remember it, imagine you’re on ‘I’m a Celebrity’, slowly eating one Locust at a time so that you have more and more inside you. And if it doesn’t help, stop that thought right now.
A little question to ask yourself
Get a pen and a piece of paper. Make two columns:
1) Internal Locus - Things that affect my health/fitness/wellbeing (or whatever your specific goal is) that are WITHIN my control.
2) External Locus - Things that affect my health/fitness/wellbeing (or whatever your specific goal is) that I CANNOT control right now.
Study the list…
Is there anything that you said was within your control that you’re not doing to the best of your abilities right now? Could you go back to not drinking in the week or using that free hour to get on your exercise bike whilst you watch TV? If there’s a couple, just pick one to work on for now, the others can come later.
If you’re already nailing your Internal Locus bits, ask yourself,
‘could I do anything to gain more control over something on my External Locus list?’
It can be a very small thing; you may do some of the food shopping yourself, or even just sit with your partner and make the list together so you have more influence on what they bring home. If it seems hard to find something, think about the things you’re already controlling and see if any of the things you do there or the skills you possess that enable you to achieve these could be transferred across.
Control is confidence
You’ve chosen something. How does that feel already? It’s unlikely you’ve done it yet as you only chose it a few seconds ago, but still, you’ll often find it brings a sense of relaxation, a confidence that you can achieve things. This positive mindset also brings with it a sense of resilience, a change in thought-process, which means that even if you try and it doesn’t work first time, it’s not the end of the world, you’ll keep tweaking it and trying again until you get there. We’ll look more at the mindset of persistence very soon; it can be learned and it will help you achieve awesome stuff!
You can repeat this process at regular intervals; weekly is good, each time seeing if you can take charge of one more behaviour, increasing the size of your internal locus of control and bringing you step-by-step closer to better balance.
Stay balanced and enjoy the journey,