In the last few weeks I’ve been working very hard on the upcoming balance book. There’s been a lot of planning, writing, editing, re-writing, researching and tea drinking. The structure is now complete start to finish and I’m busy filling in the bits of content.
I thought I’d share some of these bits with you as I go along, to give you a flavour of what the book is like and to offer you some useful help with your health, fitness and wellbeing. This first piece comes from the very start of the book as it has the potential to impact everything you do from setting goals to making changes. It’s all about your values; I hope you find it helpful.
Values - what’s important to you in life?
“Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you perform better when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals, and values are in balance.”
What is important to you in your life? What do you believe in? What guiding principles do you wish to live by? These might seem like strange questions to ask here, but they’re hugely important to the lifestyle changes that you are considering making. Why you might ask? Let’s take a look.
A former client of mine, Emily, wanted to lose a stone. We’d agree targets and actions but when we came to review her progress, she’d never achieve them, saying she just felt that she wasn’t the sort of person who could lose weight. This went on for a while, until in one of our sessions, she mentioned that she had a young daughter who’d suffered with an eating disorder, although she was now much better.
We discussed how the impact this had on her and she realised that she was worried that her losing weight might set her daughter off on the wrong path again. To Emily, her daughter was the most important thing in the world and she constantly worried about her. She realised that she was so concerned for her daughter that, whenever she was around, she would eat in order to try to encourage her to do the same.
We talked about how eating too much and being overweight could also be unhealthy, and she said that she would talk to her daughter about her weight-loss goals. As it turned out, her daughter wasn’t worried about it in the slightest and actively encouraged her mom to get fitter and healthier, which she duly achieved over the next few months. Emily’s strong family values had at first hindered her progress because she hadn’t found a way to reconcile them with her other health goals. Once she had, she was in the right place to achieve them.
What I saw with Emily was the she placed the thing most important to her at the top of her list. Her daughter was more important to her than her own health. And it’s the same for everyone; we all have things in our world that are vitally important to us. For some people, it’s family, for others it may be friendships, success, health, wealth, trust, adventure, compassion, or learning. The difficulty comes when we want to do something to improve our health, fitness or wellbeing, but we feel in our heads that this may in some way negatively impact on our values.
Not everyone places health high up their values list, nor should they. Your values are unique to you; they began forming at a very early age through life experiences and the influence of those close to you and changing them is hard. The great news is, you don’t have to change them, all you need to do if you want to get fitter and healthier is find a way to balance the changes you feel you should make with your values. For example, if relaxation is an important value for you and you currently smoke to help you relax when things are stressful at work, giving up smoking may not work unless you find an alternative way to unwind. Equally if career success to ensure you can look after those dear to you is your most important value, it can be hard to find time to fit exercise and healthy eating into your daily routine. Recognising that being fitter and healthier can help you achieve career success through increased energy, concentration and motivation is an important step, as is making changes that still allow you to work as hard as you feel is needed.
Interestingly, I know that my own values often cause challenges for me in a different way. I place being fit and healthy at the very top of the tree as I feel it helps me with everything else, but sometimes I’ll prioritise doing a workout over my tax return or getting more sleep over meeting a deadline. The key is to find the right balance.
What are your values?
Step 1: Check out the task in the link below, created by William Miller and colleagues. Miller, along with another colleague called Stephen Rollnick, created a form of coaching known as Motivational Interviewing which has been hugely successful in helping people to change, with a recent review of the scientific studies done on the topic stating that it ‘outperforms traditional advice giving in the treatment of a broad range of behavioural problems.
You can add any values that you feel are missing, or even skip the task and simply make a list of the things you feel are extremely important to you in your life.
Whichever way you do it, you should finish by selecting the FIVE most important values to you overall.
Step 2: Look at your five most important values. Might they in any way negatively impact your health, fitness and wellbeing?
Step 3: Do they positively impact your health, fitness and wellbeing at all?
Step 4: How might being fitter and healthier help you to live more in line with your values?
You should now have a good idea of what’s important to you and understand how these things might be both problematic and beneficial for your health, fitness and wellbeing. Being able to link any lifestyle changes back to your personal values can be a fantastic tool to motivate you to stick at them and maybe even make more changes in future.