“I’ll start Monday!”
“I have a vacation coming up, I’ll do it after.”
“You know, this month is really busy. I’ll try again next month…”
It’s true, all of these reasons are valid to not get started working on your goals. It would be much easier if it was Monday… and you weren’t traveling… and you didn’t have a busy month. But how well has waiting for the perfect time worked for you in that past? (crickets) That’s what I thought.
The truth is there is never a perfect time. Yes, there are certainly better times but never a perfect time. We don’t live in a world where time or space is irrelevant. We all have careers, families, friends, social lives, appointments, vacations. All amazing things but all things that could ‘derail’ us from starting if we choose to adopt that mindset.
It’s black and white thinking at its finest.
Black and white, dichotomous thinking is a cognitive distortion, or thinking error, that can cripple us from every creating long term, sustainable solutions because of its rigidity. In practice, it looks like you’re either all in or you’re all out. You operate on the spectrum of 0 to 100, with no in between.
But what about instead of always being 0 or 100, why not aim for 85? Or 70? Or hell, even 50? 50 is not great, ideal or optimal but it’s certainly better than 0. This might seem obvious, but we often convince ourselves if it’s not perfect, it’s not worth trying.
And this is the mindset that keeps us stuck in the same negative patterns and loops we’ve been in for years.
So, how do we change this? Let’s work through a common client situation.
Let’s say this client has gone through many cycle of dieting with a more rigid approach – think elimination diets, meal plans with no substitutions and the like. They find initial success because they’re highly motivated. This client can generally stick with the plan for a few months at a time and get good at saying no. But after a few months, the motivation dwindles and the there’s more yes’s than no’s. And instead of falling ‘off’ and getting back ‘on’ for a few months, now they’re lucky if they can manage to get to Friday without ‘eating off the plan.’
At this point, the client is frustrated and feels defeated. Their initial reaction is to push harder with restriction, that must be the answer! And I’ll be honest, sometimes there needs to be more discipline in a clients routine. Sometimes, that is the reason they’re not successful. As a coach, asking the right questions and having an open dialogue with your clients will allow you to figure that out. But more times than not, it’s not just discipline. It’s the “this must be perfect, or f*#k it” mentality we discussed before.
In that case (and to be honest, in most) we have to reverse engineer the problem. Where exactly is the client struggling?
Are they having trouble planning out their week and that’s what derailing them?
Are they someone who travels a lot and has to deal with the unexpected?
Are they not able to navigate eating out with coworkers for lunch?
What about making dinner for the whole family or their significant others?
These are just a few examples of how and where a client could be finding themselves either being all in or all out. But these are the exact situations that we find ourselves in day in and day out. This is why building flexible and sustainable habits is essential for long term success, regardless of the specific goal!
Let’s take the example where the client has to navigate eating lunch out with coworkers.
An all or nothing mentality would have the client either say “no way can I go because it’s off my plan” or “well, I’m already eating out might as well order a burger with fries…” Neither approach is inherently wrong because sometimes, saying no is the best option; and sometimes, getting a burger with fries is perfectly acceptable. But the most reasonable way to approach this is to instead make the best choice on the menu that fits within your current goals and stick with your plan the best you can.
Making that best choice might not be what you want to eat in that exact moment nor will it likely be as ‘perfect’ as if you had prepped and brought the meal from home. But it will be much closer to 100 than 0 and it certainly will bring you one step closer to your goals. And ultimately, that’s how long term changes are made.
As with everything, these habits take a long time to build. For some, it might be years. Yes, years! But wouldn’t a 1-3 year investment be better than a lifetime of yo-yo dieting and hating your relationship with food? I think yes.