For the past two days I participated in the VitalSmarts Influencer training course. (Be sure to watch the video to see how one person can create lasting change.) Yes, the course is crazy expensive. Yes, I’m fortunate to have an employer who invests in me. Yes, you’re lucky enough to reap the benefits if you choose to continue reading.
When I’m passionate about something, I’m a full-on, gung-ho, shout-it-from-the-rooftops, do-whatever-it-takes-to-meet-my-goal type of person. Please refer to any of my tweets regarding childhood obesity, food choices and the Kansas City Slimdown Challenge. Unfortunately, just talking about why it’s important isn’t the most effective way to influence people to follow my lead. While I know I’m walking my talk, I also understand how other people think long-term lifestyle changes are impossible. I know that mentality because I have it of other successful people every single day. “She’s different. She’s smarter than me, richer than me, had better opportunities than me. She’s got some attribute or personality quirk that I just don’t have.” I’m just a regular person, not exceptionally educated, not rich by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve never led a life of privilege. I’m a full-time wife, a full-time mother with a full-time job and a two-hour daily commute who struggles with self-esteem, procrastination and balance. I promise, there is nothing in me that can’t be found or cultivated in anyone else.
We all know it’s important to exercise and eat right. We know we should floss twice a day. We know we should pick up a book and put down the remote. And yet how many of us do these things on a consistent basis?
We’re inconsistent because we’re only focused on the outcome. If I eat right and exercise I’ll lose weight. If I floss daily I can prevent gum disease. But what are the behaviors we need to achieve that end result? What self-defeating behaviors are doing now that prevent us from reaching our goal? Those are the vital behaviors we need to focus on. Having been through my own weight issues and recent weight loss accomplishment, it was relatively easy to see which vital behaviors I employ on a daily basis and which self-defeating behaviors I’ve eliminated. According to the National Weight Loss Registry, my behaviors fall in line with other successful losers; eating breakfast, weighing myself regularly, exercising 30 minutes to an hour a day and being aware of my food choices. One self-defeating behavior I identified years ago and managed to eliminate is having junk food in my house. If there is candy in my house, I will eat it. All of it. In one sitting. So I just don’t buy it. If it isn’t in the house it’s impossible to eat it. Changing your environment – making it easier to make the right decision and difficult to make the wrong one – is a key strategy in influencing change.
Another key component is identifying crucial moments; the point in time when you reach a fork in the road, the path to your goal on the right, instant gratification and derailment on your left. How do you react to the 5:00am alarm you set because you want to exercise before work? Do you get out of bed and put on your workout clothes or do you hit snooze and make up another excuse? I get up at 4:45am to get ready for work and the 2.5 hours after work before Maddie goes to bed are devoted to family time. It’s difficult for me to find time to work out. However, regular exercise is a vital behavior to reaching my goal so I found ways to incorporate it into my day. I have a standing desk which burns additional calories and I use a walking desk for at least an hour on most days. I also identify those crucial moments when I walk past the elevators and think how much it sucks to take the stairs. But then I remember how valuable every minute of exercise is and I stick to the path of success. Of course, even on the successful path there are days you hit the snooze button. The key is to recognize that and to have a recovery plan in place. Excuses can easily trigger a domino effect. “I didn’t work out this morning so I might as well eat this donut for breakfast because my whole day is shot anyway.” On days I can’t or don’t feel like using my walking desk, I go on 15 minute walk breaks with my team members. Fifteen minutes is better than zero minutes every single time.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. My brain has been spinning with ideas of how and where to apply these strategies in my personal and professional life. Aside from the assigned work practicum (which I’m extremely excited about), I’m creating change plans for my procrastination (well, at least procrastination regarding my finances) and for this very blog. My last post was 2 months ago and while I’ve been blogging on a regular basis for work, there are 5 unfinished drafts for this blog. This course showed me that while my intentions are good my execution was lacking. It sharpened my focus. Now I’m better equipped to share what I know and help others join me on this path.