Step 12: Trick yourself into changing your choices

For some reason we humans tend to look at things in terms of dichotomies:

  • black/white
  • less/more 
  • right/wrong
  • go to the gym/stay home
  • etc.

If you’re going to do something why not do it all the way, right? ;)

Last week I turned 30 and I have to admit I spent the whole week celebrating. My reasoning: well, I started the week eating unhealthy stuff and have so many parties and social things to do I might as well just keep eating bad the whole week….

So I presented myself with choices like:

  • Write another blog post or relax.
  • Eat a brownie or have no dessert at all.
  • Go to Starbucks or having nothing for breakfast.

I know, I know. Not the smartest decisions, but I know I’m not the only one who is guilty of all or nothing thinking. When I was learning to be a teacher at the University of Montana a professor told me something I’ll never forget: Many student teachers make the mistake of giving their students ultimatums. For example, “Do your work or go to the Principal’s office.” Obviously, the student teacher immediately laments their decision to give the student a choice when students dig in their heels and chooses the Principal.

My professor suggested that we avoid this by never giving students a choice we don’t want them to make. All or nothing decisions can end badly (students in the Principal’s office aren’t studying) and they are ultimately unnecessary. Instead, a smart teacher will do what quizzes, polls and surveys often do. Present you with a few unappealing choices (all of which will result in something good) and let you pick the path that sucks the least for you. For example, “Read a chapter from the book or write in your journal for 15 minutes.” Neither is appealing to a stubborn student, but given the choice, they may prefer one more than another.

I’m not going to go into WHY I think people tend to think in dichotomies, but this morning I propose using a brilliant mental ‘trick’ to help yourself avoid all or nothing thinking.

The Step:

Trick yourself into changing your choices.

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Here’s How to Do It:

  1. Consider the “bad” and/or extreme decisions you make often that you’d like to change.
  2. Think about alternatives you can give yourself.
  3. The next time you need to make a decision, pay attention to your thoughts.
  4. If you’re giving yourself a “good vs bad” type choice, change the decision from “good vs. bad” and give yourself a few choices you dislike. For example, instead of: Eat ice cream or have nothing for dessert; make the choice: Have fruit or yogurt for dessert.
  5. Stick with your decision. You’ve picked something you don’t want to do the hardest part is to dig in your heels and really commit to your decision.
  6. Pat yourself on the back if you go through with it. If you don’t go through with it think about why this might be and try again.
  7. Practice! The best way to get better at good decision making is by doing it over and over again. Keep at it.

Don’t forget to let me know how it goes too!

If you’re just joining us,  you can get caught up on all the steps here and If you’d like to your weekly step in your inbox sign up for a subscription to my blog in the sidebar!

Step 11: Make yourself proud

Today I read a great blog post by And Then We Saved called, “17 Things To Do Today That Will Make You Proud of Yourself In A Year” and just loved the idea. In her post, Anna says,

“In just one year, watch how making small investments or spending habit adjustments will implement lasting benefits in your lifestyle.”

It struck me that the same is clearly true for our health: Making small, healthy changes to one’s life can pay massive dividends in the future. So, since I’m not a fan of making goals for other people, I thought I’d set down this step as a challenge.

The Step:

Write a list of things of 10 actions that you can finish (soon) that will make you proud in one year’s time and do them.

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How:

  1. Commit to writing your list this week.
  2. Set a reminder so you don’t forget!
  3. Write items that will have a lasting effect (For example, I wrote “Clean my office,” but, let’s face it, it will be dirty before the month is out, and I won’t have a lasting sense of pride).
  4. When you are finished with your list, re-examine each item. Ask yourself, “will I be proud of this accomplishment in a year?
  5. Print your list and/or post it where you can see it.
  6. Make a plan for completing each item before 12/31/2013.
  7. GO!

Bonus: Here’s my list!

    1. Train for, and complete, the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic.
    2. Read I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi.
    3. Start reading more about personal finance and revisit my budgeting system.
    4. Create a tradition with my best friend: Schedule an annual girl’s trip.
    5. Actually plant something in our garden.
    6. Clean out my closets (again) and donate the unwanted clothes to charity.
    7. Get my blogs on a proper host.
    8. Set-up automatic savings for my retirement.
    9. Take a vacation with hubs this summer.
    10. Start making all my lunches (no pre-made meals because I’m in a hurry).

As you can see, not all my list items are “health” items per se…. (Although, one could argue that mental and financial health go a long way towards physical health as well). ;) After you’re finished with your list SHARE IT WITH ME by leaving a comment. I’d love to see what you guys are working on.

P.S. If you’re just joining us, read all about 52 weeks, 52 steps here.

52 Steps to Health – Step 10: Embrace the difficult

“I want to get healthy, but I don’t like vegetables.”

“I hear yoga is really good for you, but I’m not that flexible”

“I want to take Zumba at the gym, but I don’t want to look like an idiot in front of others.”

Every positive thing in life comes with something negative. As Seth Godin once wrote, “You don’t get to just do the good parts.

Of course. :)

Sometimes it seems like every time things in life start to feel ok (or even awesome) there is something else to push through or work towards or fight to overcome. What’s worse is the difficult always leaves this awful, uncomfortable, “dread” feeling that is sometimes difficult to shake. Some people (most?) avoid that feeling as much as they can.

There is another approach, however, that is better than avoidance, better than fighting, and better than waiting for something difficult to go away.

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The Step:

Embrace the difficult.

How:

  1. Chose something difficult that’s happening in your life (or something difficult you’d like to try)
  2. Chose a time and/or place THIS WEEK to get the thing done and commit to it: Put it on your calendar, make a mental note, ask a friend to go with you, etc.
  3. Decide how you’re going to EMBRACE the awful, uncomfortable, “dread” feeling:
  • If you’re going to your first ever Zumba class and dread looking like a complete fool, find a tutu or a pair of polka dot knee socks and embrace the dread!
  • If you’ve been avoiding your taxes because you dread how much money you owe, make a date with your significant other and battle it together. Set up some healthy snacks, some good music and reward yourselves when you’re finished.
  • If you hate vegetables (and/or hate to cook) plan a new meal with ingredients you’d like to try. Look up new recipes  buy yourself cool new tools for the kitchen, put on some music, invite friends over and make it an event.
  • Having a problem at work? Be proactive and talk to someone about it over a cup of coffee on you. Remember to stay professional when you explain the situation and ask for help.

This week I challenge you to EMBRACE THE DIFFICULT.

I’ll be embracing it by (finally) doing my taxes this week and giving myself some sort of awesome reward. Hmmmmm. What should it be?

P.S. If you’re just joining us, read all about 52 weeks, 52 steps here. You can get caught up on all the steps here  and If you’d like to your weekly step in your inbox sign up for a subscription to my blog!

Step 9: Help Others

When your airplane is going down and the oxygen masks are deployed the instructions say to put your own mask on before assisting others.

But what happens once you’ve put your own mask on?

If you’re up for it, you help those around you.

Now that you’ve been taking steps towards health for 9+ weeks it might be time for you to look around and pass on some good, healthy habits. In fact, you may already be helping others. If you cook for your family, they might already be eating better; if you’re taking regular walks, you may have coerced a person or two into joining you; and if you’re visiting the gym regularly, you might have unknowingly inspiring others who have witnessed your determination.

If any of the above are true then you know: When you help others, you help yourself.

After be the victim of someone elses attempt to help last week, I thought this week I’d like to encourage you to help someone in way that doesn’t actually harm them

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The Step:

Help someone this week.

How:

First, consider the following:

  • Your heart should be in it. Don’t “help” someone begrudgingly or because you think you should. Examine your intentions and your motivation.
  • Don’t assume people want or need your help.
  • Help, don’t harm.

Here are some ideas for helping in a positive way:

  • Share your story with no one in particular (don’t focus it on one person). Start a blog, an Instagram feed, or a Twitter account and get the word out there.
  • Cook a healthy meal for a group of people that you love.
  • Volunteer your time to a cause that promotes health.
  • Invite friends out for a walk or to a class at the gym.
  • Give someone a call and ask them what they’re up to.
  • Find someone who is interested in going to the gym regularly and ask them if you can motivate each other.

Do you have other ways to help without harming? I’d love to hear them!

Step 8: Eat more fruits and vegetables

It’s no surprise that there are many benefits to eating fruits and vegetables. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases and fruits and vegetables also provide essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and other substances that are important for good health (source ). In fact, many now believe that at least half your plate for each meal should be fruits and vegetables.

While I can’t tell you what’s right or wrong in terms of your diet and your body, I can say that I feel healthier, lighter, and more satisfied when I have fruits and/or veggies with every meal.

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The Step:

Eat fruits and/or vegetables with every meal and snack.

How:

  1. Commit to the challenge of eating a fruit and/or vegetable with every meal or snack
  2. Spend today finding new recipes that include fruits and veggies you love and would like to try.
  3. Make a list and go shopping for your favorite fruits and veggies. Make sure you have enough fresh produce for the next few days.
  4. Pick a trigger that will remind you to eat a fruit or veggie with every meal or snack. For example:
  • Keep an apple or banana at your desk.
  • Stock up your fridge with ready-to-eat carrot slices.
  • Plan a new meal that sounds yummy and exciting.
  • Start each meal or snack with your fruit and veggies and then move on to the other stuff you have prepared.

Good luck!

P.S. Are you participating in 52 weeks, 52 steps? How is it going?

P.P.S. If you’re just joining us, you can read all about 52 weeks, 52 steps and get caught up on all the steps here. If you’d like to your weekly step in your inbox sign up for a subscription to my blog here.