Time and again I am struck by the difference between knowing what to do and actually being able to get into action to do it. Do you find that you also get stuck? Are you too sometimes run by the SHOULDS and OUGHT TO’s instead of something deeper? I thought it was a motivation problem……
It had been years since I routinely had practiced the exercise rituals my body so needed and desired. Since I was transitioning from working a 50+ hour executive work week I “thought” this was the perfect time to renew my program. And yet, I still couldn’t make myself get started. My mind said I needed to do it for health reasons, but my body just wasn’t ready to get in action.
Here are some of the thoughts that danced in my head:
“I’m gonna get Moving and really work on improving my diet and exercise!”
“I’ve worked fulltime for 28 years leading teams, raising my kids, going to school, giving back…I think I will give myself permission to do anything I want. “
“It’s been ages since I’ve had time to just “Be”. I am looking forward to it!”
“I am by nature a kinesthetic learner – I love to move. This is so GREAT! I now can finally do some things I want without worrying about deadlines or pending projects!”
“I think I’ll just take a Yoga or a Tai Chi class. Maybe I can start walking a couple of miles a day – you know – 2 in the morning, 2 at night.”
“Perhaps I can get back in balance…maybe I can even finish studying to take my National Wellness Certification exam.”
“Yes! I can…I can…I can…Maybe I can…”
That’s what I told myself and my husband. “Whatever you want to do is fine with me,” he said.
I thought it would be a snap to start new habits and finally take care of my body the way I knew I should now that I no longer had the excuse of “I just can’t find the time.”
But I didn’t. I started my course but put it on hold over the Holidays. For whatever reason I just needed to stand still. I just could NOT set any hard and fast goals.
With this newfound time I reconnected with friends I hadn’t seen in years and enjoyed wonderful conversations. Once in a blue moon some of those “convos” happened walking around the block but mostly I met with friends over breakfast or lunch or coffee enjoying the atmosphere and ambience of surroundings I hadn’t been to in years.
And in my other spare time I read, and read, and read.
Mystery novels, romance novels, coaching and tidying up hardbacks, self-help paperbacks on meditation and eating right; I reread classics like Jane Eyre and Sherlock Holmes, not so classic novels like Dan Brown’s Inferno and the new classics – all J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter fantasy novels and Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness.
In my past whenever I started a book I generally couldn’t put it down until I finished it and everything else stopped. Now that I had time, well, that was no exception.
Ravenous reading gratified all my senses. I experienced vicariously many of the life domains so beautifully depicted in John Travis’s Wellness Inventory Wheel. Sensing, Eating, Feeling, Thinking, Playing & Working, Intimacy and Finding Meaning – seven of his 12 life domains – were alive and well through books and the time spent with family, friends and grandchildren. I wanted to find my next move in my career as well. I was having a ball.
I’d read until Midnight, read until Mid-day, read throughout the Night, go to sleep and get up at 2:00 am and read some more!
Reading and taking time to “Be” produced journal entries galore, unearthed old dreams and created new ones. I meditated, practiced breathing and centering techniques and awakened my spirit. But I still could not get Moving.
You see although I really wanted to lose some weight, get fit and get back into a rhythm of activities that would get me there, my habits were very solitary. What I hungered for was Real Connection with people and ideas, beauty and adventure.
I hungered for adventure but wasn’t ready to launch into it. Through books I could travel anywhere and do anything. I needed time. Throughout much of my previous work life the life domain “Playing & Working” had been hijacked and renamed “Working”. I needed time to recalibrate.
My inner critic, The Achiever a.k.a. The Saboteur was not a happy camper. The Achiever made sure I knew I was NOT living up to my potential. Since for the most part the life domain “Moving” remained, well, unmoving, in between books and reconnecting with friends and family I frequently frustrated myself.
That inner voice which is always so good at keeping me informed of what I SHOULD be doing made sure I knew that because I wasn’t exercising and “working on my body” I shouldn’t feel so good about myself. In truth I just wasn’t ready to Move. But instead of grace I periodically gave myself more of the old “one two” punch. Does any of this sound familiar?
I continued to meditate, journal and contemplate my next Move.
What changed? How did I get Moving?
During one of my reconnections with one of those friends I had not seen in ages she invited me to Yoga with her. I’d been interested in Yoga for many years but couldn’t fit it in. I’d tried to do it at home alone but hadn’t been able to be consistent. When I was off from work I really wanted to be with my family or friends and they were NOT into Yoga.
That was the turning point.
There was the convergence of my desire for Real Connection and my desire for exercise that was right. I could now hang out with a friend, meet new friends and try on Yoga for size. I attended on a Wednesday evening and got hooked. I am hooked on the camaraderie, the stretching and the instructor. I am holding the intention between classes to stretch daily and am easing back into it – allowing the habit to move at its own pace.
Stages of Change
If you are familiar with the Stages of Change you will totally understand what was going on with me. If not, here’s the skinny.
There are 5 Stages everyone goes through when making any changes in their life. Whether big or small these phases affect us. They are: Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, and Maintenance.
In Precontemplation, we are not aware of the need for change. It’s as simple as that.
In Contemplation, we are aware, thinking through the needs, pros and cons and what will be required to make the change.
Preparation is what most of us think about when we are ready to start an exercise program or begin a new diet or weight loss program. We jump into ridding our kitchen of tempting foods, buying new exercise equipment or outfits, purchasing a DVD or rearranging the furniture to get going.
Action is when you are putting your program in place and moving ahead with it.
Maintenance is when you have achieved your result and are sustaining that end-goal.
Why do we Relapse?
There are all kinds of reasons why people relapse on their goals for weight loss, exercise programs or other new habits they want to adopt. Often it is because they have moved ahead into Preparation or another Stage of Change phase without fully understanding or figuring out the details in the phase they are in or what will be required in the next phase.
That is what happened to me. I knew what to do and had done it before, so I thought I could just jump ahead into action without looking at my current situation. I assumed that because I knew how to make it happen that I only needed to do the same thing I’d done before. It just didn’t occurr to me that I might need to adjust the plan.
The fact that I could not get moving was really my own inner wisdom taking over.
If you have fallen off your exercise program or are struggling to get started, you may need to reassess why you want to do it and what is important to you about doing it. Here is a list of questions to help you get clarity:
- What is the result I am trying to achieve?
- What is the driver behind my wanting to achieve the end-result?
- Am I trying to please someone else? Is it for me, or someone else in my life? My kids, my spouse, my significant other?
- Am I trying to achieve this result because I am fulfilling some vague expectation from my mother or my father from long ago?
- What will achieving this result give me?
- Will I be happy doing it?
- Am I ready to start?
- Is there something else that I need to take care of before I can begin?
Ambivalence can happen at anytime in the change process.
When people derail and can’t get started again one coping mechanism often used is to become ambivalent about what we’re trying to achieve. How you know you are there is that’s the time when the excuses we make to ourselves come up. That’s the time when your Saboteur is in its element. This is when it’s important to listen for blaming, shaming or self-judgement. Negative self-talk is a strong indicator the Saboteur has come for a visit. Thoughts you might entertain are:
“Oh, I didn’t really want to lose 20 pounds – 5 is fine.”
“I really look fine the way I am – it’s all ego anyway.”
“Starting that walking program was a bit too ambitious – you should have known better.”
“You are too old – what were you thinking?”
“I’m never going to get to my goal…it’s fate.”
“It’s genetic – just forget it…”
“You are being selfish for taking time to exercise when your family has so many needs…Really?”
What is the Antidote? How do I get started and on Track?
When you can’t seem to get back on track, when self-judgement, blaming, or shaming takes over, it’s time to give yourself the compassion you would give your friend or family member. It’s time to be still and take a closer look and turn off the negative self-talk.
To do that you may need to clear out the Saboteur from your psyche and actively enter the Contemplation stage. Now is the time to revisit those questions you asked yourself before and go a bit deeper. This is also a great time to connect with a Coach who is there to Witness and re-affirm who you really are and what you really want.
Getting clear and revisiting the reasons why you want to achieve a goal is critical to success. Recycling or relapse is a natural part of the process of change. It forces us to go deeper and recalibrate.
It helps us determine the next best step for success. It is a good thing. When you respond by digging down deeper to get clearer on what is true for you, you are better equipped to achieve your goals.
So, what is your next move? Do you want to stay in judgment of your relapse or press on with a greater dedication that comes with the clarity and commitment from the momentary fall? Let me know if I can answer any questions you may have or support you in any way..
Be well. Be compassionate with yourself. You CAN do it!