One of the most common challenges I hear from my clients is that they can’t find the time for healthy habits. Whether is doing more cooking, going to sleep earlier, starting meditating, or doing some exercise, for most people, lack of time is the biggest issue when it comes to kick-starting a new habit.
And yet, we (myself included) seem to always have that extra time to watch TV or scroll through our social media feeds. Or, as one of my clients once said to me, we seem to miraculously be able to find 2 spare hours we didn’t think we had when we lose our phone or our keys and we need to either find them or replace them.
The point of all this? Time is relative. And it’s all about priorities.
Time is relative
Have you ever noticed how time seems to go at a completely different pace when you’re at work or when you’re on holiday? Or even when you go somewhere for the first time, and the journey feels much longer than the second or third time you take that same route?
I am not a psychologist or a scientist. But my understanding is that this happens because the more new information you receive, the slower time seems to pass. So when you’re on holiday in a new place, for example, you are bombarded with new information (and hopefully in a very good way!). So time seems to expand a little – the hours and the day feel longer. The same happens when you take a trip for the first time. Personally, I find the topic fascinating, so if you’d like to find out more about it, have a read of this article from Psychology Today: Why Does Time Seem to Pass at Different Speeds?
But what does it mean for you in the context of wanting to start a new habit?
It’s all about priorities
When working with my clients, we often identify strategies that might help with their individual challenges or goals. More often than not, it’s not about making drastic lifestyle changes. It’s about making small tweaks and introducing small habits that can make all the difference for all the right reasons.
So whenever a client feels they “don’t have time”, together, we try and turn this on its head and see this statement for what it really is. And it’s the fact that right now, for whatever reason, that new ‘thing’ we’d like to start doing isn’t a priority for them. And maybe it never will! But the beauty of a holistic and integrated health coaching approach is that sometimes we don’t need to change everything to get results. So it’s about finding small tweaks that can be prioritised and that will make a difference to someone’s health.
If you’re committed about changing, you can only do that by prioritising the activities that will lead to that change. Without prioritising first, we can’t find that focus. And, in other words, we’ll never make the time!
Why is change so hard?
Change is hard. And behavioural change is up there with one of the hardest things to achieve. If you’re interested in finding out more, this article from Psychology Today talks about some of the reasons why change is so hard. The truth is that we are all unique – each of us with their own personality, our attitude towards change, and our own objectives. So we might find change hard for different reasons. Small lifestyle changes that might feel hard for me to implement may not feel hard for you, and vice versa. And that’s fine – it’s human nature.
Fear of the unknown
But what’s also part of human nature and a big factor at play when we trying to start something new – something we have no experience of – is fear of the unknown.
For someone, going to bed an hour earlier every night to protect their sleep, for example, may feel like an impossible task. And the reason might be that for that particular person, spending an hour at night relaxing with a cup of something in front of the TV or reading a book is more important than going to sleep earlier. They’re not prioritising sleep over relaxation. (And as a busy working mum myself, I totally get it!).
But for others, making changes might be about not knowing where to start. Where do you start going to bed an hour earlier every night if that means you never see your partner? Or if it means going to sleep at the same time as the children, and you end up feeling more ‘stressed’ as a result, with little to no time for yourself anymore?
Changing too much at the same time
Sometimes we resist change because of the fear and the pressure of changing too much at once. And maybe that’s because, going back to our example of going to bed an hour earlier, one hour isn’t achievable right now. But maybe we can start with 15 minutes, and see where it takes us. Maybe instead of eliminating TV, reading, or relaxation time, we just make a decision to cut down slightly and see how we feel when we can also start reaping the benefits of longer and better sleep.
It’s relatively easy to say that we want to feel like we have more energy. What’s not easy is to break that down to:
- Understand what changes we need to make to start feeling that way. For example, by eating the right foods, supporting ourselves with longer, better-quality sleep, etc.
- Identify what habits we are happy to prioritise and what tweaks we can commit to making that will give us positive results.
And that’s why working with a coach, rather than trying to do this by yourself, can make all the difference.
How can we bring change?
So if change is so hard, and so many factors are at play, how can we make changes that stick?
Understand your personality
The first thing to consider is to understand our personality in the context of how we respond to expectations. I wrote about this in the past, but I love Gretchen Rubin’s work in The Four Tendencies. It allows people to better understand how they form habits, how they stick to deadlines, and how they can start making better decisions. For example, I am totally incapable of sticking to a resolution. However, give me a boss or a coach, I’ll be there, every time. Understanding this has meant that I have been able to create some accountability for myself, so I could successfully make the changes my health required.
Aim to create ‘habits’
Another critical tool in the toolbox that has the power of changing your life is creating habits. Whatever your goal, it’s about identifying the small things that you can do on a regular, consistent basis to create that change. It’s not about cooking a 5-course dinner from scratch once a month – it’s about adding more vegetables to your plate at every meal. It’s not about running the next London marathon – it’s about going for a 10-minute walk every day at your lunch break. You get the gist.
Creating habits is simple and yet so effective, which is why it’s important that you identify the right habits for you. It’s about the small things you can prioritise and commit to on a daily basis. When you pick those carefully and thoughtfully and stick to them, nothing is impossible to achieve. Ever heard of the saying by Darren Hardy?
“It’s not the big things that add up in the end; it’s the hundreds, thousands, or millions of little things that separate the ordinary from the extraordinary.”
Focusing on the tactics rather than just the goal
A phenomenal book and blog to follow is James Clear’s. I use a lot of his techniques in my coaching practice. And one point that the author makes that ring particularly true to me is that we often focus on the goal without putting in place the tactics that are going to deliver that result.
Let’s say for example that we want to lose a dress size. We may set the goal but not spend any time actually planning how we’re going to make that happen. Will we eat any differently? Will we exercise more? And if so, how? When? When we don’t stop to plan the details, we end up giving up halfway through because the change feels too big. It’s almost unattainable. It’s too hard. And it’s easy to get discouraged and tell ourselves it’s never going to happen anyway!
The way I support my clients in their change journey
Here are some of the principles that are key to success. I follow and focus on these in my practice to allow my clients to change and create habits that serves their health and wellbeing.
It has to be easy
Of course, you’re learning about new things (new foods, new skills, etc.), but I will be with you at each step of the way to make the process of learning and implementing something new as easy as possible. So, for example, I provide you with shopping lists, menu inspiration, and tips and tricks to help you learn new skills as easily and as quickly as possible.
It has to be enjoyable
If we’re working on an elimination diet, for example, removing a long list of foods can feel daunting at first. People often worry whether they’ll ever even enjoy food again! And the answer is YES! In fact, my clients always report they don’t miss what they’ve stopped eating, and they find they enjoy food more. And you can still eat cake!
It has to achievable
As I hope you can see from this post, working towards improving your health is about lifelong, lasting change. Short-term intensive plans are not feasible long-term. So it is critical to bring changes that are achievable at this moment in time. If cooking every day is not an option for you, we will find ways to work around your life and prioritise the tactics that will make change happen for you. It might be as simple as finding out which takeaway restaurants on the high street can supply you with healthy options or batch-cooking and food prepping on the weekend. Or, even better, it could mean getting your partner or your children involved! There’s always a way. And, together, we break things down and can find it.
Would you like my help to kick-start healthier habits and long-lasting change?
If you feel you might need some help to prioritise and achieve your health goals, working alongside a health coach and functional medicine practitioner like myself can offer you the information and support you need to finally make those changes you’ve been wanting to make. If you want to find out more about the way I work with people and how I can help, you can book a FREE 20-minute discovery call. Let’s talk!