I find it amusing that people often compliment me about my willpower and self-discipline for exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet. In reply, I often smile and say something along the lines of “Oh, it’s really no effort at all actually. It just comes naturally for me.”
One could easily believe I’m extremely disciplined or obsessive and playing it down, but I respond like this because I know my diet, lifestyle and exercise habits have very little to do with discipline or motivation. Through self-reflection and experimentation with clients, I’ve come to realise there is a much stronger force at play behind the curtains; a force that controls our behaviour and dictates whether we prioritise health or not.
In this article, I’ll do my best to explain why some people have healthy habits and others don’t. I’m hoping this explanation will point to the truth of the matter clearly enough that you will follow my lead and find yourself automatically establishing some healthy habits too.
“A strong enough ‘why’ can overcome any ‘how’”
1. There is no such thing as a disciplined person
It’s really important to understand that it‘s a person's values and beliefs that dictate their behaviour, not willpower or self-discipline. If you don’t believe exercise and healthy eating are worthwhile or valuable, or you believe other things are more important, you simply won’t prioritise them. So, rather than beating yourself up or nagging someone else, it makes a lot more sense to look behind the scenes and work out your highest values.
2. Our actions reflect our highest values
Although we would like to think we know ourselves and understand our highest values, it's our behaviour that reveals the truth. If you think that exercise and health are important to you, but you have had McDonald’s three times this week and the only exercise you did was running for the train to work, something is not lining up.
3. Most people don’t know their own highest values
Most people I meet seem to have a vague idea of who they are and what’s really important to them. But when we sit down and assess things honestly, it often becomes obvious that their assumptions were wrong. They may have thought that health and wellbeing were very important to them, but their behaviour clearly shows that working a lot and making more money is a higher value to them at present.
If you are really honest and look at your habits and behaviour, you may see that the things you thought were most important to you actually aren't. All this time, you have been expecting yourself to take action towards things that don't actually align with your highest values, then beating yourself up for it when you don’t. These adopted values are not your true values. They are simple ideas and catchphrases you have picked up in life along the way, from those closest to you, or society at large. We need to dig deeper to find our own true values.
4. Motivation is automatic
If something is truly important to you and aligns with your highest values, you will automatically be organised, motivated and consistent with action around that value.
You don’t need to become motivated; motivation is actually automatic. You just need to get clear about your true values and then link them to health and fitness.
5. Health and fitness need to become genuinely important to you
If you want to become healthier, to start eating well and exercising regularly, you need to truly value health and fitness. Just saying that you value you it is not enough. It needs to be a true and honest value that comes from the very core of your being.
Another way of saying this is that you need to have a really strong sense of WHY. A WHY that’s very detailed and convincing for YOU. That WHY also needs to link with and support your other highest values.
As the saying goes:
“A strong enough ‘why’ can overcome any ‘how’”.
1. Take a look at how you spend your time, what you're organised with, where you spend your money, what you fill your space with and what you get excited talking about. These behaviours are clues, revealing your highest values.
2. Get clear about the benefits of being healthy and feeling good. Get detailed; write 20, 50 or even 100 benefits if you can—the more, the better. Then, link those benefits to your highest values. How will being healthy help in other areas of life that you value? Linking it all together is the key.
3. Remain conscious and aware of your behaviour. Values and beliefs shift and change over time. You may need to reflect and reassess your ‘why’ many times throughout life. Forget what you think you know; use your behaviour as the guide.
“Circumstances don’t just make a man, they reveal him.”
These days, I guide all my clients through a detailed process to work out their highest values and link them to their current goals. It always creates a dramatic change in their behaviour and brings about a real sense of happiness and peace of mind. If you would like me to guide you through the process you can book an in-person or Skype consultation with me.
Please post any thoughts or questions below and I'll be sure to address them in my follow-up video.