'Your net worth to the world is what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.' ~ Benjamin Franklin~
Someone once asked me, 'Why can't you just say no to the foods that you know are not good for you? The doctor has told you to change your diet, why don't you just do it, he asked? In a sense he was right. All I had to do was basically, 'nothing'. 'Just don't eat the cake! Simple!
Have you ever considered that changing most habits require that you do nothing? What do I mean by that, you might ask? Especially if you read my article last week, 'Nothing happens if you change nothing'.
How can I say you have to change something if you want to see a different outcome and now say that you need to do nothing? But think about it.
When it comes to something like quitting smoking, the simple answer is, 'just don't do it'. What about overeating? What do you need to do? Stop overeating. What about gambling? Stop buying the lotto. That's all. It sounds so simple right?
'Just don't do it'! The 'it' being the negative habit that limits you in some way. Simple action right? Yet, those of us who have struggled with a bad habit know it's not that easy.
Over the past few years, I have learnt quite a lot about changing habits from changing my diet, to not trying to do too many things at the same time, to asking for help when I need it, to learning that it really is okay to say no sometimes and so on. I could go on and on, but I am sure you get the picture.
We all have hopes and aspirations of the things we would like to do (if you didn't, you're probably not the type of person who would be reading this article). The habits we want to acquire and those we need to change. And most of the time, we have a general idea of what we need to do to achieve those goals.
Personally, I want to commit to some form of exercise, I want to write more than I do now, I wish I could resist the urge to stop using shopping as a form of therapy, (this last one won't be easy because although I know it is not good for the pocket, it makes me feel better).
After all, I am not perfect. Who is anyway? Nobody is perfect and everybody has limiting habits. Perhaps some more than others. Have you never heard yourself say 'I wish I could just be more' or 'I wish I didn't always do that'?
What about you? I bet you have some habits that you would like to change too.
Have you reflected how much of an influence your habits have on your life right now?
Are you happy with them? It is so much easier to work towards changing the habits that limit you now, than to live with the consequences later in life.
In the question I said my friend posed to me at the beginning of this article, he attributed inability to follow the doctor's instructions to lack of discipline. But I prefer to call it lack of motivation.
Why are you disciplined enough to do something? Because you have the right motivation. When you lose the motivation, you lose the discipline.
Before you start your habit change, think through your motivations. Why are you doing it? It is so much easier to do something if you can see the results.
Ask yourself what benefits would be derived in making the change. Then consider the negatives. What will happen if you continue your old unhealthy habit? For example, when I am faced with the temptation to eat certain foods, I think of the benefits such as being healthier, have more energy, live longer and then the negatives of continuing, which could be anything from loss of energy to putting myself at risk for some serious disease.
It works most of the time, but sometimes I hit obstacles along the way. But I don't beat myself up for doing so because I know that on the road to change, there is a possibility of meeting an obstacle.
Unfortunately, at this point, some quit. There have been times when I have thought of giving up in the process but I keep trying. At least it is better to try than not at all. Talk to people who have made the change you want to make.
If you don't know anyone, then read about it. And do not forget to change your environment in ways that will support you. That doesn't mean that you have to take drastic measures like never talking to a friend or family member again. It may just mean that you cut down on the time you spend with them.
I could give you many more tips but I think this would suffice for now. Let's start working on the areas I mentioned and see where it takes us. Shall we?
Lifestyle changes are not always easy to make. After all we didn't just pick up those habits in a day. They were acquired over many years. So I know change might not be fast and might not always be easy.
But it can be done. With time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped. Remember, everyone who has accomplished something meaningful got there through consistent effort and focusing on a goal.
So believe in yourself and know that you can do it. Are you ready to make the lifestyle changes you need? Ready, set, let's go.
By Barbara Sai Djangmah/The Mirror/Ghana
The writer is a Lifestyle Coach & Author of 'The Seduction of Food'