It is rather difficult to make any change, let alone sustainable change, with self-defeating and victim thoughts. How you think about your situation dramatically affects your outcome. People can have the same desire and goals, but the right mindset brings progress and success compared to stagnation and regret. The good news is that you can change your mindset once you recognize which thoughts are keeping you from achieving healthy habit success. Then you can rewrite the script you tell yourself and use it to your advantage.
How to Shift Your Mindset for Healthy Habit Success
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The Tale of Two Different Minds
Bobby and Jim both recently turned 40 years old and they both want to lose 40 pounds. Not just lose the weight, but keep it off, have more energy, and decrease their risk for cardiovascular disease which runs in both their families.
Both tried to lose weight 10 years ago, but back then it was just 20 pounds. They tried different diet overhauls, such as Adkins or shakes for meals, as well as workout changes, such as trying the at home workout program P90X or running almost everyday. Though they saw some improvement, these radical implementations unfortunately weren’t sustainable.
Now, they both have two kids and stressful management jobs, which gives them less time to commit to big lifestyle changes. But this time, they have different mindset approaches to trying to make change.
Bobby looks at the cover to men’s fitness magazines and thinks there is no way he could ever look like gentlemen shown. With his schedule demands, all the wellness changes he needs to make seems impossible. He feels so far behind. Bobby wants to do better but gets overwhelmed by all the changes he needs to make and frustrated by his circumstances and “lack of willpower”. If he can’t do it all, it doesn’t seem worth the effort. After a weekend of overindulging, he tells himself he will “try and do better next week” but mid-week comes around and something just always seems to get in the way or he falls back to undesirable habits. “I am such a failure,” Bobby tells himself while avoiding a long look in the mirror. Unfortunately, time goes by and his 41st birthday looms as a reminder of another year without progress.
Jim, on the other hand, acknowledges the many challenges that may prevent him from being successful with a healthy lifestyle, but sees those challenges as ways to make himself stronger. He knows huge changes aren’t achievable but there are smaller ones he can work on. And as those develop, he can add more as time goes on. He has learned through his career development, any goal you want to achieve takes hard work. Jim understands gaining an extra 40 pounds didn’t happen overnight and neither will getting it off. He doesn’t want to sacrifice time with his kids as they are the best stress reliever from his demanding job, so he finds healthy practices that fit in his schedule. Weeks go by, then months. He has some up and down days, but didn’t see those as deal breakers. A year later, on his 41st birthday Jim is down 20 pounds and feeling better than he has in a long time.
Bobby and Jim both knew what they needed to do, what changes they needed to make, and why they wanted to do it. One looked at his challenges and circumstances and felt defeated by them. The other, recognized his challenges and saw them as things he could overcome. It was their contrasting mindsets that made all the difference.
Can you relate to Bobby or are you more like Jim?
Self Defeating Thoughts Prevent Success
Joan of Arc once said, “All battles are first won or lost in the mind.”
How do you expect yourself to be victorious in something if you have already determined you will fail? Do you see challenges as roadblocks rather than opportunities to show how strong you are? Do spend more time wishing your circumstances were different or looking for the good that is already there?
It is rather difficult to make any change, let alone sustainable change, with self-defeating and victim thoughts.
How you think about your situation dramatically affects your outcome, just as Bobby and Jim’s situations above show. People can have the same desires and goals, but the right mindset brings progress and success compared to stagnation and regret.
Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., states in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, that her thirty years of research “has shown that the view you adapt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value.” (Emphasis hers.)
The #1 Non-Negotiable
Through coaching clients, talking with individuals, and observing people working to improve their health, I’ve come to notice there are 3 non-negotiables for healthy habit success.
Warrior is in the title of the book because it is about approaching the pursuit of healthy habits with this victory mindset from the beginning. I redefine the definition of warrior as, “A person who shows great courage and fortitude to obtain good wellness and in the process becomes an experienced expert in good wellness.”
It is about having an “I got this” mindset versus a “I hope I’m successful” mindset.
Later in her book, Dr. Dweck goes on to say, “Mindsets are just beliefs. They are powerful beliefs, but they’re just something in your mind, and you can change your mind.” Then toward the end of her book she points out that “if someone stays inside a fixed mindset [i.e. victim, defeating mindset] and uses the growth strategies [i.e. the right plan and accountability], it can backfire.” Meaning the progress will only last so long.
You may have a great plan and a good system to keep you accountable, but if your mind isn’t in the right spot, success is much less probable. What seems impossible to accomplish is possible with the right mindset.
Isn’t It Just About Having Willpower?
"If I just had more willpower or motivation then I would...
Get my rear off the couch and go for a walk…
Or only have a handful of chips, not the whole bag…
Or not stay up so late watching TV...
Or [insert yours here]. "
Any of those thoughts sound familiar?
Our team did an audience survey not too long ago and asked, “What challenges do you face when it comes to maintaining healthy habits?” Out of over 70 participants, the second highest answer people listed was lack of motivation/willpower. (The most answered was lack of time.)
Many think willpower or motivation is this drive that you either have or don’t have and it is reliable. The truth is willpower and motivation are like an unreliable friend. Sometimes there, sometimes not. Fickle in its participation. If things are going like they want, they hang around. But as soon as things get tough, they can go run and hide. On most occasions, they won’t be there when you really need them.
To quote again from Dr. Dweck: “...willpower is not just a thing you have or don’t have. Willpower needs help.” Therefore, stronger willpower or motivation is not the answer you need to help you create necessary healthy lifestyle changes. External drives and actions can be more helpful. Research is showing that a growth mindset, one that believes there is an opportunity to grow and change, positively impacts intrinsic motivation.
And shifting your mindset, to include thoughts and verbiage, can be a huge factor in being successful. Whether you repeatedly let your inner voice tell you you aren’t good at something or you tell yourself, “I am stronger than the challenges I face,” that becomes what you believe. And if you do the latter, your brain starts thinking it is a winner.
So what are some common mindset shift struggles?
Common Mindset Shift Changes
Here is a list of mindset shift categories commonly found among people who need and want to make changes in their healthy lifestyle. See which ones you relate to. Within each category are examples of how to make the language shift.
One: Victim to Victor
You have to declare your victory over your struggles from the beginning. You are already who you want your future self to be. You just have to go through the process to get there. No more “I wish” or “I’m trying” or “if only” statements.
I wish I was healthy. Things would be so much better.
I am a healthy person and things are going to be better.
If only my uncontrollable circumstances were different, then it would be easier to be healthy.
I may not have control of certain circumstances, but one thing I can take control of is my health.
I am trying to lose weight so I can’t eat that.
Eating that doesn’t align with my healthy self.
See the difference in perception? The first statement focuses on external drivers while the shift statement declares who you are. Own your wellness victory.
Two: Self-defeating to Life Giving
We can do a really good job of self-sabotaging. You may have heard the phrase that we are our own worst enemy. We can talk to ourselves in ways we would never let someone else to talk to us or would never say to someone we care about. Yet we do it to ourselves. Unfortunately, sometimes these ideas do come from or are spurred on by a careless individual. But many times, we make up these stories in our own heads. So we need to make a shift from those self-defeating and self-destructive untruths to more life giving and truthful statements.
I ate bad, therefore I am a bad person.
How I eat doesn’t determine the quality of person I am.
I exercise as a punishment for eating badly.
I exercise because it makes my body stronger and supports my mind.
I exercise so I can eat badly.
I exercise to complement my good eating.
I want you to hear this clearly, you deserve the best in health and wellness. Don’t accept anything less.
Three: Challenges to Opportunities
Creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is challenging and there will be obstacles to overcome. Sometimes it will seem hard, impossible, and boring. Resistance to changing your health habits may come from the idea that you won’t have as much fun. You associate certain enjoyable activities with indulging in food. We only get stronger in anything we try to do by overcoming adversity.
I know what I need to do, but I just have so much against me.
Getting through these challenges will make me feel proud, make me feel stronger, and make it easier for next time.
It is hard for me to eat healthy, because I don’t like vegetables.
I may not be a fan of vegetables, yet. But I could try fixing them in different ways and see if I can find more I like.
It is impossible to be healthy all the time.
A healthy lifestyle is a challenge, but not one I can’t overcome. I am not going to let the obstacles win!
Most things we want, we have to work hard for and there is a reward in overcoming the fight to obtain it. So the challenges that arise when working on healthy habits aren’t roadblocks, but opportunities to get stronger.
Four: Perfection to Progress
The “progress over perfection” mentality is accepting that small changes over time lead to better success than trying to make all the changes at once and/or doing it right every single day. It also accepts that mess ups will happen, consistency over time is key, and you need to give yourself some compassion and grace when things don’t go exactly as you planned.
Eat healthy all the time, workout everyday, get good sleep, do stress reducing practices...it is all just too much! No way I can make all this happen.
Having a healthy lifestyle isn’t about doing right all the time. It is getting better at it a little more everyday. Small changes will make a greater difference overtime.
I have messed up my eating habits two days in a row. Here I go again. I can’t keep this up.
The last two days haven’t been perfect but that doesn’t mean my progress is ruined. Maybe I need to consider a different plan.
I am trying to exercise more and this month I “only” worked out 10 days.
Working out 10 days this month is more than I did last month. And the most consistent I’ve ever been. I am making progress!
I will let you in on a little secret... those you know and see who have a pretty healthy life aren’t that way all the time. They have their struggles, took steps to gradually get them to where they are, and have to work at maintaining it all the time.
Five: Selfish Care to Act of Love
Some people struggle with developing healthy habits because they feel taking time for themselves is selfish. You feel like you are choosing moments for yourself that make you unavailable to loved ones. This can especially be true with moms and other primary caregivers. Also, you don’t want to upset your family by doing something different. Self-care and taking care of your wellbeing isn’t selfish. It is actually love.
Taking time for myself is selfish.
To best care for those around me, I must take time for myself. It is an act of love to be at my best for them.
It is hard for me to say “no” when asked to help with something, because I don’t want to not be seen as a team player.
Saying “no” to things when I am overwhelmed and thinking about my wellbeing is more important than someone's misperception.
My family is visiting for a week and I can’t stay on my healthy eating because they don’t eat healthy.
Being a healthy example for your family is one of the best things you can do for them.
You can only best serve your family, friends, work, church, and community when you take care of your health. In all circumstances everywhere, a healthy lifestyle is “a must have” rather than “ nice to have.”
Now, it is your turn.
How to Make the Shift
Are you thinking of some frequent thoughts that need shifting? Let’s create a better mindset for you.
Get our pen and paper, ladies and gentlemen, because writing things down takes ownership and creates change. Or grab our handy free Mindset Shift Guide & Worksheet.
Mindset Shift Guide & Worksheet
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Here’s how to do it:
Divide your paper into two sections. At the top of the left section write “Old Mindset”. At the top of the right section write “New Mindset”.
Under the “Old Mindset”, write out thoughts that are holding you back.
In the other column, next to each defeating mindset, write your new, victorious mindset.
Cross out the old mindsets or even tear off that part of the page and throw it away.
Keep your new mindset page handy. You may need to refer back to it from time to time.
You may have to work on your mindset everyday. Get out of bed with thoughts of victory every single day! You could even put affirming sticky notes on your mirror to read while you brush your teeth. Your thoughts can make your or break you.
Getting More Help
Making these changes can be hard, especially if you have been battling negative and self-defeating thoughts for years. And you may have not been the one who started these thoughts in your head.
One of the very best ways to make change, whether it be internal or external, is by surrounding yourself with an encouraging tribe. Your tribe is not just your friends and family, but what you view on Instagram and Facebook, the music you listen to, the books you read, etc. Get rid of the negative, false, and graceless messaging. Find ways to get more support. To quote Dr. Dweck one last time, “These changes have to be supported or they can go away faster than they appeared.”
If you are still uncertain how to make these mindset shifts and need an encouraging tribe to support you, consider working with us. Schedule a complimentary call and let's discuss how we can best help you be successful in creating healthy lifestyle changes.
To the best in your health and wellness,
If you want to see more on fixed and growth mindsets, see Dr. Dweck’s diagram comparing the two.
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