Why do some people not do what they say they are going to do? And why do some people say they want to change what they have, but still don’t make the changes that are needed?
These are the questions, as a health coach, that I ask myself every day. It is fundamentally why I love the process of coaching.
Being given a puzzle to solve really ignites something in me. It is partly a challenge but also a desire to help people move forward and achieve their potential.
So why do some people not do what they say they are going to do?
Well in my experience, it is just not some people, but the majority of people I have encountered with regards wanting to improve their health.
The fact it is most people would suggest that it is more common than not to not carry out what you said you wanted to do.
Now I want to make something very clear, I am not one of these coaches who tell people what to do (even though many of my clients think I do). So the reason people don’t do what they say they going to do, is not predominately down to because someone else told them to do it, and that they don’t truly believe doing it will provide the results they want.
Based on someone's desires and current mindset and environment, I provide recommendations on what to do to achieve a certain outcome based on numerous years of coaching and outcomes (positive and negative) I have witnessed.
My coaching approach is very much ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’.
True long lasting results come about through the individual taking self-responsibility for their actions and results. I am but a guide and support to help them through the process of change that is needed.
To make changes you first need to truly believe in the changes that are needed. When belief is not there, then the mindset needed to consistently perform the actions needed don’t occur.
So unless a client doesn’t truly believe in what is needed, then those recommendations are dead in the water. They might do them for a while, but any long-term commitment is virtually nil.
So in this case, I am only talking about the people who do believe in what they need to do is the right thing, but still don’t do it.
As I said earlier, this is the one question that challenges me the most. I am convinced that by answering this question breaks down all the barriers people encounter on the way to succeeding in their health.
The most common explanation I have seen in all the clients I have coached is someones ability to handle discomfort.
We all know that change in 99% of cases is uncomfortable. Hence the term ‘comfort zone’. One definition of comfort is; things that make life easier or more pleasant’.
It is in every humans DNA that we look for the path of least resistance. It is how our ancestors saved energy in trying to survive in a world that made finding food and staying protected difficult. There is no point in wasting energy performing tasks that don’t produce instant benefits.
This has carried over into the modern world. Our mind is constantly looking for rewards that don’t require much effort or discomfort to achieve. It comes down to the battle we have between the impulsive side of our brains and our long-term planning side.
A big part of how our branch of humanoids survived while countless others died out, is down to our long-term planning side of the brain winning more times than not with the impulsive side.
We have learnt that the easy option, though attractive at the time, is not the best long-term solution for lasting results. Building a house of mud, though easier than making a house of stone, results in having to make regular repairs. A stone house requires more hard work to create but requires less work to maintain it.
Very much like improving your health. At first, the effort needed, to make the nutrition changes and increase the amount and intensity of exercise is a lot (increase in effort = increase in discomfort), but when they become a habit, the effort (discomfort) is perceived to be less.
If discomfort is going to be part of the process, how does someone except it and ultimately embraces it?
First, they need to accept discomfort is ok. A feeling of discomfort doesn’t mean you are failing. We are taught from childhood, that if something hurts change what you are doing to make the hurt go away.
Yes, there are things that hurt us that we should avoid, too many to name here, but we need to learn the difference between the hurt that harms us and the hurt that helps us.
Learning to overcome difficulties gives us confidence in the future that we can overcome similar difficulties. We learn that a lot of discomfort is temporary and the results of getting over it lead to a better life.
I once went past a mum and child on a foot scooter, they were approaching a steep hill and the mum warned her child that it was about to get too tough to keep using the scooter. Would it have been better to let the child experience how tough it would have been, increasing the chance of conquering that hill and learning a good lesson for the future?
In a world that continually looks for ways to make everyday life easier, and reduces the occurrences of experiencing discomfort, we need to seek out periods of discomfort and embrace the lesson they teach us.
What is the best way to embrace the discomfort of change and move away from your impulsive side of the brain towards more long-term planning?
The first thing someone needs is to create the right mindset. The right mindset is one that will accept discomfort is a requirement of change and not look for ways around it. The proof behind this approach is the current state of the nation's health.
For the last 40 years, we have been told endlessly what is healthy for us and what is not. We now live in the most informed period of human history. There is no excuse to be blind to the information that is available to us.
(I agree, a lot of health information is conflicting, but that is not a good enough reason to stop learning. I have come across no one that is in disagreement with natural food is better than non-natural food (I define natural food as single ingredient food that you could hunt or grow yourself), or that moving the body is better than a sedentary life. All the other information on what you should eat or how you should exercise is a distraction).
Even with all this information, we are still seeing an increase in heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other lifestyle induced illnesses.
So it is not down to what someone knows, it is down to how we implement what we know. That is why creating the right mindset is so important.
After someone has created the right mindset, it is then a lot easier to build the right environment. An environment that allows the right mindset to grow.
When the above two areas have been achieved then, and only then, can the right process be followed. The plan that is needed to be followed consistently for progress to happen and be maintained.
Too many people start trying to follow a process (plan) before they have created the right mindset or built the right environment. Therefore in more cases than not, the process becomes changeling to implement, increasing effort to follow it.
The clients of mine who become the best at embracing discomfort are the ones that control their impulsive brain and use more of their long-term planning skills. They do this with planning their days and consistently sticking to a routine that they do day after day.
This greatly decreases the chance of impulsive decisions and performing actions that are opposite to what they said they were going to do.