I am writing this article at the start of the year, but it could be at any time. I say this as the start of the year is the most common time of the year for people to decide to make changes to their health.
I also write this while I live in the Northern Hemisphere. A time of year that is in the middle of winter, when not a lot of things are happening. The Christmas holidays are over and the daily routine of going to work and spending weekends around home kick in. The days are shorter and colder, and there is a feeling of hunkering down and getting through to spring.
What a great time of year to make changes in your health before the longer sunny days come back and provide distraction and temptation.
What if you live in the Southern Hemisphere though? It is the middle of summer, the school holidays go from mid-December to the start of February. The days are longer and warmer and it is the time of year to get busy and active with things that you don’t feel like doing in winter.
How hard would it be for people in the Northern Hemisphere to set new health resolutions in August? In the middle of your summer holidays you decide to cut out alcohol and sugar, and go to the gym more. A lot harder.
So you can see, depending where you are and what is around you, will determine what your success rate is going to be to make the changes that you need to improve your health.
Your environment is the biggest factor in deciding if you keep doing what you said you would do. Motivation and willpower gets you started, but it is your environment that will determine if you make it to the finish.
What I mean by ‘your environment’ is the location you find yourself in, the ability to give time to the actions needed, the people you have around you helping or hindering your progress, and what tools you have to do the job.
To create the right environment, you first must accept that you are solely responsible for the environment you find yourself in.
Before you build the right environment, there are four realities you first must accept:
Indecision. This is the greatest threat to progress. Make a decision to change and just start. To limit indecision, remove everything in your environment that conflicts with what you want to achieve and create accountability. Share your goals and progress with others. Give them a deadline that results in a loss if not achieved.
Drifting. Most people go through life waiting for something to change. Some go their whole life repeating what they have always done. Make everyday count. Don’t let time just drift. Do what you need today, because that is the only day you have control over.
Barriers. You will come up against mental and emotional barriers as you try and change your life. No one who has made life changing decisions gets an easy ride. Accept it and plan for it. Bad moments will happen, it is part of the process and can’t be avoided. So don’t waste time and energy trying to.
Control. You either control the narrative or someone or something else does. Only when you take control will you ever achieve the end result you are looking for. Giving the control away puts your chances of success in someone else hands.
When you accept and recognise the above realities, you will find it easier to build an environment conducive to applying the necessary changes.
When you are surrounded by the right environment, you will be more likely to follow the habits and behaviours you have committed to.
To achieve long-lasting results, the habits and behaviours that you apply need to become automatic in nature. You have to end up doing them without thinking about them.
This is best achieved when we are in an environment that lets habits and behaviours happen automatically.
If you are in an environment that makes it harder, for example, to eat healthy food or perform hard physical work, then you will more than likely revert to what is easier and what you have always done.
The following are ideas of how to make your environment instantly healthier:
1. Don’t have any processed sugary food in the house. If you want them, then make it more of a conscious effort to go and get them. For example, don’t drive to buy them only walk.
2. Keep healthy food options easy to eat. If you have raw natural ingredients, prepare them in advance, so when you feel you need to snack, have chopped up veg and fruit at hand.
3. Don’t shop for food when you are hungry. Eat something before you go to the supermarket or order your weekly shopping online. Hunger increases temptation.
4. Declutter your kitchen. Just as a craftsman creates their best work in a tidy workshop, so does a cook in the kitchen. Only have things in your kitchen that are easy to use and are used frequently.
5. Make your home a workout. Set up your living space so movement is required. For example always put the TV remote across the room from where you sit, put your phone up stairs or strip your bed each morning so you need to make it before you sleep.
6. Surround yourself with like-minded people. People who think differently will pull you in the wrong direction. Like-minded friends and family will automatically hold you to account and will apply the same habits and behaviours.
The above ideas are what I call the process or plan. A process will only work if you first have the right mindset/attitude in the first place.
First the right mindset, secondly the right environment and thirdly the right process.
It is your responsibility though to cut through indecision, stop drifting and waiting for change to happen, accept the barriers that await and how to overcome them, and take control of the situation.
Only when you do all that will you have any chance of changing the environment you are currently in to one that will support the changes you need to make, no matter what time of the year it is.