If there’s one thing that I’ve heard hundreds of times from people trying to make positive changes in their lives, it’s this: “I know what to do, but I can’t seem to actually do it.”
Have you been there?
I have. It’s frustrating isn’t it?
You spend tons of time researching, learning, getting information, and (hopefully) separating the myths from the facts, yet somehow putting the information into practice seems nearly impossible.
If this is something you’re struggling with, I have a solution for you.
I want to explain my thoughts by sharing a simple diagram:
The middle circle, our comfort zone, is where we spend most of our time. We do the things that come naturally, out of habit, that generally involve the path of least resistance.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if your comfort zone includes healthy habits and actions that will lead you to your goals. But I’m guessing since you want to make changes, your comfort zone might not be entirely on track with your goals.
This means that in order to reach your goals, you will have to stretch outside your comfort zone. The question is how far. Usually when we think about making changes for our health and weight, we tend to think in terms of black and white, all or nothing. When it comes to setting goals and changing our actions, we go for “all”.
When we try to do it all at once, we end up in the overload zone (in white). This overload zone has different effects on different people. For one person it means having a “good” week, then a crashing and burning on the weekend. Another person may make plans, yet not be able to put them into action for more than a day or two, if at all. A third person may find their life consumed with their new goal. Whatever it looks like, the results are the same: you feel stuck, overwhelmed, and unable to make lasting changes.
Most diets and strict weight loss programs throw you straight into the overload zone. You are expected to change your entire life all at once, eat only certain foods, track and count everything you eat, follow their exercise program exactly, and hold on for dear life and hope you can make it through to the end of the diet.
Because the overload zone is so uncomfortable, once the diet ends, you have no choice but to shrink back to your comfort zone, which means the weight comes back, the healthy habits never form, and you’re back to square one.
So what’s the solution? Just outside your comfort zone, there is an area called the stretch zone (in yellow on my diagram). Actions in the stretch zone are exactly what they sound like, a stretch outside your comfort zone. Yet they don’t cause you to feel overwhelmed or unable to move forward. For one person, a stretch might be adding veggies to dinners every night. For another person it might be going for a walk every day.
Choose one, two or three “stretch” actions to focus on consistently. As you consistently add these actions to your life, your comfort zone will expand to include them. Then, once these actions become part of your comfort zone, continue adding a few new “stretch” actions. With time, you’ll see a dramatic life change, without the struggle.
By using this principle, you can start taking action towards reaching your goals, and turn them into lifelong habits that will last, without getting overwhelmed, stuck, or reverting back to where you started.
What’s one thing you know that you can work on that is in your “stretch” zone? Let me know in the comments!