I downloaded a free resource recently. I’ll admit that I’ve downloaded far more free resources than I’ve ever cared to read or even open. But this one had a catchy title and it was written by someone who I know, like and trust. You’ve probably heard of him. Tim Ferriss. 17 Questions that Changed My Life. How could I not download that AND read it, right? In any case, the intriguing title worked. As I read through each question, I sat there wondering, what if?
As a health coach, I know it’s not fair or reasonable to take action on all 17 questions. Like most humans, I get overwhelmed by information overload. I get “lost in the sauce” too. But if Tim Ferriss can change his life, I can too, right? Superhuman abilities aside, Yessss. But one step at a time. I can’t do it all at once.
Maybe I should backtrack for a second. Why did I download this resource, and what does this have to do with health and fitness? If you’ve been following our blog content, then you may have read my last post about values called “What do you stand for?”. If not, no worries. You can find it here.
Most of us know that it’s not easy to improve our health habits, or to stay consistent with our health goals. When faced with hard times and difficult decisions, how do we stay on track? It’s much easier to stick to our goals when we feel good, successful, happy, and supported. What about all the other times though? How do we find our way in the dark when we’re feeling discouraged, unmotivated, lost or unfocused?
This is when it’s helpful to know “what do you stand for?” By getting clear on your values and the actions that support them (including the stuff that gets in the way), you can navigate the hard times with more clarity. Maybe even more compassion. Armed with a compass (your values), you now have a guiding light for the difficult and dark times.
Back to the 17 questions…
As I continue to help myself and my clients improve their health, a consistent trend has emerged. Conscious or below our conscious awareness (but usually the latter), we default to familiar and comforting patterns of behaviour and ways of being – especially when things get tough. We’ve all been there. Change is hard. It’s even harder to maintain when the going gets tough.
Sometimes, we need to experience a different way of being in order to disrupt these habit loops from repeating over and over and over again. Essentially, we need practice being the person we’re trying to become. It’s similar to exercise. One arm curl doesn’t build a strong bicep. Thousands of reps over time do though!
Reps for behaviour change are no different. In this context, reps = lots of small and/or specific tasks that you can do realistically, every day, to build the practice of becoming YOU. Or, rather, the version of you that you’re trying to become.
If we continue to engage in the same habits and thought patterns, we can’t effectively or sustainably break from old patterns. Enter the 17 questions that changed Tim’s life. I see these questions as life prompts. Suggested ways to “be, think, and act” different. Even if just for a little while.
As I alluded to earlier, behaviour change is a process. We need to be fair and reasonable. In honour of that, I’ve chosen to share the following question with you.
Question #11: What if I could only subtract to solve my problems?
Instead of adding more to your plate in the form of “what should I do?” this question suggests a simpler approach. “What shouldn’t I do?” Another question Tim asks himself is “What should I put on my not-to-do list?” I like the idea of a not-to-do vs a to-do list. After-all, it’s still a list. And it sounds like another way to prioritize tasks.
Adding more is not always better. Adding more in the form of new or different is not always supportive of change – even if those approaches or solutions are exciting. Often, it’s harder to adjust our lives to make room for more. Examples: starting a new workout routine in a gym when you’ve never set foot in a gym. Or, a complete overhaul of your diet that includes a meal plan with foods you’ve never even heard of! Sometimes, more is time consuming. And if time is a limiting factor, why not do less?
Doing less doesn’t mean doing nothing. I’m not suggesting that the simpler approach is not exercising or eating healthier. What I am saying is this. Do not make it more complicated or more difficult if there is a simpler path.
Protect your time and energetic resources. If stressed, overwhelmed or burning the candle at both ends, is it because you are overcomplicating something or taking on too much. Are you adding more when there is a simpler or easier path involving less?
This week, I’m going to challenge all of you reading this to ask yourself, “What if I could only subtract to solve my problems?” or “What if I could only subtract to move closer to my health goals?” What does that look like in your life? More importunely, what could that do for you? Think mentally, physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually.
And who knows. It could change your life, too.