Recently I have been thinking about success, what real success looks like in habit change. How we can so easily be lured off track due to the trappings of what we typically perceive success to be. There are rakes of studies that show that if you can visualise what success looks like for you, you are much more likely to achieve it. So let’s do that, now!
I’d like you to take a second and visualise your life if you are successful in achieving your habit change goal – what does this life look like for you? Write it down if you like.
So often when it comes to visualising what success looks like in our health goals, we think of ourselves with the ‘perfect body’ or being the ‘perfect weight’. If this is your vision of success it may be the exact thing that is holding you back from long term success.
Success isn’t about being the perfect weight or having the perfect body. Success, at least, in my opinion (and that of a large number of research studies) is about;
The power of having a plan
A lot of the above examples involve planning. Yes, planning! It doesn’t sound sexy but it gets results. 100’s of studies have shown that having a plan, known as implementation intentions – has consistently been linked with long term habit adherence
I always say to my clients, plan everything! Plan how you are going to act when you have low mood, plan how you are going to adapt to the weather, plan what you will do when you go travelling.
By having an alternative plan, it helps you overcome excuses, unproductive habits and develop a system for change in all circumstances rather than relying on your unreliable willpower.
People who plan succeed.
Ultimately, we are what we repeatedly do.
Habits are formed through context dependant repetition.
Do the same thing in the same context enough times and it will become a habit.
Therefore, we need to start thinking about success in these terms. Thinking about a particular outcome alone (e.g. weight lost on the scales, fitting into x size) is not helpful or supportive in getting you there. Rather, its thinking about the day to day processes – your routines, habits and systems and how you embed these in your everyday life, this is what success looks like.
Yes, some of it can be incredibly boring. That’s normal! It’s not all about reaching the dizzying heights of the mountaintop. Maybe you can be creative and look for ways in which to overcome the blandness of it all (this is strongly encouraged!). For example; by doing exercises you don’t loathe, creating a Pinterest page of a variety of healthy recipes that take 15 minutes to cook, listening to an engaging audiobook or podcast whilst walking or even watching Netflix or a motivating Ted talk whilst you prepare meals will help. Maybe, some of these will remian boring but necessary tasks but maybe, just maybe, in time, you can even learn to love some of these little things.
The key is to keep putting one foot in front of each other – day in day out – that’s what breeds success.
Success is not about fitting into an awkwardly sized pair of jeans that you bought in the ’90s. The jeans that you still keep in your wardrobe to punish yourself with every now and again (If this applies please throw these out with zeal immediately!). Success is about knowing what you enjoy isn’t just the extrinsic rewards but becoming a better version of yourself, improving, becoming 1% healthier than you were yesterday, feeling like you’re progressing, knowing you’re investing in yourself, your wellbeing, your happiness, and your longevity.
When you start to focus on being successful on a daily basis. When habit mastery, planning and creating healthy systems, you enjoy becomes what drives you. When every small step you take each day is the reward.
Success no longer becomes a destination but a way of living.
So, I’d like you to ask yourself again……what does success look like for you in your habit change goal?
What will you be doing on a day to day basis? Who will you be with? Where will you be? Who is supporting you? What will you be eating, drinking, thinking? How will you recover from setbacks? How will you engage in your habits when you are tired, busy or bored? And most importantly, what does success feel like for you?
Creating a system for change, the routines, habits and behaviours is what breeds success.
So ask yourself, what one small thing can I do today to make success a way of living?
About Dr Heather
I’m Heather, a health behaviour change specialist. I help companies new and old, create evidence-based health and wellness programmes that bring about long-term changes for their customers and employees. I also support individuals to take back control of their health and build healthy habits that last with my research-backed Bite Sized Habits course.
A bit about me: I grew up in Ireland and went to Dublin City University, where I studied Sports Science and Health, followed by a MSc in Physical Activity and Health Psychology from Loughborough University. I got really interested in health-related behaviour change whilst running a healthy lifestyle clinic for hospital staff. I wanted to understand why well-intentioned people with all the resources they needed couldn’t stick to their healthy habit goals! So, I sat down with each person in the clinic to understand more about what was holding them back.
From that moment on I became hooked on the psychology behind what motivates people to adopt and stick to healthy goals. This took me to the University of Birmingham where I completed a PhD in Weight Loss Behaviour Change Psychology. My research was focused on how to set goals that lead to lasting changes and discovering the key strategies for long term healthy lifestyle success and how to build these strategies to help people stick with their goals, without having to resort to dieting.
When my published studies were released to the mainstream media and I had an influx of inquiries, I realised the importance of sharing my work outside of academia. I now support companies to build health and wellness offerings with measurable results and long-lasting impact.
Find out more here https://www.drheathermckee.co.uk/