I have found the last 3 weeks fascinating from a habit change point of view. It’s always been good advice to wash your hands regularly, but very early into the COVID-19 pandemic people became obsessed by washing and sanitising their hands to the point of skin starting to break down, and sanitiser (and toilet paper) being harder to buy than alcohol during prohibition! This habit has been formed overnight – why? Because the threat of not washing hands is deadly and possible within weeks of contracting this disease – worse still you could easily pass it on to your family, and not know it for weeks. The ‘why’ has very serious consequences, and when your ‘why’ has this amount of urgency you will comply. Your habits will change immediately when the risk of not changing is very serious indeed.
Until recently the habits my clients have been trying to change are most commonly around eating too much, exercising too little, and being unable to find a balance between these two variables that ultimately result in losing weight. Their ‘why’ centres around wanting more energy, to be able to fit into their clothes with comfort, and to rid themselves of body fat that threatens their health long term. The ‘why’, while this is a worthwhile goal, isn’t nearly as serious or urgent as the habits formed for avoiding COVID-19. Add an event like a wedding in 12 weeks time though and the ‘why’ is more important AND there is the added bonus of a deadline.
The ‘why’, while this is a worthwhile goal, isn’t nearly as serious or urgent as the habits formed for avoiding COVID-19.says health and mindset coach Jo Cordell-Cooper
What we can take from this in every day life is that if we want to change a habit, we need a good reason to – and this needs to be a reason that resonates with you. I make this point because it is very difficult indeed to change habits because someone else wants you to. We need to be very clear about your ‘why’ and I use this technique – the drilling down of the 5 why’s – to get to the bottom value that is important.
- Question 1 – Why do you want to lose weight
Answer – because I’ve put on weight, and I want to be healthier (a basic change – nothing too profound is admitted here)
- Question 2– why does it matter that you have put on weight (and I will often say something like – you are well loved right?? I ask this to see where the desire comes from – from within or some external pressure)
Answer – because my clothes don’t fit, I’m low on energy, and I’m worried about my health (by drilling down we are starting to see concerns about personal health)
- Questions 3 – why does that matter to you ?
Answer – because I used to be a fit, strong and vibrant woman and now I can’t keep up with my kids (and now the values are becoming more personal and affecting lifestyle and how she feels she is missing out on a vital part of parenting and role modeling)
- Question 4– can you be a great mum without fitness, strength and vibrancy?
Answer – I can, but I want to be a better role model for my kids, and actively play with them through out their lives. I want to live a long time and there is diabetes in my family (now she’s named it up – its more about the kids and longevity and there is an underlying fear of being unhealthy as she ages)
- So then I might say (Q5) . . . So what this is really about is being a fit, strong and vibrant woman and healthy as well so you can be a great role model, be actively involved in your kids lives, and be confident that you are going to live a long and fulfilling life??
Answer – exactly (this is a much stronger WHY than wanting to lose weight)
So once we have a strong enough ‘why’ the habits start to shift. If the ‘why’ comes with a deadline (within 6-12 weeks often yields the best results) like getting married or heading to surgery and needing to shed 5-10 kg before hand we get a much more focused and determined person. I’m not saying habit change is easy, often it is not as the brain likes routine and will easily slip back into the default habit when you are tired, unprepared, or dealing with larger than normal amounts of stress. Often stress is the thing that derails us from forming new habits. This brings us back to our original topic of the remarkably fast habit change that came with covid19 – the obsessive washing of hands. Despite the stress within the community this habit has been largely adopted by a majority of citizens – and pretty much overnight. From a habit formation point of view, it has been quite remarkable to watch. It will be really interesting to see once this pandemic is behind us how long will it take for us to relax our hand washing procedure. For the person wanting to lose a little weight I leave you with that starting point of considering the 5 why’s and getting down to the values you wish to live your life by.
If this resonates with you and you would like to change some habits that are affecting the way you live I encourage you to make contact to work with Jo Cordell-Cooper in person, face to face online.
Additionally you may like further mindset tips from my free facebook group Holistic Personal Training #wheretonext