What you don’t know is holding you back

One extremely crucial aspect of making a lifestyle change or creating a new habit is taking an honest look at where you stand with regard to your knowledge & skill in order to make the change.  And people will say “but that’s why I’m trying to create the new habit.”  But really, if you consider the magnitude of what you’re trying to accomplish, it’s rarely just “one” habit.  And if you continue with the mindset that it should “just” be one habit or one change, you neglect to acquire key knowledge & skill-sets that you’ll need in order to be successful.

Ball&Chain

And you don’t want to be this guy wondering why you didn’t make it to where you were going.

Weight loss should be pretty simple at it’s core, right?  Calories in vs. calories out.  But have you considered the knowledge & skills necessary (as separate, but important components) to be successful?  Have you looked at those things as something you can actively change to make your journey easier?  Well I didn’t either until recently.

What could I possibly be missing?

Change Anything provides three different tactics to evaluate our knowledge & skill-sets in order to learn what we really need to know in order to be successful:

Tactic 1:  Start with a Skill Scan
Tactic 2:  Employ Deliberate Practice
Tactic 3:  Learn the Will Skill

The thing I found to be most difficult for me in putting these tactics to use was to think outside the box.  It was easy for me to get stuck in my same bubble of thinking, but the book provided some great, tangible examples that helped me make the leap.

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Tactic 1:  Start with a Skill Scan

Ideally you want to do this before you implement your plan.  It’s one thing to say “oh, I’ll start eating healthy tomorrow.”  But it’s another thing to really consider what “eating healthy” truly means and what it entails.  A few things I considered in reviewing my skill scan were:

  • Do I know how many calories I should be eating?
  • Do I understand what macro-nutrients are & how I should plan what I eat around those?
  • Do I even know where to start in preparing food in advance (such as which foods reheat well & which foods don’t)?
  • Do I even know how to create a meal plan?
  • Am I capable of saying no to food that someone offers me without feeling guilty or coming across judgmental (something I seriously worry about)?
  • Do I know the calories & macros in the food I eat most often?

I was able to answer several of those with a resounding yes.  Others were much more difficult and often a big downfall for me.  One key one was learning how to say no & not feeling guilty about it or not coming off as judgmental.

So, I worked on coming up with a couple responses I could keep in my back pocket for situations (such as the never-ending flow of cookies & brownies that seem to be at work all the time):

  • Thank you so much for the offer, but I don’t care for any.  😊
  • Yes, I really love _ cake, cookies, brownies _, but they don’t always love me.  But thanks for the offer.  (This one is especially personal because I’ve noticed a huge difference in how I feel when I eat something packed with sugar so it’s a mental reminder that I’ll feel better without the sugar high, headache & sugar crash).

There were others I also created plans for, but this was the big one for me.  Having a couple phrases that I’d practiced made saying no so much easier when I actually had to say the words.

Tactic 2:  Employ Deliberate Practice

Most people think about, talk about, think some more about the things they need to do (such as creating a weekly meal plan) but they never actually practice that skill they need.  Change Anything recommends the following for learning a new skill:

  • Break the skill into small pieces & practice each skill in short intervals
  • Get immediate feedback against a clear standard & evaluate your progress
  • Prepare for setbacks

One great example of this is meal prepping.  My personal approach to meal prepping is that I prep a bunch of lunches (like several weeks worth) at one time and then freeze them.  I generally don’t prep dinners in advance other than crock pot meals that I cook the day we want to eat them & then freezing leftovers.  It’s an approach that works for me.

But I didn’t start there.  I started by considering what wanted out of meal prepping.  I didn’t really mind making a meal at night or throwing stuff in a crockpot in the morning and I didn’t like the idea of reheating all our meals.  I broke the concept of meal prepping into several pieces:

  • Determine what we wanted to eat
  • Just write down what we plan to eat & see how that goes (sticking with the plan)
  • Decide which meals or sides I could / want to prepare in advance
  • Pick out a couple to prepare in advance (to see how it goes)
  • Build out a list of prepped meals & determine a schedule for preparing

So yeah…. small steps but now I have a pattern that’s working really well in my life and it’s rare that I don’t stick to my plan.  Before spending the time to break it down into small, manageable pieces (not a full day endeavor) it was just too big of a hurdle to overcome.

Tactic 3:  Learn the Will Skill

Yes, willpower still factors into our ability to change.  However, it’s important to remember that willpower is a skill.  And we can exhaust our willpower by overusing it.  The more situations you end up in throughout the day that require willpower to persevere through, the more likely it is that you “use it up” by the end of the day.  It’s a muscle that you need to practice using (ideally in a controlled situation) so it gets stronger.

The goal with willpower & exercising responsibly (yes, really) is to carefully & deliberately practice using it.  This can mean any variety of approaches:

  • Avoiding your favorite restaurant with your favorite dessert you always order until you have more practice
  • Going to Starbucks only when you have a coach or friend who can help you make a healthy choice when you’re there
  • Deciding in advance what you’re going to order when you’re out so you avoid the pressure of the moment (but still going out so you get the willpower practice)
  • Laying out all your clothes for that early morning workout so the willpower you need is only to get out of bed, not to get out of bed and pick out your clothes.

One key thing I started doing was telling my husband what I planned to order before we walked into the restaurant.  Almost always, it was enough to potentially feel guilty for “lying” if I didn’t order what I’d said I was going to order.  My husband doesn’t even need to say anything, just being willing to listen was enough.

Knowledge + Skills = Success

How many times have we just chalked our lack of change to simply lack of willpower while ignoring key information that could have made our decision so much easier?  There were at least a few things I wrote down that I needed to learn about when I did my own personal knowledge & skill scan.

 

What do you need to know more about or what skill could you learn that would tip the scales in your direction?  What’s something you’ve learned that’s already made a huge difference?  I love hearing about your goals & what’s worked for you.  😊

 

Wishing you an All+SUM LIFE,
Sarah

 

 

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