I have a young friend who convinced me that he would always be overweight.
This Millennial male has been padding his waist for the past two years, and over a Diet Coke one afternoon, he explained to me that he couldn’t control his eating. And that he’s too busy to prepare meals ahead of time. And that he really does not like vegetables… or exercising.
So, yeah, the odds of him expanding in 2019 are pretty good, right?
First, understand, this is a judgment-free blog zone. I am not stating that everyone must be weight-proportionate-to-height to lead a fulfilling existence. I am also not making fun of this bright, talented professional and his struggle with overeating. In fact, this message isn’t even about dieting.
What I am pointing out is that in that 30-second portion of our conversation, my friend crystalized why we fail to take the positive steps necessary to make our lives better. We tell ourselves:
I’m too busy.
I don’t like.
Previous generations might address my friend’s comments with: “Waaaaaahhhhh… put on your big boy pants and get to work. You can accomplish whatever you set your mind to.” And they wouldn’t be wrong…but just maybe not overly helpful.
Look, when we tell ourselves that we can’t do something, we are absolutely right.
And if at the end of December we decided that we really wanted to achieve something remarkable in 2019, and if we went to the extent of writing down a goal, complete with measurable results, there’s a good chance we still won’t hit our target.
Want to know why?
Because we don’t believe that we can.
We don’t see ourselves accomplishing the goal. Instead, our default mode is to focus on all of the reasons why we won’t lose the weight, won’t jumpstart our career, or won’t improve our relationships.
Motivational guru Tony Robbins wrote simply and powerfully on these limiting beliefs: “We all have unlimited potential – but often our results don’t reflect that. Why? Because our unconscious beliefs cripple our results.”
“Our nature is to only invest energy into that which we believe will produce the outcome we seek. Therefore, when we believe something is not going to work out – even unconsciously – we sabotage our potential by taking halfhearted action. Little action equals lousy results. Lousy results equal uncertainty and disheartened beliefs. It is a vicious cycle that only ends when you decide to change what you’re putting into it.”
That’s brilliant. Addressing our limiting beliefs, then, becomes the single most crucial aspect of setting any goal. Otherwise, it’s a futile exercise. So how do we rid ourselves of those unconscious limiting beliefs? It’s not simple, but Dr. Matt James, president of the Empowerment Partnership, suggested the following steps in an article for Psychology Today (with my notes in parentheses):
Step 1: Write the limiting belief down.
Follow your thoughts and emotions to discover the limiting beliefs that hold you back. Put them on paper and stare them in the face! You might note how strong each belief is and what emotions they elicit in you.
Step 2: Acknowledge that these are beliefs, not truths!
This is often the hardest step. “But, but, my limitations are real!” Here’s the place where choice comes in. Which are you more interested in: defending your limitations to the death or achieving your goals and desires? As author Evelyn Waugh wrote, “When we argue for our limitations, we get to keep them.”
Step 3: Try on a different belief.
Use your imagination and try on a belief that is aligned with what you want. (For my friend, it might be something like, “I’ve learned that without having an eating plan in place, it is easy for me to gain weight. By adopting a more healthy lifestyle, I can avoid overeating, I can keep the right kinds of foods on hand – and I can lose weight.”)
Step 4: Take different action.
This might feel scary, but act as if your new belief is true. (“So if I am adopting a healthier lifestyle, what foods will I look for in restaurants, and what healthy snacks will I keep on hand so that I don’t binge on fast food when I’m starving after a long day at work?”)
If you avoid taking any steps based on your new belief, you will just feed your old limiting belief. Taking action, even the smallest step, will help solidify your new un-limiting decision. Your first steps don’t have to be perfect, just headed in the right direction.
Six months ago I made a personal commitment to lose weight, and to date I am down 25 pounds. I relaxed during the holidays, but am now back on track with the goal to drop another 25. I expect to hit my goal weight later this year.
Those of you who know me know that I didn’t just ignore my young friend’s comments about his struggle with his weight. I grew up believing (and still do) that I can accomplish anything that I want – and I made certain that he knew I believed the same about him. But he has to take action…and that starts with clearly identifying his limiting beliefs.
Will he do it? I don’t know. I can encourage him, but I can’t spoon-feed him the motivation or the plan to make improvements in that area of his life. That change has to start between his own ears.
As Tony Robbins says, “The only thing that’s keeping you from getting what you want is the story you keep telling yourself.” And if my friend’s story includes a steady diet of “I can’t” and “I don’t” then his doubts will continue to grow.
And so will his waistline.