Everything starts in the mind. You may have heard this saying before but have you ever actually stopped to contemplate what it truly means and how it affects your health and well being?
We all know that our mindset is fundamental to our success but how many of us truly make a conscious and continuous effort to train our minds systematically?
I did use the word “train” deliberately because at Whole Shift Wellness we firmly believe that our mind needs as much (if not more) training and attention than our body.
Really though! If your mindset is not right, nothing else matters or will make a difference in the long run.
An untrained mind will cause you to set unrealistic goals and then give up at the first hurdle. It will act on the self-sabotaging throughs which are bound to show up along the way. It will make you revert back to what it’s most used to do because it’s comfortable and predictable rather than what has to happen to generate new results. It will find reasonable ways to justify doing the same thing over and over whilst expecting a new outcome (the very definition of insanity).
We call it the “Focus” pillar and it is the one pillar we regularly see being most neglected, which is unfortunate since it actually is the most important one and will make the greatest difference. Without a clear and strong strategy revolving around your Focus, you simply won’t reach your goals and if you do, you’ll find it very hard to maintain them in the long run.
Let me give you the most common example of how a lack of strategy around the Focus pillar may show up:
1. Example #1: the New Year resolution.
January 1st: “This is definitely the year things are going to change for me. I will lose 3 stones in 3 months come what may and I will get back into those jeans from 1995 that I’ve been holding onto for dear life in the hope that the moment may come.
This is the moment. I really am tired of it now. I’m done with it. Things are going to change NOW. I’ve hit rock bottom: I mean who eats THAT much Christmas pudding?! And for breakfast too?!? Disgusting and simply unacceptable. Not to mention the leftovers. The sheer thought of Christmas food makes me feel sick and disgusted with myself. I mean, mince pies. They’re not even THAT good so why did I have to eat hundreds of them in just a month? Unbelievable.
All I want now is a salad. I’m going to eat a salad with no dressing for 3 solid months. Maybe a bit of soup here and there when I fancy something warm. That’ll do it, surely.”
January 3rd: “See, I told you this year was different. It’s been 3 solid days and I haven’t touched anything other than salad and soup. Not even one bite. In fact, yesterday I skipped a meal altogether. I may even try that juice cleanse the lady was talking about on the telly: maybe I should abstain from solid foods altogether for a month or so? This is the year I can do it because I’m telling you, I have a different fire in my belly.
It’s truly different this time. I can’t believe John had the audacity to bring mince pies in the office today. I mean, who does that?! I don’t think I’ll ever eat mince pies ever again. In fact, I don’t think I’ll ever eat carbs at all ever again. I’ve already lost 6 pounds; I have a feeling I will get to my goal in two months instead of three. Check me out!! I’m on a roll!!”
January 6th: “I’m hungry. All-day every day. Starving really but here’s what’s new this year: I actually don’t mind it. I think I have developed the ability to just sustain hunger indefinitely. This must be how those celebrities do it. It’s a superpower I feel.
Sure it did take me every little bit of strength and willpower I have in me to resist that piece of bread the waiter brought over with the soup I ordered yesterday. I even told them specifically: no bread! But I did it! I resisted.”
January 10th: “F***k this s**t. I can’t believe this happened. I was doing so very good! F*****g John had to bring in that amazing lasagna for us all to share: I even told him what I was up to, with my new regimen! Selfish pig! “Just one piece won’t spoil it for you,” He said. What does he know? Of course, it did. I ended up eating 3 of them and now ALL my efforts are out the window. All gone.
WHat’s the point in even kidding myself with this? I’m obviously broken. There must be a genetic predisposition to being slim that I simply don’t have. I may as well go for drinks after work: that’ll make me feel better about what a massive failure I am. They’re going for curry afterward, man I have been craving curry like mad this week.
I can always start again next week. Maybe I’ll go straight into a juice cleanse next week because the thing is, if I don’t eat solids at all, I may be able to resist all food. Yep, that’s what I’ll do. One last blow out this weekend then a juice cleanse for a month from next week.”
January 13th: “I know I said I was going to start a juice cleanse today but I forgot I have two birthdays and a work dinner this week. There’s simply no way I can do it this week. We’re even going to that amazing new restaurant everyone keeps talking about. I’ll have to start next week.”
But next week becomes the one after. And then the one after that.
For sure a poor mindset is not everything that caused the breakdown in the above example but it certainly is the root cause of the problem.
We then try and stick to such goals with only will-power (a muscle which sooner or later will get tired and give up on us) and make up reasonable excuses which point the blame outside of ourselves when such silly plans inevitably fail. This vicious cycle ends up making us feel worse than when we started so sooner or later, we will give up and shamefully retrieve back to the old habit patterns.
The number one way to spark long-lasting change is by transforming your mindset by going to the root level of what is not working for you.
In our experience, we’ve been able to identify the 3 main actions you’ve got to take to build a strong strategy around your Focus: these will act like a tripod making your structure of Focus solid and strong.
Here they are.
Empty: the first fundamental action to take when building a strong mindset to support your goals is to Empty your mind of non-conducive thoughts and belief systems which will sabotage your efforts. This sounds easier said than done as most of us feel powerless when it comes to controlling or even just directing our thoughts.
We are trained to believe that thoughts are spontaneous and uncontrollable, they just happen to us and there isn’t much we can do about that. Monkey Mind, they call it and for good reason. A mind that is not trained and directed will jump from one thought to the next uncontrollably as a Monkey jumps from one branch to the next with no particular aim or direction.
In actuality, we have WAY more control over our mind than we tend to believe but much like an untrained wild animal, if we never exert that control, it will do what it wants when it wants to.
Thoughts like the following pop in our mind and it so comforting and easy to believe them that we find very hard not to: “Overweight runs in the family, we’re just all big like that, we all have a big appetite!” or “it is John’s fault that I broke my commitment to my new year resolution, if he hadn’t bought that delicious food in the office, I wouldn’t have broken all rules and gone wild”.
All these are an example of self-sabotage due to pointing the finger outside of ourselves and allowing our Monkey Mind to call the shots spontaneously rather than directing it to do what we want it to do and what is most conducive to our happiness.
Let me clarify, at this point, that it is VERY difficult and virtually impossible to get rid of ALL non-conducive thoughts for good. There is an element of spontaneity to the thought process that truly is outside of our control HOWEVER we always are in control of what thoughts we believe and follow through on;
Look back at three instances when you broke your commitment to your wellness journey (whether it’s not sticking to your eating plan or fitness/meditation routine). Identify the main thought which came up in each instance that justified you breaking your commitment to yourself: what did you say to yourself just before breaking your vow? Write these three thoughts down and notice if/how they may have come up at other times and in other circumstances too. Then next to them, write down three very strong answers to dispel them so that if and when they come up next, you won’t act on them.
2. _______________ ________________
3. _________________ _______________
2. Concentrate: the act of emptying the mind of non-conducive thoughts (or at least learning not to act upon them) goes hand in hand with the act of Concentrating it on your goals, aspirations and why. The more rehearsed you are on what you want to achieve and why the easier it will be to stay on course until you reach your destination.
This is an activity that is totally worth spending some time on so that you can really dig deep and find not only the superficial reasons that motivate you (lose some weight, fit into some item of clothing, run a certain distance in a certain time) but also and more importantly the deepest motivations.
I’ve seen this happen time and time again and can absolutely assure you that the greatest tools you have against self-sabotaging thoughts are your deepest reasons why you embarked on the journey in the first place. The deeper your why the less likely you are to lose momentum and deviate from the course.
Most people we work with tell us that they have clear goals and motivations: that’s why they’re so puzzled that the ultimate result continues to escape them. Many of them are high achievers in other areas of life: they have a great career, great income, happy families and know that when they set their mind to something, they get it done and overachieve on what they set out to.
Why is it then, that they can’t lose a few pounds and keep it off for good? Why is something that on paper looks so simple, so hard for them to master? One of the main reasons is that they actually tend to underestimate the real weight (pun intended) of what they’re trying to achieve and most importantly, why they’re trying to achieve it.
They just haven’t spent enough time Concentrating their mind on it. Let me say now that I have absolutely nothing against goals such as losing weight or dress sizes, running marathons, wearing bikinis: I believe those can be powerful motivators and can totally be leveraged.
When the s**t hits the fan, however, as it inevitably will, it becomes very easy to make up excuses and believe the self-sabotaging thoughts if all you have against them is “I want to lose a dress size”. You will come up with things like: “I can eat less at the next meal to make up for it” or “I’ve already lost plenty, I can slow down a bit” or “I actually don’t want to look too skinny, it doesn’t suit me” or “just this one meal won’t ruin it surely”…and so on and so forth.
However, when you dig really deep into your motivations and find the ones that are most close to your heart, then trust me when I say that you’ll become virtually unshakable in the face of doubt and temptation. One way to get to these deeply embedded motivations is to do an exercise I call “5 Whys”. In fact, let’s take a moment now for you to do this with me:
Write down the top 3-5 wellness goals which in an ideal world, you’d love to achieve. There’s no right or wrong answer here so simply note down the first 3-5 that come to mind.
Now for each of them, ask yourself why you want to achieve this goal at least 5 times. So for example, you may want to lose weight. Ask yourself why you want to lose weight and see what comes up. Whatever thing comes up ask yourself why you want that. And so on and so forth. When you’ve done it at least 5 times and you’re satisfied that you’ve identified your deepest reason, write that down next to your goal.
Goal___________ Deepest Reason__________
Goal___________ Deepest Reason__________
Goal___________ Deepest Reason__________
Goal___________ Deepest Reason__________
Goal___________ Deepest Reason__________
3. Reinforce: repetition is the mother of all skills. This could not be truer than in regards to your health and wellness and it is the very thing that will make ALL the difference between you giving up three weeks into the process or staying with it until you’ve reached what you set out to.
One of the greatest obstacles which get in the way of busy and time-pressed professionals actually reaching their goals is that, once they make up their mind on getting started, they want the results to appear as fast as they say “beach body”.
They’ve spent years, if not decades gradually losing track and building non-conducive habits but they barely want to spend a few weeks or months to improve and transform things for the better. This makes them bait to the myriad of the short term solutions available on the market; all the 21 days plans, 3 stones in 3 weeks, 7 days juice cleanses, potions, pills and other gimmicks of sorts which promise results that are nothing short of miraculous in the blink of an eye.
Some of them even go into these things knowing they don’t work but say to themselves “I’ll just do it to kickstart things and once I’ve lost a few pounds, I’ll then continue just eating healthy”. Unfortunately, all results that are achieved in a way that is unhealthy and not sustainable will backfire with a vengeance sooner or later and you’ll find yourself back at square one with yet another failure under your belt to dent your confidence.
It is WAY more effective and possibly also less time consuming to accept and embrace the fact that it’s going to take some time to reach your goals but if you do so in a healthy and smart way, once you get there you will be there for good. If it’s taken you 10 years to get to where you are, it’s unrealistic if not irresponsible to expect yourself to sort it all out in 10 days.
Many busy and time-pressed leaders have wasted years of their lives trying short term fixes that didn’t work time and time again, yet they’re not prepared to commit a solid year to an approach that will genuinely bring forth profound transformation because it works at the root level of the issues.
Anyone who has succeeded in any area of life will tell you that they had a way of keeping themselves engaged and motivated regularly and consistently. If you do the 5 WHYs exercise and write it all down as suggested, you’ll get a new and exciting breeze of motivation that will start sparking new actions which will inevitably lead to new result; those results, however, will take some time to show themselves to you in a tangible way.
Now, let me tell you, the only way that you’re going to stick with it for enough time to get to the final destination is if you remind yourself DAILY of why you embarked on the journey, to begin with. You honestly can’t do too much reinforcing, in fact, most people don’t do enough.
Here are some ideas of things you can do to Reinforce your motivation regularly:
Write your goals and motivations in bold on an A4 sheet and stick them up somewhere where you can see them daily (fridge, hallway mirror, bedside).
Take a picture of them, save it in your phone and set a reminder to look at the picture daily
Save the picture as your screensaver on all electronic devices
Talk about them openly with those you love and enroll them in your vision and motivation so they can support you along the way
Do a quick voice note of them and keep it on your phone so you can listen to it at least once a week
Create a vision board or collection of pictures and images that speak to your goals and 5 Whys
Whatever you do, build a habit of doing it daily or at least weekly and watch your motivation not only sustain itself but actually grow along the way to your most fit, healthy and confident self.
Have you struggled with your Focus in the past? Or do you have a clear strategy that you follow most days? I’d love to read any comments or questions you may have on the topic so please take a minute to write them in the comments below.
Serena is a Wellness Coach, Certified Yoga Teacher, Fitness Trainer and Plant-Based Nutrition Consultant who has studied the subject of nutrition for over ten years and has a unique, holistic approach to health and wellness.
When she was only 8 years old her father, a very successful and busy entrepreneur, got really sick: unfortunately, he didn’t have the tools to take care of his own wellbeing and therefore crumbled under the pressure of owning a multi-million euros business.
This led to him losing everything he had worked so hard for, with huge consequences to him and the whole family.
As a result of her childhood experiences, Serena has developed an interest in wellbeing practices which started at a very young age.
Today, she works passionately to help leaders be strong and fit so they can be healthy and satisfied and can continue to have a positive impact within their organizations and the communities around them.
Serena is also very passionate about bringing wellness to the workplace since many people spend most of their waking hours at work: she believes that “employees who are cared for, care more” and that companies who put the wellbeing of their employees at the forefront of what they do are more successful than average.
Want to transform your health, fitness, and wellbeing? Download this free PDF report on the 7 most common mistakes professionals make when trying to get fit and healthy, and how to avoid them: https://wholeshiftwellness.lpages.co/free-pdf/
Jana Short says
Serena, this blog was so informative thank you for taking the time to share so much incredible information with us. I am goal setting every day and these tips are awesome!
Serena Sabala says
Thank you Jana, it was a pleasure to contribute and I’m glad you’re getting value!
Dr. Dee says
Loved this article! I have already been working on my goals for next year and even started to get a jump start on a few. I cannot wait to see how amazing next year is!
Serena Sabala says
So glad you got value from the article! No doubt you’ll have a smashing here, if you’re already planning your goals 🙂