A little over a month ago I began making some changes in the way I eat an exercise. I’ve long been interested in fitness, but the challenges of being on the road made things difficult. When most of the food you have to choose from is fast food, and the schedule seldom allows for long periods of time for working out, it’s all too easy to slip into bad habits, and I did.
One of the changes I made was a move to more high intensity strength training as opposed to longer forms of cardio like jogging. I’ll do the cardio when the time is available, but not at the expense of the strength training. (Of course now that I’m off the road for a few months I’ve gone back to some very long duration cardio, specifically bicycling) As for diet, I’ve moved to eating a lot more protein, along with lower glycemic index carbs. I eat healthy foods instead of cookies and corn chips.
I have discovered over the last six weeks or so that my ability to make these changes has been directly related to how I frame the tasks. At first I thought about the changes in terms of what I can’t do or won’t do. I would think, “I can’t have cookies, so I won’t eat those.” Or I would think, “I don’t have time (or energy) to exercise.”
What happened was predictable. When I told myself I couldn’t have cookies, I felt deprived and developed gigantic cravings for cookies. When I told myself I didn’t have time to exercise, I sluffed off.
This was the pattern for the first two weeks. But then I began to change the way I was thinking. I started telling myself things like, “I’ll make the time to workout,” and “I eat only healthy foods,” and when I began to think in affirmatives rather than negatives amazing things occurred. I actually found the time to workout. Even better, I sought out ways to get my workouts within the limited time I had available. It turns out I had lots of shorter periods available in the day to get in my workouts, I just wasn’t making use of them. Miraculously, to me, I lost my cravings for junk foods. Instead, I found myself wanting to eat those foods that I knew were healthy for me. If you had any idea how much I used to love oatmeal rasing cookies, you would be shocked at that development.
Since this is a blog about communication and body language, I feel an obligation to bring this post home. The whole point of studying these topics, indeed studying anything, is to change ourselves. We want to make ourselves better listeners, more sensitive to the subtle cues that previously we had ignored. By digging into these concepts we implicitly agree to the premise that we can master them and grow in the process.
What I’ve discovered, and what I’m suggesting, is that change is easiest when we tell ourselves what we can do and will do, rather than what we can’t or won’t. So if you want to become a better communicator, spend some time visualizing the actions you will take in order to do that and then resolve to start implementing them. By practicing good habits, you will find that in the long run bad habits get crowded out. If you dwell on what you shouldn’t do, you’ll end up feeling self-conscious and inadequate. If you focus on what you should do, the bad stuff will tend to drop away on it’s own.