By Lisa Perkins, ACSM CPT, MSLIS, PrimalFit ICT
I have a confession to make: I’m not a very touchy feely person.
When I started coaching, I focused largely on complex fitness, nutrition, and functional medicine guidelines and practices. I was embarrassingly slow to realize that my clients needed mindset coaching, not more rules.
Since mindset issues were far outside my wheelhouse, I set to work using my skills as a former librarian to research the psychology of habit change and compile a targeted set of mindset shifts.
While none of these 8 mindset shifts are revolutionary, the framework as a whole has transformed my health coaching practice. It has exponentially improved outcomes for my clients, which, I guess if you think about it, is kind of revolutionary.
Mindset Shift #1: Choosing Yourself is an Act of Generosity
Does the phrase ‘You deserve this’ make you cringe?
I get it; I was in that place for 20 years. Listen up: It is not selfish to choose yourself. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
I met with a woman recently who wanted to start working with me but she was struggling with the sense that it was self-indulgent to divert time and resources away from her family. I responded with the following questions:
Who in your life benefits from you feeling sluggish, brain fogged, moody, and unhappy?
Who, on the other hand, benefits from you being more energetic, strong, and vibrant?
Her eyes widened when she realized that not only would she benefit from better health, so too would her family, friends, colleagues, and everyone on whom she could bestow her gifts if she just had the energy to do so.
From this perspective, it’s clear that taking the time to restore your health and vitality is not selfish at all but rather exceedingly generous.
Mindset Shift #2: This Is Not Hard
Wait…what?! You heard me right. This is not hard. You know what IS hard? Denying yourself the opportunity to live the fullest life possible because you are too tired, brain fogged, and out of shape to get out there and rock your life.
Do a perspective overhaul. View this process of change as a gift you’re giving your (very near) future self rather than as an uphill battle of pain and deprivation.
Mindset Shift #3: You Hold All the Answers
Getting to know yourself better allows you to get back in the driver’s seat of your life. In her bestselling book, Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, Gretchen Rubin emphasizes that ‘to shape our habits successfully, we must know ourselves.’
Rubin’s Four Tendencies Quiz helps you determine your ‘habit personality’ so that you (and your coach) can personally tailor approach to change.
Upholders respond to both outer and inner expectations; Questioners seek justification for every expectation; Obligers respond to outer expectations but struggle with inner ones; Rebels resist all expectations, both outer and inner alike.
The results of this free quiz are so revelatory that it is now a requirement for all of my coaching clients.
Mindset Shift #4: Simplify the Process
Although it seems counterintuitive, it is imperative that you not attempt to change everything at once.
Instead, we need to find our Big Rocks. Elizabeth Benton, from Primal Potential, explains this concept of identifying the key habits that will yield the biggest results over time rather than overcomplicating the process and overwhelming ourselves.
An example of a Big Rock might be swapping out a high carb breakfast for one that focuses on protein and healthy fat so that you have consistent energy throughout the morning and don’t land face first in the office donut box.
An example of a small rock (a change that won’t have a dramatic impact on your goals) is agonizing over the choice between an organic versus a conventional egg.
Take a pen and paper and go through your entire day: Where are your own unique Big Rocks?
Mindset Shift #5: Simple = Sustainable
Once you’ve made your list, choose just one habit to change. I know you’re tempted to choose two, three or more more but I’m serious. Just pick one.
Focus on hacking this habit until it becomes easy (aka doesn’t require willpower or constant decision making). This may take you 7 days or it may take you 30. This is your journey and we are all unique.
James Clear, an expert on habit change, coined the term habit creep to refer to the process of slowly and slightly adjusting our normal everyday habits and behaviors to create lasting and substantive transformation.
Once you’ve hacked this one habit and it is running in the background of your life, then and only then should you take on the next Big Rock.
Mindset Shift #6: You Don’t Need More Information
Sir Isaac Newton nailed it with his discovery that an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion. The first step is the hardest part but it gets ever so much easier from there.
Jen Sincero, author of You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, says: ‘If you’re like most people, the majority of your thoughts are about as valuable and interesting as a bunch of two-year olds fighting over a sippy cup’.
Stop overthinking and over-researching (carb timing, meal plans, intermittent fasting). Instead, identify your Big Rock(s) and just START.
Mindset Shift #7: To Say You Will Try is Planning to Fail
Once you’ve chosen your one key habit to change, commit to it 100%. Be consistent. No ‘trying’ allowed. To say that you will try means you’re giving yourself an easy out.
Because you are not overwhelmed (remember, you’re focusing on one thing only), you can focus on consistency and this will lead to feelings of success.
Every small win gives you the confidence and motivation to keep going.
Bottom line is don’t try. If you need to enlist a coach or accountability partner to maintain consistency, then do so. However, keep in mind that the buck stops with you. Be the boss of you and don’t try: Do.
Mindset Shift # 8: Confidence is the New Skinny
I’ve never been a huge believer in the motivational power of affirmations and fitness memes (back to my lack of touchy feely-ness, I suppose). I dare say they can even be de-motivating to those who are struggling.
What works instead? In my experience, the real key to motivation is this: Taking action.
Targeted action begets success; success leads to improved self-confidence; confidence begets more action. My cornball term for this is the ‘success cycle’.
The success cycle is the polar opposite of the shame spiral. Shame spirals occur when we take on too much, get overwhelmed, fall off the wagon, feel disgusted with ourselves, and fear all future attempts. Success cycles, on the other hand, make us look around and think, ‘Wow, what else can I do?!’.
You don’t need to have all the answers right now. In fact, the only thing you need to have is a modicum of self-awareness, a sprinkle of belief in yourself, and a fairy dusting of faith that you’re worth the effort.
By employing the mindset shifts above, you can’t help but successfully transform your habits for the better and for keeps.
Give it a go. I guarantee that you (and all who love you) will thank you.
Lisa Perkins, ACSM CPT, MSLIS, is the owner of PrimalFit ICT, a Paleo Health and Fitness Coaching business in Wichita, Kansas.
She is a former librarian from Alaska who spends her time coaching, researching functional medicine topics, (s)mothering her teen girls, and working on her handstand push-ups.
Her website is under construction but you can find her on Facebook and Instagram at Primalfitict
If you’re interested in 1:1 coaching, shoot her a message:
firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a free 30 minute consultation.