According to my MacBook’s dictionary, the word “virtue” means someone who shows “high moral standards”. HA! So this is why so few of us have patience! It’s a virtue for a reason: it takes someone with the characteristics of a saint to have it! So let’s not feel too badly about not showing it, shall we?
That being said, it’s also lack of patience that can explain part of why it’s so darned hard to change our behaviours. We want it NOW! We want everything now! This has lead to the invention of all sorts of things from downloadable movies to my quick-drying nail polish. Some of these things are pretty useless (the flowbee, anyone?) to some pretty awesome inventions like the sod we just laid in our backyard (oh sod, the raccoons may roll you back up but we’ll always roll you back down). But, when it comes to our health, we must do our best to act like the saints of yore and practice a bit of patience.
Why? you ask?
Geez, you’re so impatient! Hold your horses and I’ll tell you!
Patience = Success
When it comes to your health, even if it’s a pressing issue like having developed diabetes or something similar, you cannot expect that you will change overnight. Cutting out everything cold turkey and incorporating behaviours that you have never engaged in before is a sure-fire way for you to come crashing down. Don’t believe me? How many times have you tried to lose weight before? Or change another behaviour like smoking or liking So You Think You Can Dance? You probably gave it a shot for a few weeks, figured it wasn’t working and stopped. We’ve all done it, I even know what the hell I’m doing and I still do it! But what do you think would happen if you just kept at it, despite your frustrations of it not paying off immediately? That you didn’t over think things and just made the new behaviour consistent? You may, depending on how you’re making those changes, find that it actually starts working! It takes roughly one month of performing a new behaviour every day (or not doing an old behaviour) for it to become a habit. If you’re only doing it a few days a week, it takes longer and that’s for only one specific behaviour, so doing it for three weeks isn’t going to stick anyway. The key is to give yourself a bit of patience to allow the new behaviour to become a habit whether this takes one month or six.
For us to be able to turn our lives around we need to understand that this will be a process, a process that requires us to deal with why we are engaging in these unhealthy behaviours, finding our how to change these behaviours and then learning how to incorporate new behaviours. This will take time and that’s okay because Rome wasn’t built in a day, trusting the process will ensure that this change is permanent and isn’t that what we’re trying to do here, make permanent changes so we can live long, healthy lives?
I know, it sucks. It goes against everything our society tells us is right. We’ve become conditioned to feel entitled to have everything we want happen immediately and if it doesn’t then we must be some sort of failure for not being able to make it happen. We have a tendency to beat ourselves up when we are sick or overweight, that we did it to ourselves and so we want to get rid of it as soon as we can to prove that we can still take care of ourselves. But beating yourself up isn’t going to work, it’ll just make it worse because you’ll end up expecting too much of yourself and come crashing down, hard. You know the feeling I’m talking about. Change requires patience, persistence, internal motivation and kindness. For goodness sake, be kind to yourself! You deserve it! Even if you don’t believe me, I’m tell you that you do so just believe it, m’kay? Trust me, it won’t hurt!
Be Kind & Realistic
Although this is a topic that extends far beyond this blog post, one of the things that helped me to learn a little bit of patience was being kinder to myself. When we expect too much of ourselves we tend to simultaneously be a lot more impatient with ourselves. Understand that this is a process that does not happen overnight and deal with it one day at a time. If it’s an important goal, you owe it to yourself to take the time to learn to do it right, regardless of how long it takes.
You also need to be realistic about your goals. It is not realistic to say you’re going to start working out five days a week and stop eating dessert every day if you’ve lived a sedentary life and ate dessert after every dinner. Going cold turkey like this very rarely works for anyone. You need to be realistic with yourself, start off with working out maybe three days a week and cutting back to having only three desserts a week for a month or two and then perhaps cut back to two desserts a week and increase your exercise to either four days a week or increase the amount of time you exercise during those three days a week from 30 minutes to 45 minutes.
What? You need a real-life example? That’s cool, I can dig it.
When I first decided to get healthy the only thing I did was to get rid of all snacks in the house and I emptied the fridge of all caloric drinks, replacing them with water. That’s it. I ate what I would normally eat (no matter how much of it I ate) but if I wanted a snack I would either have to find something healthy to eat, MAKE something, or go out to the convenience store. Normally I’d realize I wasn’t hungry anyway and would then go do something else. With that alone I lost 12lbs in the first and not two months after that I rarely snacked and to this day I rarely keep snacks in the house and only have a mid-afternoon scheduled snack. Once I got that down I started going out for a short walk, three days a week. I kept up exercising only three days a week (but increasing intensity – I began running) until only two years ago, now I have a 4-5 day per week habit of exercising. Baby steps, my friends, baby steps!
Dude, you’re not a mountain! You CAN be moved and that’s perfectly okay! Yes, you can probably make these changes on your own but I can guarantee it’ll happen more consistently (and feel easier) if you get a system of support set up around you. Having a support system in place will ensure that you stay on track, have realistic goals and keeps you motivated on those more impatient days when you just want to curl up in the fetal position and have a good cry. Having someone who knows what your goals are, why you want them and what you can do to get there is an essential factor in your success. All it takes is even one person you can count on to support, encourage, call you on your poop and help you to figure yourself out to help you to keep going. Whether this is a friend, partner, child, work colleague, coach or community (online or offline), tell people about your intentions and, importantly, let them help you! It took me years to realize that my friends actually do care about me and WANT to help me! When I realized that, my life became much easier!
- Change doesn’t happen overnight. Deal with it.
- Trust the process. Change will happen if you trust that consistency is key!
- You owe it to yourself to take the time to do it right, not as fast as possible.
- Is your goal realistic? If not, how can you make it more realistic so the change can stick?
- Do you have a support system in place? Do you have someone who will help you to achieve your goals? If not, who can you go to today and tell about your plans?
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