There’s truth in the notion (most famously and creepily articulated by Joseph Goebbels) that if a big enough lie is repeated often enough, people will eventually start to believe it.
One thing we’ve been hearing for quite some time now is how difficult it is for us to change our health behaviors, even when our lives — or the quality of our lives — depend on it.
I’m going to challenge that truth for a moment. In fact, I’m going to suggest that over the long haul it’s actually much easier to make healthy change than to not make it. It’s just that we’ve been brainwashed (to some extent, by ourselves) into believing the contrary.
Let’s start with the ads for diet products and quick-fix fitness products. They are full of intimations that eating healthy and exercising are way too tough and unpleasant to be attempted without whatever aids they are advertising.
The ads for pharmaceuticals suggest that eating right and exercising deserve a token try, but warn that these efforts “may not be enough” to reverse whatever condition the pharmaceuticals promise to address more effectively.
The talk around bariatric surgeries often hinges on how this is the “only way” that very heavy people can lose weight and reverse life-threatening conditions. I’m not going to debate that point here (another time, perhaps), but I will posit that hearing that message tends to discourage a great many people who could succeed in making changes from seeking out supportive resources (such as health coaching) that might help them do just that.
Even our own primary-care physicians may inadvertently support the change-is-doomed doctrine because — based on the discouraging clinical data surrounding “patient noncompliance” and the fact that most doctors receive virtually no training in how to help patients accomplish lifestyle changes (hmm, think those two things might be connected?) — they openly doubt that most of their patients are capable of making such changes successfully.
Of course, to be fair, many people go to their doctors announcing in earnest that they have already tried to change their behavior (by going on a diet, for example) but that “it hasn’t worked.”
This brings us to the brainwashing we do to ourselves. Based on our own unsuccessful past attempts — no matter how badly conceived and poorly supported these efforts may have been — we tell ourselves “we can’t” or “it’s just too hard.” And we start to believe that, too.
The thing is, at least in the vast majority of cases, it’s simply not true. Yes, you have to be ready to change, and yes, you need a positive vision and good skills, resources and support that set you up for success. But you can develop those, and we’re here to help you do that.
Every Success Story we’ve ever printed (see this month’s here) tells the story of a person who has managed the supposedly Herculean effort of changing his or her life for the better, often after more than one attempt. And virtually all of them have come out the other side struck less by “how hard it was” than by how much better and easier their lives have become as a result.
I believe that same transformation is possible for each of us — and that we can continue to transform ourselves in similar ways throughout our lifetimes — but only if we can get past the belief that it is so difficult and complex as to be hardly worth trying.
I am not suggesting that changing ingrained behaviors or bucking our society’s unhealthy trends is easy. As I’ve stated before, I believe that being healthy in the current culture demands nothing less than a revolutionary mindset. It also requires a willingness to learn and experiment until you find an approach that works for you.
But I don’t think that changing our lives for the better has to be as impossible a task as we’ve been led to believe. And it’s certainly not nearly as hard as struggling through the rest of our days chronically short of energy, self-confidence and hope.
So my advice is this: Don’t get too invested in all that “change is hard“ hype. Focus on doing what you can do instead, and trust that it will get easier, not harder, as you go along. We’ve packed this issue with relatively simple ways you can begin incorporating positive changes into your life now. And throughout 2010 we’ll be bringing you even more.
Making big life changes may not be effortless, but with an empowered perspective and some decent advice, it’s eminently doable. That’s our story, anyway, and we’re sticking to it.