In my work with clients, one of the most consistent realizations I hear from people as they work to change is, “Dang, this is hard.” To which I usually crack a small smile and reply with a succinct yet empathic, “Yep.” Whether you are trying to communicate more effectively with your significant other, trying to change your spending to accommodate a new life change, or trying to drink less caffeine, I can just about guarantee one thing; it’s going to be hard. Healthy, meaningful change is difficult. Anyone who says or pretends otherwise isn’t being honest.
I can guess what you might be thinking, “Well this is depressing, Dr. Allison.” To which I say, “I know, it is kind of a bummer.” But the mission of Dr. Allison isn’t to help you lead an easy life; it is to help you lead a healthier, more intentional, and fulfilling life. So admitting that healthy is hard is part of the work.
But here is the cool part about this “healthy is hard” mantra…it can totally help you make an in-the-moment decision to move towards the healthy change you want!
Recently, I have been trying to make a change towards eating cleaner and with greater balance. Now that I’m in my thirties, I’ve started to become more aware of family health histories and the importance of being good to my body. One of the avenues I’ve been narrowing in on to help me in this goal is eating from home (i.e. not eating breakfast on the run, packing a lunch, and being planful with meals). When faced with a difficult decision about eating healthier, I’ve been asking myself a simple yet important question. “What feels hard in this moment?” Let’s repeat that for effect. “What feels hard in this moment?” Nine times out of ten, your answer to that question is an indicator of the best step towards your goal. Let’s look at some examples.
It’s Sunday night, and I’m fused to the couch after a Game of Thrones episode. I realize I should probably prep a few meals for the week. As I lay under my cozy blanket, I ask myself, “What feels hard right now?” The answer: getting out from under this blanket and taking 45 minutes to prep meals for tomorrow and Tuesday. Bingo. The red arrow is now flashing towards what is going to help me meet my goal.
It’s Tuesday afternoon and one of my coworkers left muffins in the break room. I’m hungry, but I have a Greek yogurt plus pomegranate seed snack packed in my lunch box. I ask myself, “What thing would feel hard to do right now?” The answer is walking away and eating the snack I brought (and actually like too!) Again, a flashing arrow to the healthy decision that will best support my goal of eating better.
This isn’t to suggest that you always need to choose the hard decision. Rigidity isn’t healthy either; we all deserve and need moments where we take the easy road. But if you’re working towards making a change in your life, take time to check in with yourself at various choicepoints and ask, “What option feels hard right now?” It’s a pretty good bet that the answer to that question is the direction you need to move.
What change are you trying to make in your life? What change are you finding difficult?
If you are working to be more assertive at work, and a coworker does or says something you don’t like, ask yourself, “What response feels hard in this moment?” If letting it go sounds easy and speaking up sounds hard, I’m guessing speaking up is the move that will help you get closer towards your goal of being more assertive.
If you are working to curb your spending and are standing in the aisle at Target with a cute candle and you’re not sure what to do, ask yourself, “What move feels hard in this moment?” If the answer is putting the candle down and walking out with just the groceries and toilet paper you came for, that’s probably the decision that best supports your goal of reducing your spending.
If you are working to meet more friends in your neighborhood and a neighbor you don’t know well invites you for a barbeque and you think to yourself, “Yikes, that could be awkward; it sounds safer and easier to say we are busy and not go,” then take that as a cue that the healthy thing to do is to face potential awkwardness and go.
Healthy is hard, no doubt about it. So rather than fight it, move towards it. Ask yourself in moments of struggle and decision-making what feels hard and then go towards it with enthusiasm, because you’ll be closer to your goal!