Flipping the switch to changing your behavior

Here's something to consider...

Not eating sugar is a struggle because you haven't really decided to not eat sugar.

Stick with me here, and I'll explain.

(And please note—I'm talking about giving up sugar here, but this applies to any behavior you want to change.)

Now, to be clear: You may have made the decision that you ought to not eat sugar. 

But on a core level, that decision as to whether or not you will eat sugar is still up for discussion. 

For example, imagine...

There you are in the work break room, looking at a box of donuts a coworker brought. 

And because the decision to not eat one hasn't really been made, you find yourself re-examining wether or not you should eat one. You find yourself looking at a donut, and asking yourself, "Am I going to eat this donut or not?" 

The decision to not eat that donut hasn't really been made. 

So it's a struggle to decide.

Every time. 

And after enough of that exhausting struggle, you've worn out your willpower, and find yourself eating a donut after all.

Flipping the switch

What you need is that experience when an internal "switch" flips, and when the decision is made, once and for all.

What does it mean for a decision to be truly made?

If you talk with a lot of people who've given up smoking, you'll find that, for a certain percentage of them, at one point simply decided that they were done smoking—and they never smoked again. 

There was a moment where they decided—through and through—that they were finished smoking. They'd had their last cigarette. It was done. 

And because they made a complete, congruent decision, it changed everything. 

As one former smoker said, "before I made that decision, my cravings would show up, I'd struggle with them for a while, and then I'd be lighting a cigarette before I knew it.

"But after that moment of decision, it was like a switch had flipped. I still felt the cravings, but they had no impact on me. I knew I was done smoking. And the cravings have gotten weaker as time has gone on. I still sometimes feel cravings to smoke, but it's not up for discussion. I'm not smoking."

I suggest to you that if you are going to make a change—like a decision to avoid sugar, or change some other behavior—you need to make a complete decision in which the internal switch flips. 

Otherwise, you'll be caught in a world where you're "re-deciding" every time you have a craving, whether or not you will give in to it.

And as I said, you'll eventually get worn out, and the sugar will win again.

You actually know what I mean

You actually are familiar with that kind of "switch flipped" decision—just maybe not around you behavior with food.

Think about a time you moved to a new home, or took on a new job. After you've moved, you're don't re-examine your decision to move, every morning of your life. 

After you've settled in at a new job, you don't struggle each morning to "re-decide" if you are going to work that day. 

Most of the time, you made the decision...and once that decision was made, it was made. 

But we keep getting entangled with sugar because we don't really decide that we are done with it. So we keep re-deciding—usually when we are at our weakest, and most needy. 

So the sugar keeps winning. 

It is possible to not eat sugar and be at peace

If you've really made the decision that you are done with sugar, it is possible to look at that box of donuts, notice any craving you might have for them, and to to then go about your day, happy and at peace—even without eating one.

But...you can't make yourself make that decision. 

You can't make that decision by willpower alone.

You can't fake it till you make it. 

And that's a real problem. 

The truth is, I've spent most of my career trying to figure out how to help people get to the point of making that decision, fully, so it's not up for discussion anymore.

And I think I've found the way.

Over the next few posts, I'm going to talk about the unexpected solutions I've found to that problem—with an eye to helping you develop an "internal emotional alignment," so that you can take the best actions for you...and happily and easily take care of your body and have a vital, passionate life. 

Stay tuned. 

The secret to effective action that no one talks about

This may be the most important blog post I’ve ever written.

I’m going to tell you the “Big Secret” of every success I’ve had. 

I’ve studied a lot of the “success literature.” I’ve been running workshops for more than 25 years. But I’ve never seen anybody write about this.

I’m not a guy who usually talks in terms like “Big Secrets,” but what I’m going to share with you today does seem like a genuinely Big Secret. 

No fooling.

So let’s do this and take that action

You know that everybody wants to be more effective. Everybody wants to figure out how to take more and better action.

That’s true everywhere in life, but it’s especially true if you are trying to improve your health. 

If you want to improve your health, you have to take action. No one else is going to do it for you. You have to figure out what needs to be done, find people who can help you, and take that action. Every day.

Of course, that’s not just true about health. If you want to improve your life in any way, you have to take action.

So let’s look at how to take your most effective action.

Thing you need to know number 1

New and better techniques don’t guarantee powerful, effective action.

Simply getting better at

  • tracking your time, or
  • setting your priorities, or
  • developing a diet plan, or
  • developing a workout plan, 

or any of the hundreds of other effectiveness “secrets” you can find everywhere will not be enough. 

Effectiveness techniques are important. I use techniques all the time. I’m not putting them down.

But knowing more techniques does not guarantee effective action.

Which leads us to Thing You Need to Know Number 2.

Thing You need to know number 2

It’s not the techniques you use to succeed that matter. It’s who you are when you are using those techniques that matters.  

If you want to take effective action, you’ve got to be internally aligned, all the way to your core. Your heart (I mean your emotional heart), your spirit, must be aligned with your intentions, which must be aligned with your beliefs about yourself and about what is possible for you.

For instance: it won’t matter if you are using a technique many others have used to create success if, in your deepest heart, you believe you can never be a successful person. 

Put another way: it won’t matter how great a system you attempt to follow if, at a core level, you are so discouraged by your past failures that part of you has given up on the possibilities for your own future. 

Who you are being—discouraged or inspired, bitter or uplifted—makes all the difference in your ability to use any technique to create the results you want. 

If you have core, heart-level, internal alignment,  then effective, powerful actions will flow from you automatically.

But if you do not have that core, heart-level alignment, you’ll subconsciously “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory” every single time

You know it’s true

You know this is true because you’ve experienced it. There have been times in your life when you have felt “in the zone”—when you haven’t had to push yourself to do well, and when your highest-quality actions simply flowed from you. It felt great, and you had unexpected success.

You’ve also experienced the opposite: times where you’ve felt so discouraged and beaten down that even though you attempted to take action, your poor mental and emotional state poisoned everything you tried to accomplish, even if you were taking the “right” actions.

Again: It’s not the techniques you use to succeed that matter. It’s who you are when you are using those techniques that matters.  

And now, the big secret of being at your best when you use your effectiveness techniques.

The Big Secret to taking effective action:

Energy to take effective, powerful action comes when love touches the parts of you that have given up.

If you are “dirt honest” with yourself, you’ll probably admit that you sometimes find yourself feeling bad about yourself because you are not being as effective as you’d like to be. 

Perhaps you are working on a project, but can't concentrate and keep getting distracted. Or perhaps you can't even get yourself to start. 

Energy to act comes when love touches the parts of you that have given up.

So the key is finding the parts of you that have given up, and to bring love, compassion, and mercy to those parts.

That can be hard because often we are secretly (or not-so-secretly) angry with the parts of ourselves that have given up.

  • Those parts of us that are upset and in pain are weak.
  • Those parts of us that are upset and in pain are preventing us from getting things done.

Our impulse is not to take the time to love and nurture those parts.

Our instinct is

  • to reject those discouraged parts,
  • to ignore them, to push them aside and
  • to try to “push though” against all the resistances and problems that those upset parts of us create.

Abe Lincoln said that if he had six hours to chop down a tree, he’d spend the first five hours sharpening his saw. I’m telling you the way to take truly effective, aligned, smart action is to sharpen your internal saw. And that is done by loving the very parts of you that are so broken that it seems like they are stopping you from being able to act in the first place. Because ignoring them is not going to make their influence go away. 

Caring for those broken parts of ourselves is the "sharpening the saw" Lincoln talked about. It's the essential preparation if you are going to take inspired, effective action in your life. 

But most of the time, when it comes to our emotional health, we refuse to do that critical preparation. 

Repainting our deck

The funny thing is, we don’t refuse to do proper preparation before other activities in life.

For instance, my wife and I currently want to repaint the deck on the back of our house. But it turns out the deck needs to be sanded first.

We are not responding by saying, “We refuse to sand this deck to prepare to paint, because painting is what we want to do, dammit!”

Instead we are saying, “Okay, in order to get the result we want (a repainted deck) we have to sand it first (the preparation)." Most people would respond the same way. Most of us would say, “In order to do this task well, there’s something else that needs to be handled first.” 

But most of us don't respond that way when we are too upset or discouraged to take inspired action.

Instead we subconsciously say, "It doesn't matter if I'm too broken inside to take effective action. I'm gonna pretend I can do it, and take action anyway!"

Then we are surprised when the actions we take don't get the results that we desire. 

It takes a real shift in attitude to go from saying “I need to eradicate my weakness so I can get things done” to saying “I need to love my weakness, so I can get things done.”

It seems counter-intuitive, because instead of jumping right in to your activity, you are spending time preparing yourself, spiritually and emotionally, to do that activity.

But it turns out this is the most important thing. Because if you are not at your best, you simply won't be able to take your best actions. 

Looking back at my life, I see that my most successful accomplishments were also the easiest for me to do. Yes, there was work—and sometimes a lot of it—but the action of working simply flowed out of me because of who I was being inside. I was internally aligned, so my actions were good.

And looking back, I can also see how taking action when I was internally upset led to some of the biggest mistakes of my life. You can probably relate. 

When you care for the parts of you that have given up, that door to effective action can open for you, too. 

Next week I'll get into the "how to do it" of all this. If you liked this article, you won't want to miss the step-by-step of actually putting it into practice. Sign up here to be notified. You'll also get an instant download of my free PDF, "The 5 Big Mistakes People Make When They Try to Lose Weight and Improve Their Health—and How You can Avoid Them!" 

What do you really want from food?

"I want to eat whatever I want, as much as I want, whenever I want, and never exercise. That's what I want."

My wife Fawn had asked me what I wanted my relationship with food to be like. Hearing me answer, I think she was starting to regret having asked.

"I want to eat hot fudge sundaes. I want to eat donuts. I want to eat chocolate chip cookies—In fact, that's such a great idea, if I wasn't talking to you I'd go get some cookies right now! That's how brilliant that idea is. I want to eat what I want, when I want it, and as much as I want of it, and nobody can stop me."

We were talking because I had been losing weight and become more healthy, but—and this is putting it mildly—I wasn't feeling like doing what it would take to continue to get those outcomes.

"Cookies, and more cookies," I continued. "That is what I want."

"So, why do you want that?"

Fawn looked a little shocked by my belligerence. But, being an experienced facilitator, she moved on anyway.

"Okay," she said, "That's what you want. But why do you want that? What does it seem like doing that will give you?"

I knew the answer without a moment's hesitation. "Why do I want that?" I answered. "That's an easy one.

"I want to eat whatever I want because I want to be free. I don't want to live that dull, grey, restricted, boring life of eating 'healthy.' I want to be unrestricted and free, eating up the wonders of life. I want life without restriction. I want joy and color and amazingness. And if that means eating cookies whenever I want them, then that's what it means."

Fawn had wisely uncovered what I truly wanted: Freedom.

And she had seen my prescription for freedom: Cookies.

It was time to take the next step.

The heart never truly longs for something unwholesome

In the work we do we are always looking for the deepest longing a person has in a situation. We like to think of it as if the Divine placed that longing in your heart. It's sacred.

And by that same token we believe that the heart never truly wants something unwholesome. We never truly, in our deepest heart, long for something that will destroy us.

Therefore, when I said "I truly long to eat cookies, and never stop," Fawn knew that I was full of it. Did I really, truly, on the deepest level of my being, long for something that would eventually give me diabetes and a heart attack? Of course not. The heart never truly longs for something unwholesome. Fawn knew she had to look deeper.

"Okay," she said. "So let's get into this. I really want to understand your experience of eating cookies and being free. Where do you get the best cookies?"

"The coffeeshop by our house," I answered. "They have the best freakin' chocolate chip cookies in the world. Hot out of the oven, perfectly browned, chocolaty and gooey. MMMmm. I wish I had one right now."

"Okay," she said. "Imagine how it feels to walk into that coffeeshop. You walk, in, and what happens?"

"I walk in, and walk up to the counter." I told her. "I see the cookies. I smell them. Wow, they look so good. I have to have one. I absolutely have to have one."

Fawn said, "Just out of curiosity—could you choose not to have one?"

"No!" I said. "I can't choose that. I must have one. I want one. I have to have one. I must have one! I must! I must!"

At that moment I had one of those "comes the dawn" experiences.

I had one of those rare human moments of actually hearing the words that were coming out of my mouth.

And it was quite a revelation.

"Hey, wait a minute!" I said. "If I must have one, I don't have any choice. That's not freedom! That's not freedom at all!"

Not free at all

There I was, a guy who was committed to feeling free. I had just discovered that I wasn't free at all. In fact, I was being controlled by the very food I desired most.

That was a big realization.

I continued to talk as I unpacked this new insight. "You know, I do like the pleasurable sensations of eating; that's for sure. But I see now that I do not like being out of control. I do not like going to a coffeeshop for a cup of tea and getting a cookie and a hot cocoa because I can't stop myself. I do not like that at all.

I continued, "I don't want to be controlled by 'there's a cookie, I have to get it. There's a mocha, I have to buy it.' I hate that, actually. I hate that I'm consigned to being out of control, and to not have any choice."

As much as I enjoy eating, I had to admit, "There's no joy in being out of control."

In that moment, I discovered that my true longing was to be in control of my eating. My true longing, when it came to sugary foods that made me fat and out of control, was simply to stop.

"I want to be able to take a stand," I told Fawn. "I want to be able to take a stand in the world and say, 'for the sake of my health, I'm not eating that.' I want to be that free."

Until you connect to your desire to change, change is hard

Your motivations may be different than mine. Perhaps feeling free is not your top priority. Perhaps it's feeling supported, or feeling powerful, or feeling in control.

But, fundamentally, if you are saying you want to change your behavior, but actually don't want to change it, you probably shouldn't lie about it. You need to look deeper to see if that behavior is really, truly giving you what your heart longs for, and move from that new realization.

Let's look at my case:

If I hadn't acknowledged that I wanted to keep on eating everything, how well would I have been able to change my behavior around food? Probably not very well. I would have "talked a good game," but still eaten and eaten and eaten.

I often see this in my clients, and participants at my workshops. People want something to be different in their lives, then pretend to want to take the action to make that change happen...but part of them really doesn't.

Then they try to change, but their repressed desire to do the behavior they are supposedly trying to stop works against them. They then wonder why they are having difficulty, and why they can't be "self-disciplined."

Once I acknowledged that I really liked overeating because I thought itgave me freedom, I was able to look deeper. I was able to ask, is my compulsive eating really an example of being free? From that perspective I was able to see quite clearly: It was not.

In the face of that realization, I really started wanting self-control. I got "on board" with my desire to control what I was eating. I wanted to be free to make my own choices about food, not have them made for me.

This opened up a real feeling of lightness and possibility for me. I felt a new energy in my body, and the energy said this:

"I want to choose, and I CAN choose."

I started to really feel the truth of it. I wasn't doomed to be an automaton, shoveling sugar into my mouth. I could choose for myself.

I started feeling how it felt to able to make my own choices, rather than having food make those choices for me.

It felt great.

Getting "on board" with changing

Your process may be different than mine. The important thing is that you participate. You have to acknowledge where you are at right now—even if it's wanting to eat everything in sight. Then you need to look deeper, to your deeper desire, and let yourself come into relationship with that longing.

When your heart is really "on board" with changing, it's much easier to ignore the cookie you'd otherwise eat, or whatever else is tempting you as you set about changing your life.

How to be compassionate to yourself if you're NOT READY to start getting healthy

not-ready-text.jpg

If you know you need to work on your health, but you just don't feel ready, then this post is for you.

  • This blog post will not be a "pep talk" that will try to get you to change.
  • This blog post will not try to make you change your diet or start exercising when you don't feel ready to do so.

What this post will do is help you feel a deeper compassion for the part of you that is not ready to take action toward better health…

So that when you are ready you'll be able to take action wholeheartedly, without being slowed down by inner resistance or discouragement.

SOMETIMES A PERSON IS JUST NOT READY

Taking action toward good health is important. But the truth is, sometimes a person just isn't ready.

If you aren't ready, you'll probably relate to these statements:

  • "I know I should be exercising, but it just seems too hard."
  • "I'm too busy to spend time cooking or working out."
  • "I can't imagine giving up the foods I love to eat, even though I know they are bad for me."

These are all signs of not being ready.

And if you are not ready, you've come to the right place.

NOT BEING READY IS HARD

Here's a rarely-acknowledged truth:

It's hard being overweight or out of shape, knowing that you "should" do something about it, but honestly not feeling ready to take action.

After all, there's not much compassion in our society if you're not taking massive health-related action, right now.

If you aren't ready to take action, you are greeted with a near-universal chorus of:

  • "You should be ashamed!"
  • "You gotta push through! Try harder and do it anyway!"
  • "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels! [or some other pep-talk slogan]"
  • "A dumb diabetic is a dead diabetic!"
  • "Do you WANT to get sick/die early?"
  • …and so on.

None of this helps. All these responses just make you feel worse (and will, in fact, probably push you toward eating food that's not good for you, just so you can feel some comfort and relief).

WHY YOU ARE NOT READY

It turns out that if you don't feel ready to take action to improve your health, there are good reasons why you feel that way.

Most likely, you don’t feel ready because you've tried in the past to improve your health, and you've failed.

That harsh experience of trying and failing has led you to believe that it's pointless to try to improve your health. The evidence seems to be that trying to improve your body is a painful experience that doesn't lead to success. So why even bother?

In the face of your experience, some part of you has given up on losing weight or otherwise improving your health.

And because part of you is discouraged about your health, has given up, and feels like taking action is pointless, you find yourself feeling "not ready."

IT'S HARD TO CHANGE IF YOU FEEL ASHAMED AND IGNORED

If you know you "need to shape up" and haven't, you probably are alternating between two ways of relating to yourself:

  1. You're shaming yourself for having given up. Along with the rest of the world, you probably are shaming yourself for your lack of motivation. "I shouldn't be this way," you might tell yourself. "I'm lazy," you might say. Or you might be asking, "What is wrong with me?"
  2. You're ignoring the whole problem of health. If you're not actively shaming yourself for having given up, you're probably ignoring the whole situation. Because ignoring the whole problem of health is less painful than beating yourself up, there's a good chance that you spend most of your time just ignoring your health situation. After all, if the alternative is feeling ashamed, you might as well just go numb to the whole thing.

But ignoring the whole situation has a major problem of its own:

If you ignore the whole problem of health,  you'll never be in a position to take powerful, wholehearted action to improve your health.

THE SOLUTION

It turns out there is a solution:

The solution is to have compassion for yourself… even when you're not ready to make a change.

That's the solution because being compassionate with yourself is the best way to gently bring yourself to the point of being ready.

But there's one thing you must know if you want your self-compassion to actually help you:

Self-compassion is tricky, because we often confuse it with ignoring the problem.

For instance, a person might think that the way to be compassionate to themselves would be to say,

"I want to be compassionate to myself. Therefore I'll tell myself that it's fine if I ignore my health for the rest of my life."

While that is certainly less painful than shaming yourself, that is not the kind of compassion we are looking for. Saying "It's fine if I ignore my health for the rest of my life" is simply taking the opposite approach of shaming yourself. It's less painful, but it doesn't bring you any closer to being able to wholeheartedly improve your health.

And that's important because, if you're "dirt honest," simply being unhealthy and ignoring it is probably not the deepest longing of your heart.

In your heart, you probably long to be healthy and feel good in your body.

That means you can't simply be okay with ignoring your health, and with calling that compassion.

You mustn't confuse allowing yourself to ignore your painful condition forever with being truly compassionate for yourself.

This is the compassion that you need: the love that doesn't shame you for having given up, but that also doesn't ignore the fact that you've given up.

THE COMPASSION YOU NEED

Fortunately, unconditional love and compassion have a way of recharging people to take action.

If you've ever sat with a discouraged friend and listened to him or her complain, and simply provided love and compassion, you know that, after their pain has been acknowledged, and they've been loved even though they are discouraged, they are usually ready to try once more.

Compassionate love—without pep-talks, without advice—really does recharge people's hearts and allow them to try once again.

That means we can't just tell ourselves,

"I know health is a painful issue for me because I've failed in the past, so it's okay to ignore it."

We have to go deeper with our compassion, telling ourselves,

"I know health is a painful issue for me because I've failed in the past..and I'm here to love the part of me that has given up on taking action, until I feel like I can try once again."

It may seem like a subtle difference, but it's actually huge.

Rather than enabling yourself to ignore your situation in the name of compassion, you can actually pay more attention,  and bring love to the parts of yourself that have given up on trying.

The more love and compassion you can bring to the part of yourself that has given up on taking action to improve your health, the sooner you'll get to the point of being able to wholeheartedly take new action—not as a chore, but with power and inspiration.

That healing may not happen in a minute. It may not happen in a day.

But you do need to start that healing if you want to be able to pursue better health from a sense of inner inspiration.

I want to support you through the process of healing your discouragement so you can become ready. I hope that you'll keep coming back to this blog and read it for support, even if you aren't ready to start taking action yet.

And if you want to go deeper, you can download my new 4-page PDF report, "7 Steps to bringing compassion to yourself If you’re not ready to take healthy action. In it I'll walk you through each step bringing compassion to yourself, so you can recharge and feel good about your walk to better health—whether or not you are ready to act right now. 

Discouragement will Keep You from Losing Weight—no matter how good your "diet plan" is

Here's the problem you are probably facing when you try to lose weight or improve your health.

The problem is...

You've tried and failed in the past,

so

some part of you has become discouraged and has given up

That's a problem because...

As long as you are discouraged, it's going to be impossible for you to do what it takes to lose weight and improve your health.  

In fact, I have come to believe that...

The most important thing you can do to lose weight and get healthy is to overcome your discouragement about your past failures.

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The fact is:

If you don't overcome your discouragement, you won't be able to make the changes you need in order to improve your health.

You see...

If you're going to succeed at losing weight, you'll have to make consistent, daily changes to your diet and your lifestyle.

And those changes will be impossible to make if some part of you is saying, "Yeah, that's a good idea...but I know it won't work for me."

If you've gotten discouraged about your health, I would like to help you. I plan to post once a week, and share what I've learned from my own journey to better health, and the journeys of my clients. 

You might want to follow this website if:

  • you’ve tried and failed to lose weight in the past, and have lost heart about it, or
  • you feel like maybe you could lose the weight and improve your health, but it seems like that would mean a life of deprivation, or
  • the idea of giving up the foods that you emotionally rely on seems like “too much,” or
  • if taking the actions you need to take in order to lose weight and improve your health feels like “suffering through.”

If any of that describes you, then, on some level you’ve “lost heart” and given up on improving your health. And you won’t be able to wholeheartedly pursue better health…because, on some level, you already “know” it won’t work out for you.

You don’t need a better plan. You don’t need a pep talk. You need help finding a deeper source of inspiration, so you can wholeheartedly pursue the health you want.

If the idea of overcoming your discouragement sounds good to you, the first thing to do is to check and see if you are making any of the 5 Big Mistakes that people make when they start to try to lose weight and improve their health.

I've seen clients make these 5 mistakes over and over—and that overcoming them was key to their being able to take better actions toward improving their health.

I think this brief document will help you take the next step on your weight-losing and health-gaining journey. It will only take a couple of minutes to read, but the results you get could be long-lasting. 

Until next time,

Dmitri Bilgere

PS If you have any ideas for how I could improve this site, or ways I could reach more people with this information, would you let me know in the comments or email me at db@dbweb.org?

PPS The only way this site will grow is if people share about it. If what I've written here speaks to you, will you please share this site with someone who might be helped by it? You can email the URL or click "share" below. Thanks.