Fox News recently reported the results of a survey that indicated participants were willing to give up sex for a year in exchange for instantly achieving their fitness goals. The survey, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Freeletics, also found that 25% of participants said they are too stressed to exercise and maintain healthy habits, while 67% were unsure how to create healthy habits.
Experts say that the pressure to achieve unrealistic goals, the stress of comparing oneself to others on social media, and the lack of knowledge about how habits work all contribute to a fantasy for “instant change” that is impractical.
“When you change your habits, you can change your life,” say Jessica Derksen, a certified health and life coach. “But rather than focusing on what you don’t have or what you don’t want, it is more empowering to make decisions that align with your goals by focusing on what you get to have in your life instead – then, you can create a realistic plan to get there in a balanced way.”
Derksen learned the power of creating life-changing habits during an especially challenging time after her graduation from university. “I was lost, confused, and going through a really rough time,” she says. “I knew I wasn’t depressed, but I just didn’t feel like my usual self.”
Derksen’s doctor suggested she try physical activity – yoga, walking, working out, or just “moving her body” – every day for 30 days. “I really, really started to feel good,” Derksen says. Working out daily became a life-changing habit, and she began to wonder: “If I could change this about myself, what other habits can I change?” She successfully applied her habit change formula to other areas of life, including diet, relationships, activities, and career choices, with equally amazing results.
Experiencing the power of small habits firsthand informs Derksen’s work with clients today. “My philosophy as a life and health coach is that we can’t deal solely with parts of your lifestyle and health that aren’t working – because they are secondary to the foundational problem,” she says. “We have to deal with the whole person to unpack the complexity and get to the source of the true barriers to success, including overcoming limiting beliefs and thoughts of never being good enough.”
For Derksen, the key to creating a new life is to focus on small habits that create powerful results. She provides a simple three-step process for creating lasting change without resorting to radical, unrealistic goal setting or motivational exercises.
1. “Get crystal clear on your outcome.” Derksen advises clients not to worry about how they will get to where they want to be, but to focus on the destination first. “If you don’t know what you want then you’re never going to get there,” she says.
2. “Know your personal why.” According to Derksen, many goals and New Year’s resolutions fail because the reason “why” is not compelling enough. She encourages her clients to dig deep and get to the real reason “why” they are pursuing a goal and articulate something that is meaningful and impactful. “Getting into your new bikini is not compelling enough,” she says. “Your ‘why’ needs to be strong; it needs to be meaningful. Because if it’s not, you won’t follow through.”
3. “Change one habit at a time.” Trying to change too many things at once can lead to overwhelm and shuts people down. Derksen’s philosophy is: “Small hinges swing big doors.” In her experience, the more change someone needs, the less they can handle. “So, start with your desired outcome, connect with your personal reason why, and pick one thing to change at a time,” she says.
“Before working with Jessica, I had been on and off diets for years,” says Wendy M., a graduate of Derksen’s True to You program. “Working with Jessica required me to get real and answer some hard questions that really took me for a deep dive into my thought processes, personal life and the internal barriers to success that had been holding me back for so long. Learning to slowly change my habits into ones that align with my overall goals has made the biggest difference not only in my health, but within my life as a whole!”
“Quick fix doesn’t work, Derksen says. “It’s not about instant gratification or perfection, but about growth. And you grow by looking at your life and changing your habits one at a time. This creates a ripple effect of positive change that will empower you to live your best life.”
Jessica Derksen is a certified health and life coach and founder of True to You Health Coaching. To learn more, or to book a free session, visit TrueToYouLifestyle.com.