I guess it’s inevitable that I can’t browse through more than 2 or 3 headlines before I come across an article that proclaims there are 8 amazing things I need to do in order to feel better, get happier, or live an awesomely amazing new life (all before 8:00 am!).
The self-help articles proclaim it’s all super-easy if you just did this one thing. Get up! Walk! Exercise! Make a decision! Be yourself! No, wait, don’t be yourself if yourself is someone who doesn’t get up, walk, exercise or make a decision!
If it were as easy as listening to other people’s advice, I doubt there’d be much demand for therapists. The problem isn’t getting the prescription — it’s the doing of the prescription that most people have trouble with.
Here’s a list I’ll just grab from a recent self-help article I recently read on a popular website:
- Wake up
- Get in the zone
- Get moving
- Put the right food in your body
- Get ready
- Get inspired
- Get perspective
- Do something to move you forward
Clearly this person has never suffered from depression, self-doubt, or severe, debilitating anxiety about the day ahead. They seem to have lived in a protected bubble of flowers and happiness, where the only thing you need to change is your attitude!
All of these simplistic advice-giving tips are based upon the premise that all of us are direct masters of our own domains. That simply willing something to happen is enough to make it happen.
Let’s take the simplistic advice to “get moving” — to exercise regularly. All of us know it’s good for us, not just our bodies but our minds as well. In fact, you’d do more to help your brain health through simple, daily (or every-other-day) exercise that investing in all the brain games (like Luminosity) you’d like. Exercise works wonders. Yet few of us do it regularly.
So the problem isn’t, “Hey, I don’t know what to do to improve my life.” The problem is we all know what to do, but few of us are internally motivated enough to do it regularly. Or we do it regularly for a time, and then we fall off of it.
Changing Habits is Hard
Creating new habits in life — even ones where you know it will help make you feel better — is hard. It’s not simply done, or through sheer willpower. Changing behaviors is something you need to commit to doing, sure, but most people generally need a little help too.
Traditionally people engaged in habit-change through a lot of their own trial-and-error process or through someone who held your feet to the fire of change — most often, a therapist or psychologist. Having someone hold you accountable for your behavior change usually works wonders.
Habit-change help nowadays also comes in the form of habit-changing apps. There are literally hundreds of health and habit apps that try and change the way you eat, exercise, or even just get up from your desk and move around on a regular basis every day.
The Magical 8 Things to Change
Sorry, but there are not 8 things you need to do before 8 am, nor are there 8 things that will change your life forever if you only start today. There is no magical list of things that will result in eye-opening changes in your life. And there are no short-cuts to serious, lasting behavior changes in your life.
No, you don’t need to sleep 9 hours every night. No you don’t need to take a cold shower, or wake before 6:00 am every day. No, eating only protein or only salads isn’t going to result in life-changing insights. No, you don’t need hard, rigorous exercise every day (but yes, a little exercise every day does help).
If you want to change something about your life, it’s going to take some effort on your part, patience + time, and a little help from others (or an app). Change is not easy — but it’s always possible.