Simply knowing something – even the benefit of something – isn’t enough to cause sustainable behavior change. Have you ever experienced that? In my previous post, I said that the biggest problem we face is acting on what we know.
And do you fall into the trap of only doing those things you "feel" like doing? No matter what it is, if you only do something when you feel like doing it, you will never be consistent. And, for all things that matter, consistency is the key!
So, I'd like to share with you a proven strategy for making behavior changes stick. This is based on my personal experience, as well as through the coaching I do, and all the people I've worked with over the years who've seen success.
Step One: Identify Your Values
What are those things you value most in life? I’d recommend doing a brain dump and just start writing down everything that comes to mind. Then, review your list. Narrow your list down to the top five things you value most in life. Here are mine: faith, family, health, personal growth, and meaningful work.
Your values determine your priorities. Or do they?
So, if you look at your list, the values you listed should determine your priorities…the things that you do…the things that you take time for…the goals that you set...the things that make it onto your calendar.
Step Two: Examine Your Behaviors
As you review your values list, ask yourself this question, “Do my behaviors (what I do) support my values?”
In almost every instance, when doing a values clarification exercise with people, health is identified as one of their top five values. So, if your health is something you value, for example, does your behavior reflect that you value your health?
Are you eating well, getting adequate sleep, going to the doctor regularly, staying hydrated, and exercising?
Let’s look at exercise. If you say you value your health, then regular exercise is a non-negotiable. If you don’t exercise regularly or get enough regular daily activity, then you cannot say that you value your health. Why? Because, as I noted in a previous post, there is nothing that you can do that will give you the health benefits that regular exercise gives!
If you are carrying around too much weight – which is a definite health risk – and you’re not getting the help you need and engaging in the behaviors that would move you to a healthy weight…you can’t really say you value your health.
You can plug any value into this example and it remains true. If you said you value your family or your marriage, are you properly investing in those relationships in a manner that demonstrates that you really value them? You can’t say you value your marriage if you don’t spend quality time together, take time for each other, or seek to serve your spouse.
So, it’s your ACTIONS that identify your TRUE values. Or, you could say your actions REVEAL your true values. It’s the things that you actually do…the things you spend time on…the things you spend money on…the goals that you set…even the things that you say. Those are the things that identify what your real values are.
Whether we like it or not, our behavior is ALWAYS communicating our values…always, always, always.
So, we bump up against this question?
Do your behaviors support your values? That’s the million-dollar question, right?
Review, one more time, each of your values, and ask yourself, “Do my behaviors REALLY support what I say I value?”
Step Three: Creating Alignment
Maybe you’ve identified that some of the things you say you value, you really don’t, based on how you’re spending your time, money, and energy. So, make up a new list of the things you really value. What is REALLY most important to you? Only then, when you’ve identified your true values, can you assess whether your behaviors support and uphold your values…those things that are most important to you.
So whatever values you’ve identified, what are the behaviors that must align with and support those values?
Wherever there are incongruences, what will it take for you to align your behavior with what you value?
You’ll find that when you align your behaviors with what it is you value, you’ll be more likely to find the day-to-day motivation you need to stick to the changes you’re seeking to make. Your values are the WHY that brings meaning and purpose to your life.
Moving forward, you’ll be well served to evaluate this over time. Each day will present its urgent challenges and temptations that pull you in one direction or another. But when you evaluate your behavior over time, assess whether the choices you’re making support those things you value...if they don't, get the help you need to change.
My experience is that life becomes easier and more enjoyable, and you'll live more fully alive when you do. I’m confident that you’ll experience the same.