If you’re struggling to achieve your health goals, your own mind may be your worst enemy. Whether your goals are more complex (healing from a chronic health issue, like autoimmunity, hormone imbalances, thyroid problems, depression/anxiety/mood disorders, fatigue), or seemingly more straightforward (losing weight, generally preventing disease and optimizing your health), be careful about overlooking problematic hidden thought patterns (yes, even if it seems the real limitation is that a “cure” doesn’t yet exist for your condition). In this article, I share how to identify problematic hidden thought patterns, and how to reprogram your mind for success with your health goals.
(This goes deep–don’t assume you know what I’m going to say!)
Some of you will eventually achieve your health goals. But some of you will struggle (especially those of you with chronic health issues). Some of you may feel defeated, or drag your feet. Some of you may give up. Some of you may give up over and over again, bouncing around from one approach to the next, as your belief that a solution exists gradually (or quickly) erodes.
This article is for all groups of people (yes, even if you’re already super-committed to your goals and have made some headway).
I Disagree With Tony Robbins
Tony Robbins said, “People are not lazy. They simply have goals that do not inspire them.”
I disagree. Not about the not-lazy part, but about the inspiration part.
Robbins is one of the most well-known public figures whose teachings focus on how to reprogram your mind for success in any arena. Yet through my own personal health journey, through my work intimately guiding clients through their journeys, through the stories of my friends, family, readers and viewers, I can assure you success doesn’t have much to do with inspiration (that oh-so-vague word and concept).
There’s the reason we think we’re not succeeding with our health goals. And then there’s the real reason.
The real reason is not inspiration. It’s also not necessarily lack of a “cure” (which I’ll get to in a bit).
One Clarification Before I Go Further
If, as you read this, questions or comments pop up, or you think I’m an asshole:
(1) Good, that’s called active reading.
(2) Keep reading. Towards the end I clarify several points I suspect will come up as you read.
The Reason We Tell Ourselves We Aren’t Successful with Our Health Goals
To illustrate my point, I’ll share an example about my friend. However, because I’m a big believer in the educational power of comparing seemingly less-related topics, my example isn’t about my friend’s health goal. It’s about her business goal.
Why the topical distance, Erika? Because a seemingly distant comparison can often more powerfully ground us in the subject at hand. Remember learning about similes and metaphors in school? To say, “Her eyes are like diamonds” (a simile), or “Her eyes are diamonds” (a metaphor) is one-hundred times more evocative than saying, “Her eyes were really bright and radiant.”
Distance from a topic can breed greater clarity about the topic. So about my friend….
My friend had wanted to start her own business on the side for a while. But for some reason she still hadn’t. She rationalized to me that she hadn’t gotten started because she’s “bad at time management.”
I didn’t buy it. I saw things differently, and I decided to share with her the way I saw things.
The Real Reason We Don’t Succeed With Our Health Goals
I offered to my friend that what I suspected was inhibiting her may not be a time management issue, but instead a motivation issue.
In turn, the motivation issue likely stemmed from an issue in her narrative of what is possible (narrative = the stories she tells herself).
(Allow me to acknowledge, time management can be a genuine issue for some people. In my twenties, I tutored privately for years, trained in several education therapy modalities, and was an associate at an education therapy office for three years. I’m well-aware of time-management issues stemming from brain function. Yes, time management can be an issue for some. But it’s really not an issue for most of us.)
The reality is that my friend has never run her own business before. The proportion of things she does know about running her own business is a small percentage compared to what she doesn’t know.
So the possibility she can run a business, and can actually learn, grow and succeed might not seem like a possibility. If anything, it’s incredibly intimidating.
My friend’s own unconscious negative self-talk is probably fixated on failure, and it’s probably louder than her positive self-talk. (As I type this, I realize “positive self-talk” isn’t even a popular term the way “negative self-talk” is, and for good reason.)
Similarly, imagine you’ve never
- lost that weight, or kept it off
- healed an autoimmune issue
- reversed a condition your doctor or research has said can never be reversed
- or figured out what was actually triggering X health condition (aka: health-mystery) you’ve been struggling with for too long.
For each of these cases, you don’t have a touchstone of possibility. And that can totally make you feel stuck, as your self-talk babbles about your current and destined impasse or failure.
But how do you tap in to possibility?
How To Reprogram Your Mind for Success With Your Health Goals
“When you catch a glimpse of your potential, that’s when passion is born” – Zig Ziglar “
If you can dream it, you can do it.” – Walt Disney
So back to the topic at hand: how to reprogram your mind for success with your health goals.
We’ve established the answer is not inspiration.
I’ll add the answer is also not false positivity, believing yourself into a reality–THIS IS NOT A THING THAT WORKS. Don’t get me wrong affirmations can be incredibly helpful (and I personally–and selectively–use some), but they can also be traps if they’re not grounded in intelligent action. Intelligent action doesn’t mean you know everything beforehand; it’s about openness and orientation.
So what is the answer?
The answer is curiosity, which in turn births action and exposure, which in turn births a lived experience of possibility.
My advice to my friend who wants to start her own business is to get on as many newsletter lists of solid business coaches out there. Read books and listen to podcasts about entrepreneurism. Join a mastermind or meet-up group for aspiring business owners. She needs to expose herself to a world of new possibility. Over time those possibilities seem less new and more attainable.
Curiosity is not the same thing as inspiration. Curiosity is about openness and orientation.
Inspiration is a natural byproduct of this openness and orientation. Then, making moves, if ever so small, putting one foot in front of the other becomes less daunting and more inspired.
What if you had read an article about someone else doing what you want to do? Or what if you saw a video about research that makes a solution to your health problem seem possible for the first time? That video may be newly released, or, more likely, it’s been published for some time but you’re only now coming across it.
Exposure happens when it does. Your job is to make that exposure possible.
Possibility changes things. Suddenly, your story about what you can achieve changes. You get….inspired. You feel hopeful.
This is why I disagree with Tony Robbins. Inspiration is part of the process, but it’s not the most essential, originating, instigative force–let alone one of the first few.
The Most Essential Force
If you want to master how to reprogram your mind for success with your health goals, you have to be an interested person.
Commit to putting yourself in positions where you are exposed to possibility –without expectation (this is important because there is so much flat-out junk and half-developed ideas and “experts” out there about health).
When we really want something, and we see it as being even the tiniest bit possible, we make the time and effort, even if it’s only ten minutes a day, or saving ten dollars a week. We make progress, even if it’s slow. We “start by starting” (one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received), being sensitive to intelligent action (Ernest Hemingway said, “don’t mistake motion for action”).
Sometimes we feel defeated that we’re not seeing earth-changing progress fast, so we slow down or throw in the towel.
Again, this is an excuse. The simple fact is we can always make progress. There are always steps that can be taken (and sometimes no action is intelligent action).
We must position ourselves to maximize exposure.
Curiosity, action, exposure and possibility are that carrot dangling in front of our faces as we push on with our many heavy burdens (yes, this is a donkey metaphor).
If you want to reprogram your mind for success with your health goals, you must discover your inner carrot.
So was I being a judgmental asshole, riding my friend hard about why she was dragging her feet with her business dream?
No. I knew my friend well enough, and I knew myself well enough. I had confronted my own “softer stories” (that’s what I call them). These kind of stories tell a version of reality that absolves us of that weighty thing called responsibility. These kind of stories also keep us trapped in the as-is; they rob us of possibility.
The incisive beauty of intimacy is that we can safely call each other out, without judgement, because we have a privileged view into one another’s modes of operating. We want to be called out because that’s how we grow.
No, I wasn’t offering my assholish three cents to my friend and butting my head where it wasn’t welcome. And she could do the same to me and that’s how I like it.
No, I’m not finger-pointing about one of my friend’s defects (sheesh, she’s my friend!). I’m describing current circumstance.
Besides, I had been there myself years before her when I started my own business. And when it comes to health crises or goals, I’ve had people tell me I’m incredibly disciplined.
Sure, but what about when I wasn’t?
That’s another excuse: when we see someone else’s victory, and totally absent all the work that goes into making it happen.
I get it.
Beyond my friend, I’m also not wagging my finger telling you you’ve done something bad if you’ve been dragging your feet with your health goals. The fact of the matter is, either
- you’re unconsciously standing in your own way, and this article is a wake up call from someone who has been on her own health journey herself and has guided plenty of people also on theirs.
- OR: you haven’t been exposed to the possibility that you can actually heal or thrive. You don’t know these tools exist.
I don’t see how blame can be exacted for either of these scenarios. What each of these calls for is not vilification, but awareness. Awareness of even the slightest possibility is a light at the end of the tunnel, or a North Star. (A carrot, a tunnel, a North Star–whatever works, right?!)
But What If Possibility Is An Impossibility?
Going off of that second possibility: if you’ve been reading this asking, But what if the solution for my/a health condition doesn’t exist? How can a person make progress?
ANSWER: I’ve personally healed myself from conditions (yes, plural) that top doctors and surgeons have said couldn’t be healed. When I did heal, their response was that what I had done was “unprecedented.”
Over my years of research, self-experimentation, and consulting for others with complicated onion-layered health conditions, I’ve come to regard fewer and fewer conditions as un-healable My clients also never imagined healing before we began our work together.
Granted, to wade through such endeavors requires a deep systems-thinking understanding of how the human body works (I expound on systems-thinking and how I approach various kinds of biochemical mysteries in The Unexpected Superfood, The Three Kinds of Thyroid Problems, and Is Maca Root Healthy for All Women?), which usually means you need a guide in this process.
But the possibility does exist, more often than your limited perspective may perceive it. That’s what matters.
But Maybe I Am Just An Asshole
But maybe I am just a judgmental asshole. And maybe that’s a great reason (ahemexcuseahem) for you to throw in the towel after all.
I can live with you thinking I’m an asshole.
But the important question remains: can you
survive live thrive by accepting your current circumstances as a limitation of your body and science? Because things don’t have to be that way.
Now You Know How To Reprogram Your Mind for Success
You know the saying, if you don’t see opportunity, you’re not looking hard enough? Just replace the word opportunity with “possibility” and that’s my conclusion to this article…
If you don’t see possibility, you’re not looking hard enough.
Now you know how to make possibility possible: curiosity, action and exposure.
Now you know how to reprogram your mind for success with your health goals.
If you have a health problem you’re committed to getting to the bottom of, and you’re curious about how my incisive systems-thinking approach can help, learn more about my Custom Coaching HERE.
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Image copyright Erika Herman