Do you ever feel apprehensive before starting a diet, asking yourself will this finally be the last go-around? To be optimistic, you might tell yourself, “This time I’m going to do better.” You don't even realize that by saying this time, you're subconsciously projecting the possibility of failure into your future.
Based on our behavior, predictions can be made about how we'll act in the future. This is super helpful for marketers and advertisers, but it’s not helpful for those of us trying to make lifestyle changes. When you step into a new space you have to take it day-by-day and not try to predict if you'll fail or succeed. It's really easy to place limits on yourself when you don't have to.
Today we're talking about how to approach something afresh, even though you’ve tried a dozen times before with no luck.
Grit Is All You Need To Successfully Change Your Habits
There’s a way to predict if you’ll be successful. All you have to do is ask yourself, “Do I have grit?”
Grit, being perseverance and an un-deterrable thirst for achievement.
Researcher Angela Duckworth says in her bookGrit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance; people who succeed do so because they are consistent. That means whatever new lifestyle change you plan to make need not be extreme or monumental, it needs to be consistent. The tortoise won the race, so to say.
So even if you’re afraid, as long as you keep moving forward, you’ll look up one day and realize you did the thing! I like this quote from Duckworths’ book on grit:
“You have your priorities in order. Grit is about holding the same top-level goal for a very long time. Furthermore, this “life philosophy” is so interesting and important that it organizes a great deal of your waking activity. In very gritty people, most mid-level and low-level goals are, in some way or another, related to that ultimate goal. [Page 64]”
If grit one of the most important determinants of success, I think there’s one important distinction that should be made: grit is not a 'toxic-obsession.'
Knowing When You've Went Too Far
Here's what toxic looks like:
Does starting a diet tire you out before you even begin? Do you download calorie counting apps? Does starting a new diet mean spending two hours a day reading articles on how to lose twenty pounds in one month?
If this is how you’re approaching your new diet, of course, it's terrifying! So many unknowns are knocking around in your head. You feel pressure and restricted. The truth and we all know it, is that diets are problematic. Diet culture persists because it feeds off our desires and instant gratification.
It’s mentally draining because it easily takes over your lives and distracts you from engaging with a higher purpose. Following a need for perfectionism, high anxiety, or a desire for control will lead to obsessing over every detail with very little actual action. At this point, perhaps, grit has turned toxic. Obsessive diet culture has left dieters ripe for body dysmorphia, eating disorders, or burnout.
The burnout happens a few weeks in. There’s some oddly exact research in the UK that says women typically give up a diet within five weeks, two days, and 43 minutes.
If you want to change your life, avoid engaging with diet culture, altogether. Real changes happen when you look at your lifestyle as a whole and slowly the fear goes away as you enjoy your life again.
Going back to Angela Duckworth’s quote:
“In very gritty people, most mid-level and low-level goals are, in some way or another, related to that goal.”
A high-level goal might be that you want to hike mountains on the west coast every summer and be happy. This goal is high-level because it stays the same year-after-year. Your mid-level goals help you achieve high-level goals. Here, losing weight isn’t your purpose in life, but it is crucial to you achieving your high-level goal of hiking mountain peaks every summer. Weight loss is a mid-level or lower-level goal.
When weight loss becomes a high-level goal, there's a void created. You have nothing to push you forward. There’s no carrot dangling on the stick out in front of you. Weight loss cannot be the carrot.
If someone asked you, what’s your purpose in life? What gets you out of bed in the morning? Your answer shouldn’t be I want to lose weight.
Maybe you respond, I want to go hike a mountain every summer for the rest of my life because it makes me feel incredibly alive. Or it could be something simple: I want to chase after my grandkids, I want to be a social media influencer. Your life mission is bigger than weight loss.
That bigger element will successfully drive you forward. Moving past an obsessive diet-culture, you instead become hyper-focused on your overall wellness (happiness, healthy, fulfillment.) Wellness and higher-level goals will sustain you year-after-year. You will get gritty and have a purpose; and there won't be room for fear to control your life anymore.