Want to Make Changes that Last? Here’s How!

I’m too lazy to cook and exercise!  I don’t have the discipline to make a change!  I can’t stand the way I feel! I don’t want to be heavy anymore!  

Why is it that most people focus on their weaknesses when trying to make a change?  Why do we constantly focus on what we don’t want when we want things to be different?  

The growing field of positive psychology is showing us that focusing on our strengths, rather than our weaknesses, is the golden ticket to lasting change.  By focusing on what you do want, instead of what you don’t want makes a huge difference in the results you ultimately get.

By focusing on what you do want, instead of what you don’t want makes a huge difference in the results you ultimately get. ~Meghan Leah, MS, RD Click To Tweet

Let’s say you want to change your eating habits to a way that gives you energy and health.  Which of the two self-dialogues do you honestly think will bring you closer to your desire?

Self Talk 1: I don’t want to eat so much processed food.  I’ll start by cutting out 80% of processed food.  This is going to be hard, last time I gave in after 3 days!  But I really don’t want to be bloated and irritable anymore, so I have to try again.  I’ll have to cook more, but I’m not a good cook and I don’t follow directions well.

Self Talk 2: I want to feel lighter in my body and more energized.  I’ll start by adding in foods I know make me feel good and that I like.  I don’t have many recipes to follow, but I like being creative so it might be fun to try some new dishes.  Last time I didn’t make time to stock up my kitchen, so this time I’ll be sure to schedule a trip to the store.  The energy I get from adding in these foods could also make it easier to cook meals and even be more active!

The first example focuses on lack by cutting out foods, and focuses on what you don’t want to feel.  As the saying goes: Where attention goes, energy flows.  So by focusing on what you don’t want, you’re actually telling your mind to have more of that.  The brain doesn’t process the words not or don’t.  When you focus on what you do want, it’s easier for the mind to make that happen!

The first example also brings up weaknesses like not being a good cook and failing in the past – without a solution for how to get past that stumbling block in the future!  The second example focuses on strengths like using creativity. Instead of focusing only on the failure of the past, it’s used here as a lesson for what to do differently in the future to ensure success.  It’s also very focused on what you want the end results to be – lighter and energized. That clear image helps your mind subconsciously work towards getting you there.

So how do you know what your strengths are?  You may have an idea of some of them already.  Write those down. Then ask 5 of your close friends or family what they think are your top 3 strengths.  Compare and note which themes come up most. Finally, there’s a Strengths Profile test you can take – of course! 

You have to set up an account, but it’s free.  And you’re scored on 24 traits that all of us have, but in differing amounts.  So everyone gets the same 24 traits, ranked in order of your top strength all the way to one you might want to work on.  

If you do this, ask yourself how you can use your top 3 strengths more often and to your advantage if you want to make a change.  For example, my top strength is Love of Learning, while my lowest ranked was Perseverance. This doesn’t mean I don’t have perseverance, but if my top strengths are not in use, it’s tough for me to persevere.  

Now, if I can use my top strength, Love of Learning, in something I want to make myself finish, I suddenly have loads of perseverance!  So when a project gets tough for me to work through, I ask how I can make it so I’m learning something interesting or useful in the process.  That usually gets me through! (How else would I be steadily working through the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list?!)

Knowing your own strengths and how to use them is one of the most valuable tools you can have when trying to make any kind of change in your life.  Focus not so much on your weaknesses, but on how you can use your strengths to overcome your weaknesses gives you a power over your life you didn’t realize you could have!

Knowing your own strengths and how to use them is one of the most valuable tools you can have when trying to make any kind of change in your life. ~Meghan Leah, MS, RD Click To Tweet

What are your top strengths?  Let me know in the comments!

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