Remember those goals we talked about?
Last week I mentioned a major realization that I came to early in my health journey—no matter what goal I set in front of myself, I needed a system to get there and continue pushing forward toward the long-term goal.
While many of us have lofty goals for our health, happiness, families, and so much more, the reality is that until we start building systems that get us one step closer to these outcomes, we will continue to feel like we’re missing the mark on where we want to be.
But I’m here to tell you that building these systems is easier than you think. And we’re going to walk through every step so that you can start establishing systems that will help you skip, hop, and jump miles past your health goals.
To do this we’re going to use an example that many have experienced, myself included…
Kim is a mother whose children are all moved out of the house and are now living their own “adult lives”. Now that all her kids are gone and her husband is back in the office full-time, she wants to lose 15 lbs before she and her spouse go on a tropical spring break cruise in March.
In the past, Kim would spend the next few weeks cutting out all her favorite foods, spending hours in the gym on cardio equipment, and minimizing her calorie intake until that number she was looking for popped up on the scale.
While it wouldn’t be easy, Kim would end up going on her cruise feeling good about the number on the scale. But by the time she returned home and got back into her routine, that number looked quite different than it did before the cruise.
Can you relate? Because I know I sure can!
With Kim’s story top of mind, let’s walk through how she could establish a system to achieve the desired outcome she is looking for. A system that will continue to serve her health not just for this one trip, but forever!
Start by determining the WHY…
Before we can chalk up a big goal like losing 15lbs, it’s important to know the WHY behind this mission?
Like we talked about in our Kim example, when we start craving the results instead of the process it takes to get there, we quickly can fall into the trap of failure because all we see is the distant end line.
By truly looking inward and asking ourselves, “why do I want to get healthy” the real answers reveal themselves very quickly.
Let’s take Kim’s why and flip it around to give it an everlasting purpose. Instead of wanting to lose 15lbs to fit into a bathing suit for a cruise, Kim could change her why to: “I want to lose 15lbs so I can go on 20 more years of cruises with my husband and have fun!”
Everyone’s why is different.
For some, it’s the desire to be there for their kids and future generations. For others, it’s a chance to reclaim a life of exploration that they stepped away from to raise children. When you start using that why as an anchor to hold you steady as the wind blows hard, you’ll find that there’s very little that can steer you off course.
Knowing our 4 P’s…
Now that we’ve got our why ingrained into our noggins it’s time to talk about the 4 P’s—Psychology, Physiology, Practical Life Circumstance, and Preferences.
These 4 P’s are used as a tool to understand what parameters need to be set within our new system. Think of them like markers across our life that will help make this system a reality in everyday practice.
Yes, psychology plays a major role in the way we set up our system.
Consider this, if part of our system requires that we eat a handful of greens at each meal, but the thought of greens has haunted us since we were a kid, doing that multiple times a day is going to be hard!
Instead, adding a greens supplement or collagen to our daily protein shake is an easy way to get some of the nutrients that one would get from 3 servings of greens on a plate, all in one quick drink.
Another critical component to understanding how to set up our system is physiology—the way in which our bodies function.
Establishing our systems within the boundaries of our capabilities is incredibly important. If we were to create a system that extends those boundaries, we can run the risk of getting injured or sick which moves us further away from the desired.
So if part of our system is to get 20 minutes of activity in each day, but we haven’t been active for the last 6 months, it’s probably smart to start with a short walk down the street or around the neighborhood instead of a full-fledged HIIT workout.
Practical Life Circumstances
This is one that I emphasize with anyone who is building a system for the first time—be realistic!
Building this new system and sticking to it is hard as it is, don’t make it harder by trying to do things outside our practical life circumstances.
For example, let’s say in our system we’ve prioritized eating clean protein at each meal. As a busy mom, wife, partner, employee, and so many other things, we might not always have time to go home and grab our perfectly cooked chicken breast for every single meal.
Sometimes we need to adapt, whether that be a quick stop into the store for a snack or hopping in the drive-thru line, understanding that we can be practical as the circumstances change, makes it a lot easier to push forward toward your outcome each day.
Like I said before, setting up these systems is a process and sometimes it’s not easy. That being said, knowing our preferences will allow us to more easily navigate the waters of this system-building process and cater it exactly to our specific needs.
Going back to the activity example, if the system we’ve established is focused on getting 20 minutes of activity in each day, we need to find something that we like so that it doesn’t feel so demanding.
We don’t want to run on the treadmill staring at the wall for an entire hour if we hate that more than baked brussel sprouts.
Instead, we might spend Mondays/Wednesdays biking around the neighborhood and Tuesday/Thursdays doing beginner yoga with some friends. This gets our bodies moving and allows us to check the activity box for the day, without having to feel miserable the whole time.
How to set up this new system…
I want to remind everyone once more that we are all different and as such, each of our systems is going to be different. The purpose of this structure is to guide us through the general format of building a system so that each one of us can cater it to ourselves as it grows.
Let’s introduce another example….
Amber is a mom of 3 teenagers who lives a healthy lifestyle Monday-Friday, but when the weekend comes, she lets it all go out the window.
This year, she’s made a New Year’s Resolution to not completely unravel on Saturdays and Sundays.
She’s working on building a system that works for her. She’s already established her WHY and knows her 4 P’s, now it’s time to start taking the actionable steps.
1. Identify the obstacles and triggers.
For Amber, she knows it’s the weekends that specifically set her down a path of poor decision-making. If we can nip that first bad decision in the bud with a systemic practice, then we have a chance of slowly eliminating that trigger and replacing it with a healthy habit.
Where it usually starts for Amber is the morning—on weekdays she prioritizes breakfast, making sure that she is fueled for her day, whereas on the weekends she lounges around or works on house chores and skips the whole meal. Hours go by, and when she looks at the clock it’s 4 pm and she’s had nothing to eat!
She opens the fridge door and downs whatever she can get her hands on at that moment.
This leads to a mindset of why not…she thinks “since I’ve already made this decision I mine as well enjoy myself the rest of the weekend.”
It’s very clear that the trigger here is missing breakfast on the weekends. So how do we overcome it?
2. Override the trigger with one simple practice.
Sometimes the answer to overriding these triggers is really simple.
In the case of our friend Amber, a potential solution that will save her time and tons of headache (literally) is to prioritize a protein shake both days of the weekend.
While she might have time to make breakfast during the week, it seems like her practical life circumstances tend to lead her toward skipping breakfast on the weekends, resulting in late-night craving and eventual unraveling.
To override this trigger, we’re going to add a protein shake to Amber’s morning routine every Saturday and Sunday at 9 am for the next 4 weeks. This will ensure that she is getting a clean source of fuel early in the day so that she doesn’t find herself hungrier than a starving coyote by the time 4 pm rolls around.
3. Use AIM to master this system.
AIM stands for Assess, Investigate, Modify—and it’s one of my favorite things ever!
We use it all the time in my RESTORE Program and it’s been a game-changer for me when it comes to managing my health systems.
Once we’ve started a new systemic practice, it’s important to check back in with ourselves and make sure that it’s actually working for us. Sometimes week 1 will yield some great results, but as time goes on, we can find it hard to maintain.
The goal of building these systems is to find practices that work for us so that we can continue to improve upon them every day of our life! So if something is not working, we need to analyze it, investigate why, and modify that practice to work better for us.
In the case of Amber, what we’d do is have her focus on just making sure that she gets a protein shake in every weekend day at 9 am for the next month. If after that month is up, Amber notices that the protein shake did give her energy but also made her feel bloated after she finished it, we can use AIM to make changes to her practice.
Maybe we swap the protein shake a few hard-boiled eggs or a cup of oatmeal while maintaining the practice of consuming something at 9 am on the weekends. This takes the habit that she’s already implemented and modifies it to fit her preferences of not wanting to feel bloated.
Over time, this constant tweaking and refining of these practices will lead to full-blown habits that become part of who we are and what we do every single day!
The tools are there, now it’s time to start building…
We are a culmination of our habits which are formed by the systems we create in our lives. The more we can tune into those systems, understand their role in how we establish our habits, the more we can create the life we desire, the life that God wants for us so badly.
While it might not happen overnight, in a month, or even a year, we can continue pushing forward knowing we’re on the right track toward a happier and healthier life.
If you’re someone who’s looking for some help setting up a system that works for you, I have an 8-week health and wellness program focused entirely on building systems that will serve you today, tomorrow, and for the rest of your life. It’s called RESTORE and we’re kicking off a new session very soon!
Or if you’re already eager to join the RESTORE community, click right here to get weekly health tips, guidance, recipes, and so much more dropped straight to your inbox.