When I speak to women in perimenopause and post menopause, they’re often completely aware of the changes they need to make and genuinely want to follow through with their plans but they just can’t stick to them. Their intentions are wonderful, they know what they want and need to do but they can’t sustain their habits for very long. It doesn’t take much to throw them completely off track. They then often feel like a failure, lose confidence in their ability to make any future changes and put off starting again. ‘Why can’t I just stick to my plan? I’m rubbish at this. Why can other people do it and I can’t?’ I hear this time and time again.
I believe the key lies in having a deeper understanding of ourselves and therefore what is going to work for us personally. We’ve lived many years on this planet, we are wise. We have a lot of experience to draw on. We know ourselves better than anyone but sometimes we need to take a moment to really reflect. To figure out what our strengths are, what works for us and what doesn’t.
This is the first in a four-part series called ‘Setting Yourself up for Successful Changes.’ I’ll be taking you through four questions that you should ask yourself to help you stick to whatever change you are wanting to make. I really hope it helps you to get out of the cycle of good intentions going wrong.
It’s all a question of why
Why is the first most important question that you need to answer. Why do you want to make this change? Whether it’s to run more often, eat better or do some strength work you need to work out exactly why you want to do it.
When I ask my coaching clients this I often get a simple and superficial answer. Let’s take the example of doing some strength work.
Q: What change do you want to make?
A: I want to add regular strength work into my week.
Q: Why do you want to do regular strength work?
A: Because I’m rapidly losing muscle mass and I want to stay strong.
Ok, these are really great reasons to do it but we need to go deeper, much deeper. These facts alone won’t sustain you on a day when you don’t feel like doing it.
Q: Why do you want to be strong?
A: I want to feel powerful and not weak and useless. I feel mentally stronger when I’m physically stronger.
Q: Why do you want to feel powerful?
A: So I feel in control and confident in my own abilities.
Q: Why is that so important to you?
A: I want to be able to live my life the way I want to. I don’t want to feel restricted by not being able to do things, like lifting something. I don’t want to have to ask for help I want to do it myself.
Q: Why don’t you want to ask for help?
A: Because I want to be independent.
Q: Why is independence so important to you?
A: I might live on my own one day and there won’t always be people around. I saw my mum struggle with this and it was really difficult for her. It was hard for us as a family, she needed a lot of help. I don’t want to have to rely on others like she did.
Q: So, doing strength work is about feeling confident, free and in control now, but also about living an independent future?
Can you see how working that backwards and backwards really gets to the true benefits and desires of that person and why it’s really important to her?
You might find your benefit is purely in the here and now or far in the future. Either is fine.
It might be that your why is really for those around you and not for yourself. That’s ok as long as it’s meaningful and genuine. I’m hugely motivated to do things that benefit my children. But if I also work that backwards, it makes me feel that I am being the best mother I can and I get satisfaction from knowing I did my best for them. That makes me feel good.
Your why has to mean something to you personally and it has to be deep to be robust enough to overcome procrastination on the toughest of days. You aren’t going to be motivated to make a long lasting change for something that you don’t really care about.
I think it’s really helpful to write all your thoughts down. Having them in written form makes them more concrete, it can help you work through it too. It doesn’t matter if you scribble stuff out, change things and start over multiple times. This is for you. Use arrows, diagrams, colours, whatever you like. You can revisit this when you need motivation. You can also change it too if you realise your why is different or has changed. This is not definitive and doesn’t have to be perfect.
For any change that you want to make I recommend going through this process. Keep working it backwards and asking yourself WHY at each stage until you get to your deeper why. This will drive you forwards in a very powerful way.
Next week we’ll look at the question of what. How to get really clear on what you are going to do to give yourself the best chance of success.
I’m now offering one to one menopause and midlife coaching. I can help you work through questions like this. Reflecting with others can make all the difference to your success. If you’d like to explore this possibility, then just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get in touch with some more information.