I read an article in Psychology Today about making your own luck. It really resonated with me — made me really think. The gist of the article was that if we want to change things in our lives, we need to change things up.
The article indicated that there are four key principles involved in the process: Principle One: Maximize Chance Opportunities (create opportunity); Principle Two: Listen to your gut (relax and take time to think); Principle Three: Expect Good Fortune (expect good things); Principle Four: Turn Bad Luck to Good (take control of the situation).
These ideas hit me like a ton of bricks. And I realized that underlying all these principles is the concept that you need to make changes if you want things to change. This is critical to stimulate new ideas, make changes and get lucky. To get into the "right" comfort zone, sometimes you have to leave your current comfort zone. This is somewhat tricky, because losing weight and staying fit require consistency and routine. But sometimes you need to get out of your old routine/comfort zone in order to get to a better place.
In fact, being open and ready to change are critical for moving toward your goals. When it comes to getting in shape, the idea is to recognize your current "routines" or "patterns" (e.g., eating chips in front of the TV), change things up and then develop new healthier patterns and routines.
Let’s start by looking at how to create new opportunities. Opportunities are all around us. If we make a point to be aware of and open to the world we're familiar with, we might find long-overlooked answers to problems that have plagued us. If we are close-minded — unwilling to explore new ideas and review our current situation — it’s unlikely we will see an opportunity even if it’s right smack in front of us. The failure to see these opportunities to arrive at new solutions has sometimes been called “resource myopia,” meaning that we don’t see what’s under our noses because we’re so close to it.
So, how can you change it up? Many people come up with great ideas or solutions to problems by changing their physical environment. When I travel, the change in routine frees up my mind, and I do my most creative thinking. What will you do differently to break out of the mold? Some examples include simply sitting in a room for 30 minutes with no distractions, taking a long walk or hike, or even a quick day trip.
Be wary of any underlying cultural blocks or barriers to change that may have been instilled in you from a very young age. Among them could be a lack of playfulness, lack of curiosity or other internal boundaries that hold you back. Many of us have been taught that it’s wrong to look at things differently from the rest of society and that we must conform. These proscriptions can make you lose confidence in yourself so that you view reality and opportunities only in terms of the categories or structures others set forth. Don’t let other people dull your sensibilities. The idea is to free your thoughts, free yourself from ordinary routines and allow yourself the opportunity to think “outside the box.”
Give yourself the time to take a look at the routines in your life, and think about whether you’re following the path you want to follow. Remember that behavior often becomes automatic —meaning that you develop patterns you follow without even considering whether or not they are serving you well. Examples include: 1) taking people or situations too much for granted; 2) not truly observing what’s going on in your life; 3) assuming you’ve seen it all or can predict what will happen. Think of it this way: When you reread something you’ve written for the third or fourth time, you’re so familiar with the content that you just skim over it and don’t catch the mistakes.
You need to get a fresh perspective on yourself and ask for feedback from trusted sources. The idea is to monitor your own behavior, keep tabs on yourself and keep yourself on track.
Many therapists and psychologists call this ability to look at your own behavior an “observing ego.” This concept can be likened to having an out-of-body experience. Use your observing ego to gain as much objectivity as possible. By taking a step back from your everyday interactions with others, you become aware of the role you play in shaping your own behavior and circumstances. The “observing ego” should help you monitor your goals and aspirations, and keep you operating on a path that will lead to success.
It’s also important to make sure that you are taking risks without worrying whether or not you’re making other people happy by conforming to their wishes and goals. Recognize that you need to be willing to fail and learn from your mistakes in order to experience the life you want. Finally, you should take into account that entering something new is not always comfortable. Just like a new pair of shoes, it takes time to get that “worn-in feeling.”
Remember, this doesn’t mean that you throw everything that might stand for security and stability out the window — leave your spouse, quit your job and move to some faraway land. Living a balanced, examined life that’s true to your own values is important — so keep things in perspective. Take steps that you feel comfortable with — dance to your own beat, not someone else’s.
What will you do differently to break out of the mold? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Start a blog about your weight-loss or fitness goals. Go to typepad.com, Blogger.com (Google’s blogger site), or maybe start micro blogging on twitter.com about eating healthier and working out and/or create a Facebook page.
2. Go on a walking tour right where you live.
3. Go for a hike. Here are a few sites to visit: localhikes.com. recreation.gov is the U.S. government's one-stop shop for information on everything from monuments, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, waterskiing and rock climbing to wildlife observation and caving. It lists 388 National Park Service areas, 3,200 federal recreation areas and 16,741 miles of trails.
5. Hire a personal trainer, or take a lesson. Once you make an appointment there is a high likelihood that you'll show up (especially if you're committed to pay). Look for trainers certified by the American College of Sports Medicine (acsm.org), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (nsca-lift.org) or The American Council on Exercise (acefitness.org). Or take lessons in activities such as tennis, volleyball or horseback riding.
Here are a few other activities to explore:
1. Go for a bike ride. Don't own a bike? Rent one. Try Bikeandroll.com. If they don't have a location near you, just type "bike rental and X (your location)" into google.com or yahoo.com.
2. Try kayaking, canoeing or surf paddling.
3. Try cooking a new healthy recipe. To find one go to Eatingwell.com, Cookinglight.com, AllRecipes.com or Food.com.
4. Go to healthy cooking school and learn spa cuisine. If there are no schools in your area, maybe plan a vacation around taking healthy cooking classes.
5. Plan an overnight trip. Make sure there are fitness activities for you to take part in, but also take time to think about and plan a new, healthier future. Bring a pad and pen, computer or some way to jot down your ideas.
These are simply suggestions for ways you can mix things up. Come up with your own ideas and see what works — but keep in mind that changing things up can help.
CHARLES PLATKIN, Ph.D., M.P.H., is one of the country's leading nutrition and public health advocates, whose syndicated health, nutrition and fitness column, the Diet Detective appears in more than 100 daily newspapers nationally. Dr. Platkin is also the founder of DietDetective.com, which offers nutrition, food, and fitness information. Platkin is a health expert and blogger featured on Everydayhealth.com, Active.com and Fitnessmagazine.com. Additionally, Platkin is a Distinguished Lecturer at the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College in New York City.