How To Create Healthy Habits When Life Gets In The Way


Given the unpredictability and hubbub in their lives, how can unhabiters create lasting changes? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Michelle Segar, PhD, author of The Joy Choice, on Quora:

Unhabiters—usually those find themselves juggling a variety of life responsibilities and unexpected interruptions—often feel pessimistic that they can ever create lasting changes with eating and exercise. But there is an easy strategy well within reach: moving away from either-or approaches and supporting our innate capacity for flexible thinking strategies that emerging science suggests is what we need for sustainable change.

The truth is, it’s not continually aiming for the bullseye that will get us there. Why? Because inevitably (and frequently!) life happens, upending our great intentions and well-thought-out plans. This unpredictability and imperfect reality is the true context that the eating and exercise plans have to survive within among us unhabiters.

In this daily environment, amidst the many competing needs unhabiters juggle, the “all-or-nothing” strategy has only one option, breaking apart into the void of nothing [or only fall apart].

But our pessimism can become optimism when we understand that the secret to lasting success is the opposite of perfection, it’s imperfection! It’s our in-the-moment, imperfect choices, the ones that let us do part of our exercise or eating plan so we can respect our greater goals while we also fulfill the other life needs that unexpectedly arise.

These small imperfect decisions that let us do something instead of nothing, have a large impact as they accumulate over our days, months, and years, enabling us to achieve our greater eating and exercise goals because they keep us moving forward in spite of and through the unanticipated.

Research shows when it comes to how we respond to challenges to our eating and exercise plans, the real ticket to lasting change is doing something, a part of our plan, rather than giving up and doing nothing.

Plans are important to orient us to our days, needs, and priorities. But equally important is our readiness to improvise and pivot when something unexpected makes our plans unworkable. Because face it, life happens.

The great news is that our innate executive functioning (working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibition) is expressly set up to help us effectively navigate and create consistent decision-making.

By learning simple ways to support and engage our executive functions, we can better cut out unnecessary noise, sort through our real options, and choose the one that best meets our full set of needs when we bump up against unexpected conflicts with our plans.

This question originally appeared on Quora – the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.


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