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3 Midlife Questions To Simplify The Process Of Making Lifestyle Changes That Last

 Episode 16 | (0:00)
Hey there, I am so excited that you chose to join me today. I do appreciate you taking the time to listen, and I want to talk to you a little bit today about three little questions we need to ask ourselves in midlife as we're making lifestyle changes, as we're creating new habits. I will be giving you my own personal story of what not to do so hopefully, that will save you from the proverbial "slings and arrows" of failure. ;)  So if you're ready to dive in and think about these three little midlife questions, so am I Let's do it!

Hey, they're Easy Ager. Before we get started today, I wanted to remind you to go pick up your gift, The 3 Steps For Rediscovering Your Identity So You Can Thrive In Midlife And Beyond (theeasyagingshow.com). 

Alright, so today is the first episode in the year 2022, oooh! Yeah, pretty exciting. I don't know about you, but I love new beginnings. I think that's probably why I love 90-day sprints because instead of getting one new, big beginning at the beginning of the year, I get four, I get one every quarter. I get very excited over new starts. :)

And I'm especially excited over making lifestyle changes that last, lifestyle changes that are permanent. Because let me tell you what I used to do. And if I can spare you some pain and heartache so you don't follow my pattern, let me help you here.

When I was younger, I used to get so excited and just so enthusiastic, I'd say something like, "Hey, oh my goodness, I want to be healthy. Well, that means I'm going to have to exercise every day. Okay, what does that look like? A and B and C and D. And I want to eat better, I want to eat clean. And oh, I'm going to have to cook for the week," and I'd pull up the cookbook and I get all these new recipes and I'd have a plan for that. "And I want to drink more water, I'm going to be drinking more water," and I would get a plan for doing that. I just put new habit on top of new habit on top of new habit.

And then, by the end of the first week of the year, I was exhausted. Oh my gosh, I think my brain imploded somewhere in this process. I just couldn't think straight. I was just so tired because I kept putting too many new things on top of more new things on top of more new things.

And because I was so tired, I quit. But the problem is I didn't just quit one of these new things. I quit all of the new things. And I did absolutely nothing to make lifestyle changes, to create new habits, I did not move a single finger.

Have you ever done this? Have you ever just gotten so excited and you just jump in, you start doing something and you're not really thinking it all the way through? And then about halfway through you're going, "Whoa, I didn't think that all the way through." ;)

(3:41)
Because here's the deal: We all want to make lifestyle changes that last when we make a change. We want it to be permanent, because there's nothing more disheartening than having to go back and do it again. So today I'm talking about three midlife questions that are going to help you think things through just a little bit more as you're making lifestyle changes, as you're creating new habits, as you're improving your life on a daily basis.

So this first midlife question is number one, what am I stopping this year? I know, kind of threw you for a loop. Instead of asking "what am I starting this year?", why don't you look at what you're stopping this year? Because sometimes knowing what you don't want helps you better understand what you do want. It helps you get a little more clarity on what you really and truly want.

For example, maybe you want to watch less television this year. And maybe you watch from six to 10. You go to bed at 10, you may start watching after dinner, maybe that's six, so that's about four hours. And let's just count five days a week. So Monday through Friday, you watch four hours of television a day, five days a week, that's 20 hours a week you've committed to watching television.

And then maybe you say, "That's 20 hours a week. You know what? I'm going to cut that in half, so I'm only going to watch 10 hours a week of television in the evenings." That still leaves you an additional 10 hours a week in your schedule.

What are you going to do with that extra time? Are you going to read? Are you going to write a novel? Are you going to take a class online or take a class at the new community center that's opening up now? What are you going to do?

When you release some of that time, it helps your brain relax. Because if you don't actually evaluate what's going on, all you're doing is adding to what you already have.

And in the back of your brain, that little voice  you know the voice I'm talking about — that little voice is going to say, "What are you doing? Why are you adding more stuff? Oh my gosh, we don't have time to turn around right now. Why do you want to add more stuff?!"

And it's going to start arguing with you. It's going to put you into resistance, and it's unequivocably going to stop you from thinking bigger because you're going to limit yourself. Your brain is telling you that you don't have enough time.

So when you take the time to evaluate your schedule, or evaluate what it is you want to stop and that creates extra time in your day, then you can say, "Ah, 10 hours a week. Gosh, what do I want to do?" You can think bigger, you can step into possibility. And that's going to help you figure out what you really want to do without limitations.

Okay, so the second midlife question is number two, when will I do this? Because obviously if you have the time, then you got to figure out when you're going to do this. So here's a couple of options that you can have that might help you establish this time.

The first one is called habit stacking, and it's basically stacking a new habit onto a current habit. Now, James Clear, C-L-E-A-R, wrote Atomic Habits, and you can find him at JamesClear.com. I don't believe he coined the term "habit stacking," but he definitely talks about it on his website. I'm going to be giving you the next pieces of information directly from his website.

There is a formula to this. And your statement will be, you pick a  "before" or "after," then you list your current habit. Then you state the new habit, you say, "I will..." and state the new habit.

So let me give you a couple of examples:

"After I take off my work shoes, I will immediately change into my workout clothes."

"After I sit down to dinner, I will say one thing I'm grateful for that happened today."

So obviously, you're going to be taking off your work shoes every day and you're going to be sitting down to dinner  these are things that are already happening and what you're doing is stacking a habit on top of them.

You can also stack habit on top of habit on top of habit. More than likely, this is what your morning routine looks like. You get up, you go to the bathroom, you splash water on your face, you brush your teeth or you shave or whatever that is, and you do one thing after the other after the other to where it is automatic. You don't give it a whole lot of thought.

The second thing I'm going to suggest for you when creating lifestyle changes that last is called time blocking. Now I'm laughing because I don't know, maybe it's just me, you know, simple thoughts for simple minds, I guess that's what it gets down to.

(8:14)
I laugh because I've seen so many different systems and processes saying, "use different colors" and "have your morning routine" and "your nighttime routine" and all of this stuff. Sigh... Let me tell you what time blocking is in its simplest form.

You put something on your calendar, then you look at the calendar and you do it.

It's like writing an event on your calendar. That's all time blocking is. Let me tell you what I think is the most important thing about time blocking. It's about blocking that time when you're at your best for that particular task.

For example, if you're writing your novel, you're going to want to do that when you're at your most creative, when you're most awake and alert, when you're at your very best, right? For some of us that's the morning; for some of us, that's at night; for some of that's us, that's everything in-between. So finding out the time that works for you is just as important as actually blocking out the time.

Now the last midlife question for lifestyle changes that last is number three, what is my priority? Now I included this because, let's be honest... life happens. Sometimes you have no control over what is going on in your life. I mean, things happen so it's important that you decide in advance, if something has to go because of an emergency, what is it going to be?

(9:36)
I want to be really clear at this point. I am not talking about you saying, "Oh, you know what? I don't feel like it today." We're not talking about your feelings, okay? Because if you try to create lifestyle changes that last based on your feelings, I don't mean to alarm you but you're probably not going to hit the mark there. ;)

There are so many days you just don't feel like it, so let's take that and put it aside. We're not talking about feelings.

When I talk about what's your priority and figuring that out, I'm talking about when there's an emergency and you have to go to the hospital, or you have to take somebody to the hospital, and you're there at the hospital for six or eight or 10 hours or a few days or even a few weeks.

At that point, you don't have a routine anymore. You don't have your standard things that you do every single day, right? Especially if you're sleeping at the hospital.

Or even if it's a work emergency, maybe something broke, something went wrong, and you have to be working a lot of hours over the next couple of weeks to fix it to make it work. Or maybe a presentation didn't work and there's a sudden deadline because you have to redo everything before the client comes back into town or before you present again.

So when we're in these emergency situations, it is really important that we decide in advance, "What do I have to have to get through this?"

For me, my priorities are time with God and moving my body. I make them my priorities because I know that my time with God is just going to benefit me emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. That time is going to help my day go well, I'm going to have an easier day, I'm not going to be struggling with every little thing.

So on the physical side, same thing. I know that moving my body —  even if I do 10 or 15 minutes of Pilates with a little stretching — I know that's going to make me feel better. It's going to energize me. It helps me keep my head on straight. It helps me feel good and it gives me energy.

I do them in the morning because that is when I am the freshest, that is when I am the most focused, that is when I have the most discipline. Now that's how I work. For some of you, you're at your very best in the evening. If that's you, great, go for it. Do what works for you.

But this whole priority thing relates back to number two of when you're going to do it. That's why those two work together really well because you have to pick one or two things that you are going to do no matter what's going on in your life.

Before I close, I wanted to talk a little bit about how long it takes before you can create lifestyle changes that last. Now when I say "changes at last," I mean changes or new habits have become automatic where you don't have to think about them anymore. It used to be 21 days, but that's not true anymore. They have now discovered it takes an average of 66 days to create a change that lasts, a change that's permanent, a change that becomes automatic so you don't really even think about any longer. Remember 66 days is the average number of days — it could be shorter, it could be longer. So because we don't know if it's going to be shorter or longer, I always recommend do something for 90 days. So 90 days gives you a little bit of extra time to get that habit set where it becomes automatic.

So let me recap what I just talked about with these midlife questions. The first question is, what am I stopping this year? Because when you stop doing things and you create time in your schedule, then you can start really stepping into possibility and dreaming again about what you really want.

Number two, when will I do it? I gave you a few examples of habit stacking and time blocking and most importantly, determining when the best time for you to do a particular task is for you.

Number three, what is my priority? And this question is basically to figure out, "What do I have to do to perform well every single day?" Figure out in advance what these one or two tasks or activities are that help you achieve peak performance.

So that's pretty much it for today. Just a reminder, come on over to Facebook and join my free Facebook community. It's called the Easy Aging® Facebook group for GenXers and Baby Boomers, and we would love to have you there. So until next time, peace, love and blessings to you and yours. Take care. Bye-bye!

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