Mind over matter is more than a saying, it is a universal truth. Perceptions influence behavior. In studying those who have successfully maintained a lifestyle change, I see one thing in common; they changed how they thought about themselves and about healthy behaviors.
For instance, if you are a sedentary person with a dislike of exercise, you can affectively alter your behavior by beginning to change how you perceive yourself and exercise. Instead of seeing yourself as lazy or disliking activity, you start to embrace a new view of who you are. In doing so, you can become someone who not only likes to be active, but someone who makes it a priority.
A good friend made a strong point about this, which made me explore it further. She remarked that she is a runner, not just someone who runs occasionally, but a runner. This perception spurs her to run. It is not out of obligation or to gain a health benefit, it is because she associates herself as a runner and that is just something she does. It is her motivation to run that makes all the difference.
When you only do a behavior out obligation or to get a perceived benefit, it will most likely not lead to long lasting change. Unless you have a way to make the behavior part of who you are, you will always dread it, resent it and struggle with it. By owning the behavior and making it part of who you are, you will begin to create a place for it in you life, a place of expectancy, not one of an expectation.
This has been true in my own life with the practice of yoga. I am still a fledgling student, although I am certified to teach it. I am not your typical flexible person who is calm and zen like. I would have never believed that I would be a yogi. But yet I practice regularly. I allowed that perception to define me. “I am not flexible,” I would say. In doing so, I allowed that perception to shape my behavior.
Now I have a new perspective. “I am becoming more flexible and I am a yoga student.” I have embraced the possible and claimed the perception that I desired, instead of the one that limited me. Consider what perceptions have you accepted that limit you?
Perhaps someone once told you that you were not graceful, so you never tried to dance. Or did someone once say you were not athletic, so you chose to never play sports. Maybe someone labeled you lazy and you believed them. When you believe what you have been told, you accept that reality. The brain only knows to be true what you tell it. When you reinforce those negative perceptions, you will also begin to reflect that in your behavior.
Many very intelligent people allow old perceptions to keep them from living the kind of lifestyle that they desire. Most people want to be healthy and fit, but in their minds eye, they do not ever see themselves as that. That old mindset is like a prison you build for yourself. But take heart, you also hold the key.
By setting a new intention you can claim a new perception of yourself. Begin by telling yourself who you are. Phrase it in a proactive way, not just, “I am thin,” because if you are not, your mind will not accept the discrepancy.
State it terms of what you are actually doing and claiming to become what you desire. “I am an active person. I need to move everyday, because that is who I am,” or “I make eating healthy a priority. I care about what I put in my body.” Now the brain will be focused on the behaviors that create the outcome.
To believe it you must keep your mind on it. Where the mind goes, the man follows. If you do not meditate on this perception, the old negative one will start to creep back in. Behavior follows belief.
I told one client, “To change what is below the neck, you must first change what is between the ears!” This is so important if you are tired of being on the roller coaster or weight loss or healthy living. The missing link is the mental component that puts action behind the knowledge.
When you believe yourself to be someone different, you can become someone different. If past attempts have failed, consider what you believe about yourself, what you have essentially accepted as truth about who you are. By changing that, you can successfully change your life.