I've written before about the overwhelming amount of health and wellness knowledge you now have at your fingertips. Not only is it too much to digest, seemingly trustworthy experts offer conflicting advice.
Yet we're still encouraged to believe that "Knowledge is power." It's true that information doesn't equal knowledge. Still...that old aphorism needs editing.
How about this instead?
Knowledge is power only when you can use it.
You would think that having quality, vetted, experiential information would lead to action. You would be wrong. While that would be a logical, rational response, us humans are more emotional than that.
There are other reasons why just knowing what to do doesn’t mean you’ll do it. You've evolved to avoid danger. So when using knowledge means moving outside of your comfort zone, guess which one wins?
Why hello, ice cream, sofa, and night of binge-watching!
So what can you do to get moving in the direction you want? How can you take the information you're learning, merge it with how you're applying the knowledge you already have, and then use it?
4 Effective Ways to Take Action
Forget willpower. Set up your environment.
Willpower is great for short bursts of motivation. Unfortunately, like with decision-making, your ability to access it weakens with chronic use. A much better approach is to create an environment that reflects and bolsters the knowledge you're trying to implement.
Let's say you know all about the unhealthy effects of eating sugar. Instead of relying on willpower to avoid your midday frappucino fix, you could have some healthy ingredients ready to make a smoothie. You could also set aside a funny video to watch for distraction. You could plan to take a time out for some deep breathing or a quick walk (as long as it doesn't take you past your coffee seller). You could have a list of all of the reasons why you want to eat healthier posted front and center to remind you. You could even hang out with a friend who shares your health views.
Just putting one of those practices in place may help, but that's not truly altering your environment. The more ways you can implement to support the change you want to make, the better.
Tell yourself a new story.
Take the information you're trying to utilize and turn it into a personal empowering story. If your usual narrative is "I deserve a treat," transform it into "I deserve a treat that makes me feel fantastic." You may find that too generic, though. Personalizing your story is key here. "I deserve a treat that makes me feel fabulous, gets my skin glowing, and supports my body in achieving its optimal shape. I deserve real treats and not imitations."
Self-talk that emphasizes the reward of improved health without punishment and self-reproach propels you towards positive action--and fabulous results.
Take small steps.
Knowledge can be so motivating that you're eager to go all in. Who cares if you've never had a regular exercise regimen? You're going to start going to the gym for an hour a day! Your junk food habit has been a constant in your life, but tomorrow you'll throw all of it away and never look back!
I'm all for you throwing away your junk food, but if it has been a major part of your life, you're setting yourself up for failure. At first, it's more helpful to look into some better substitutes. Alternatively, you could get rid of overly processed (non)food during one daily meal. Or you could purge your house of the offenders so you have to go to the store whenever you want them.
Accept that change takes time and that's fine because life is not a race. You don't have to push yourself to go faster. Thinking of all of the things you need to do to get from where you are now to where you want to be can be incredibly overwhelming. But all you really need to do is to take one step. You can rest there until you're ready for the next one. Eventually, you'll be living the change you imagined.
Remember that it's all just practice.
You won't get it down perfectly the first time you do it (and if you do, it's most likely a fluke). That's okay. In fact, that's life.
Every day, every hour, every second you have another opportunity to practice a different way of embodying your knowledge. Sometimes you'll remember. Often you'll forget. You will need many, many times of going awkwardly through the motions until one day your knowledge becomes a graceful, flowing part of who you are.
These are all important practices that I personally work on in my own life and that I use with my health-coaching clients. If you feel like you would benefit from more guidance and feedback, please check out my Services page for ways I can help you.