Engaging with your Life

To Adapt and Thrive

Dr Natalia Shafiqa

Natalia's specialist interests include healthcare innovation, public health policy and clinical trauma management.

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We have all experienced a significant change in our lives in the past 6 weeks as we adapt to life in lockdown.  Some of us are adapting to new responsibilities and roles such as juggling our children’s teaching schedules and needs with our own work commitments.  Many of us are facing uncertainty and wonder what our future lives will be like. Whilst we have, in many ways, been forced to press “PAUSE” on our lives, it has also provided the perfect opportunity to reflect and consider our personal priorities for the future. 

What do you want your life to be like when we begin to return to normality?

Are you happy with the life you were living before lockdown?

What would you like to change going forwards?

Identity & Outcomes

By simplifying aspects of our lives (due to the limitations of lockdown), it has become easier to recognise what we are truly passionate about and what holds personal meaning to us. We can now take this a step further by being pro-active and finding a new way to bring this into our current lives. 

Behavioural change is necessary to live a life that you value and satisfies your inner purpose. However, we often implement behavioural change with an outcome-focused approach by setting ‘goals’ to become the ideal-version of ourselves. By focusing on the results, it is likely we only solve the problem temporarily. Long term behavioural change is more successful when focusing on improving our identity and then implementing what adds value to your own life. Particularly when challenged, this identity-focused approach enables you to also focus on adapting in the process and focusing on your personal strengths. 

For example: After my car accident, I faced a significant amount of physical pain due to my injuries which limited my day-to-day life and movement. An outcome-focused approach would have set the goal as returning to my normal routine of HIIT classes and running around in general life. However, my identity-focused approach prioritised becoming the ‘healthiest version of myself’ at that point. So my mindset was and still is: ‘I’m a healthy person so I’m going to keep moving my body in a way that feels comfortable for me.’  I eased myself in with barre and pilates classes during the rehabilitation period of my injury and as my body has recovered, pushed myself gradually with other forms of fitness.”

Ask yourself: What are my personal core values? What do I value most in my life? What do I miss during lockdown? As a person, what do I want to become? How do I become that person?

Small Actions = Large Effects 

When it comes to change, we often think of dramatic overhauls of our lifestyles. After committing to change, a big action can provide instant gratification however this is often not sustainable. I encourage you to aim to be 1% better each day.

There is power in making small improvements repetitively, and these positive small actions will result in a larger compound effect over the period that we consistently commit. 

“Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement”

James Clear outlines this strategy in his book “Atomic Habits”.

Understanding the pace of transformation by making small changes will help us to remain motivated and maintain new habits.  

We expect progress to be linear between our actions and goals and look for instant gratification. This can be reinforced by an outcome-focused approach to change, which inevitably results in us trying to reach the target as fast as possible to achieve ‘happiness.’ James Clear refers to the ‘Plateau of Latent Potential’, whereby habits don’t appear to make a difference until we cross a threshold and then a compound effect becomes obvious. By understanding this, we can appreciate that we are committing to long-term growth and avoid the initial disappointment when the compounded small actions are yet to take effect.

Build your System

Now that we have the motivation to build a life focused on our identity and take consistent actions, we need to build a system to enable us to succeed. Consider the environmental design around you and the changes that you seek to make. 

Ask yourself: Is something likely to block you from carrying out positive habits? Can we make it easier for you to make this change every day?

 The core principle of environmental design is to place as few steps between you and the good behaviours and more steps between you and the bad behaviours. In order to do this, place cues in your environment to remind you of your positive habits so they are naturally implemented into your lifestyle.  This concept is based on a well-known public health strategy called Nudge Theory, that aims to encourage the general population to take ‘healthier’ actions. We can implement this ourselves within our homes with cues to nudge us towards our positive habits. 

For example: “I’m a healthy person and I have the prime opportunity to make changes so that I continue to be.”  I realised that working in the clinical environment limited my chance to hydrate during the day.   I bought a water bottle to take with me onto wards and placed 2 large glass bottles in my home fridge to take out with my breakfast & dinner. Together, with knowing how much I generally drink at work and how much is left in the bottles, I easily know if I’m making progress. The environmental design change by adding the bottles in my fridge for mealtimes easily reinforces my daily habits.

There will also be habits that are still harder to sustain and remain motivated to carry out. In these circumstances, we can create a system that ‘rewards’ us so that achieving that habit is immediately satisfying. Build a system to sustain you in your goals.

For example: When I was studying for my medical finals exams, it was hard to motivate myself to go to the gym in my study breaks. So, I booked myself into classes with my favourite instructors so that I would actually enjoy the class, and then I would let myself unwind at the end of the night in the pool area of my gym. There were days that I went to the gym so that I could unwind in the pool that evening but it helped me to maintain my habits! 

At Lyfe, we encourage our community to live a rich and diverse lifestyle true to their personal values. Lyfe helps you take control your own way. We help you create connections with organisations nearby who can support you in your goals.

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