As a life coach, I've been talking with my clients a lot lately about the importance of structure in their lives. Structure is important on a day-to-day basis but it's absolutely required when we are trying to create, change, or transform our lives or ourselves. Why is structure so important? Well, the human brain prefers sticking with what is familiar because knowing what to expect was imperative for our species to survive. The primitive part of our brain, called the reptilian brain, is still wired to encourage us to keep doing what we've been doing—even when we aren't happy with the results.
Wouldn't it be great if the systems of our brain were set up differently? What if we woke up in the morning and our brain automatically gave us a pep talk that kept us on track with our goals? It would remind us to eat oatmeal instead of that donut, the importance of determining if we could afford something before purchasing it, and the long term outcome of being patient with others rather than irritable. While the brain won't do this automatically, a life coach can help you do this for yourself by teaching you how to create structure for any project or goal you are committed to achieving.
Let's talk about two common examples of change and transformation that people attempt and how structure can help. First we'll explore getting your finances in order. Most people are fairly oblivious to their financial situation. They think they have enough money to support their lifestyle yet they end up with debt that never seems to go away.
If this sounds like you, ask yourself the following questions: What is your net income as well as your expenses each month? What do you spend your money on? What are your long-term financial goals and do you trust yourself to make these goals happen? Most people don't know the answers to these questions. When we don't know the state of our finances we often feel unsettled and have a sense that something is about to go wrong. That's not a great way to live.
Here is a basic structure you can implement to get your finances in order. First, figure out how much money comes in and goes out each month. Actually write it down and track your receipts for a month or two so that you get an idea of what you are spending your money on. If this thought makes you sweat, that is a sign that you need some support! Working with a life coach will help you create structure and accountability so you don't feel overwhelmed as you get your finances on track.
When I helped my client Steve do this exercise, he was shocked to realize he spent hundreds of dollars each month on taxis. He also realized that he was adding about $800 of debt to his credit cards per month. He began to track his spending then he was able to create a realistic budget. That was the first step to creating some structure with his spending.
Next Steve needed to set aside time every week to look at his finances and make conscious decisions about where he was spending his money. This sounds easy but like many people, Steve kept "forgetting" his commitments to himself. This was a clue that additional structure was needed. Steve put a reoccurring reminder in his phone that kept him on track and ultimately increased his confidence. Finally, Steve set a long-term goal of being conscious with his spending for one full year. At the end of that year Steve was out of debt and had a clear vision and structure for his financial goals.
Most of us can relate to the next goal: Getting into shape. So what makes it so hard to get into shape? Changing your body takes time and most people don't create a structure to keep them on track long enough to see results. Over time most people think the problem is them versus a lack of structure to keep them on track. That's how Tina was feeling when she hired me as her life coach six months ago. Tina wanted to get into shape for her sister's Christmas wedding but was fearful of making any commitments because she hadn't been able to meet her weight loss goals in the past. Structure allowed Tina to meet her goals and then some.
Initially, Tina wanted to focus on losing 15 pounds but as we explored her goals she realized that what she really wanted was to be healthier and have more energy. She decided to focus on improving three measurements: Her overall waist size which is an indicator of overall health, her sugar levels, and her blood pressure. Since Tina's biggest obstacle in the past had been sticking with a plan, she needed a good amount of structure. We create a four month day-by-day plan of physical activity as well as diet and nutrition objectives. She looked at the plan twice a day to remind herself of her commitments and tracked her daily food intake on an online program.
People often avoid structure because they don't realize the freedom that comes with structure. Tina didn't have to decide everyday what to do, what to eat, or how much to exercise because it was already planned for her. She could literally get up in the morning and follow the plan. Tina stuck with the program and met her goals in the 4 months but what really transformed was her belief in her ability to set a goal and achieve it! Tina was so excited at the changes she experienced that she has a new goal—to run her first 5K in the spring. And, she has a training structure that will help her turn her goal into a reality.
Want to learn how to use structure to help you reach your goals? Join my upcoming Master Mind Group where I'll teach you a proven 3-step formula to help you create lasting change in your life.
Kanya is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a Private Practice in Paoli, Pennsylvania. Kanya works as a Life Coach helping women transform their big dreams into reality. Kanya also coaches single women who are ready to attract the love of their lives. She is the author of the e-book, 4 Secrets to Dating That Will Change Your Life.
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