Unlearning Narratives, Learning Non-Negotiable Wellness

For better health, wealth and wisdom, our newsletter now includes:

An Idea to Unlearn
A New Narrative
A New Action to take


Undervaluing the Starting Point

The “All-or-Nothing” mentality for a new lifestyle or project can be a huge obstacle. It creates unnecessary friction right from the start. You may know the tone of this feeling: it may sound like: “I just need to make time/push myself/get motivated/get ‘er done one day…”

With our daily schedule often packed, forcing a big change all at once is like chopping wood with the dull side of an ax: it doesn’t really work.

Starting small works like the thin end of a wedge: it creates an opening for something to get done now, which gradually opens up more time and energy to achieve the bigger goal.

In this light, starting is just as important as finishing. Fixating on a goal can distract us from the small steps to achieve it, which can get in our own way. It is crucial to get clear on goals, but it’s the small actions that get us there.

Using a pragmatic “all-or-something” mindset, the small items get done and the project keeps moving forward. This feels rewarding, builds confidence, and makes it much more likely we’ll keep going!

Example: Jon wants to cut down on coffee.

Option A: Abruptly quit drinking daily coffee (the horror!) and shift to once or twice per week. This is the all-or-nothing approach.
Result: Drastic caffeine drop may bring headaches and unpleasant symptoms, and makes success unlikely for trimming java consumption.

Option B: Start swapping in a few beans of decaf every morning for a month
Result: Jon makes the switch to decaf painlessly. Aaaand he can still have regular strength if he really needs it, for example, on a long-distance drive.

Following through on a micro level is easier and allows the finished goal to arrive on its own.

What small step could you take right now on a project, hobby or activity? And could you do it again tomorrow?

New Narrative:

Being Worthy of Self-Compassion

If there’s a time to re-invest in a bit more patience and kindness with ourselves, it is now. It can start by shifting the stories we tell about ourselves, which are embedded in our self-talk. Bursts of self-talk often show us how we’re treating ourselves inside.

What arises when things aren’t going the way we want, or after making a mistake? Does our self-talk bring understanding or criticism?

When a child spills something, we might exclaim “oops”, not “you’re so bad at that!”. Can we accept that we too are always learning, and make it okay to be human, and fallible?

Ethan Kross, author of the book Chatter, offered a tip about using our own name during self-talk, to make it more objective:

“Many people have had the experience of struggling to work through a problem on their own, but find it easy to advise others going through the same thing. Science shows that when the problem isn’t happening to you—when you have distance from the situation—it’s easier to offer sound advice. Using your name to talk to yourself […] provides us with the distance we need to work through our problems more objectively.”*

Better yet, combine that practice with self-compassion. Here are some resources:

Additional Self-Compassion exercises at:  Self-Compassion with Kristin Neff

By widening our perspective using our name, and pausing mindfully in difficult moments, we can shift from bursts of negative self-talk into feelings of self-compassion that reinforce how we are all worthy of basic kindness, love and belonging. Each time we’re able to say more gently, “I’m human” or “I made a mistake, it’s okay,” we begin a subtle shift in our self-narratives. With repetition, this can create powerful transformations in how we see and treat ourselves, and others.

New Action:

Non-Negotiables of Wellness, Part 1

#1: Sleep

Aim for quantity and quality sleep: 7 – 9 hrs per night, and try to wake up naturally most days, before an alarm. Focus on evening habits: set a reminder to wind down earlier, and get away from all screens before bed.  Need an assist?  This online sleep course covers all the healthy sleep habits to get you back on track. 

Sleep Facts: Researchers have even found sleep habits accounted for 24.44% of the variance in college grades. The night before exams didn’t matter as much as the impact that came from the weeks and month before exams. Learn more: Sleep Quality and Academic Performance. And lastly, we can’t actually “catch up” on sleep -sorry- that’s a myth.

#2: Movement

Does “exercise” sound like effort? Use a more enticing name, and a more enjoyable activity as well! Whether walking, hiking, biking or strutting around town, the way you frame something matters.

We use this nudge on kids all the time: sweetening the deal. We can help ourselves in basically same way by using “temptation bundling”. Add something rewarding, like a podcast or great music to make movement enjoyable. Whatever you choose, stay in motion!

Here’s a movement example of our Habit Kits in action with a walk-after-lunch routine:

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David Langner, M.A. Founder and Director, The Habit Institute

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