Sometimes the hardest part about improving your health is just knowing where to start.
Sure, you could revamp your whole life and start waking up earlier to go to the gym, drinking the recommended amount of water each day, trade in burgers and fries for grilled salmon salads, and start downing kale smoothies for good measure. But, a lot of those things are hard to do consistently. And, if you have a specific goal in mind, how do you know if they will really help you make any meaningful improvement? Believe me, there would have to be a really good reason to get me out of bed at 5 a.m. for spin class.
When considering a specific goal that a client has – say, reduce the amount of medications they are on (with the support of their doctor, of course), or to start having regular periods – we will often walk through a list of diet and lifestyle changes that could help them achieve that goal. Each of the changes could have a measurable impact on their health and when we look at them, most of them don’t seem too drastic. Maybe go to bed at the same time every night, incorporate regular stress maintenance into their routine, or focus meals around health fats and proteins.
“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” – Confucius
Eventually though, the list can become overwhelming. When listing off my suggestions, I can often see the moment apprehension crosses my client’s face. “How am I going to accomplish all of this?”
You’ve probably had a moment like the one I’ve described (and, if any of my client’s are reading this – this one’s for you). Here’s the truth: we can’t change everything all at once.
The big question is then, how do we know what changes to make now to start seeing results?
You might be thinking that this is a question about motivation, and expect me to say something like “You’ve just got to want it bad enough”. Years of experience helping to implement changes both in my clients lives and my own, I’ve learned that this isn’t a question of your motivation. How you really answer this question is by sorting out which changes will be the easiest for you and produce the biggest results.
This process is called an impact versus effort and it’s designed to make it crystal clear which changes you should focus your energy on now so you can move past overwhelm start making real progress towards your goals.
I’ll break it down for you. Impact looks at how much the change will move-the-needle on your specific goal. The bigger the impact something has, the more powerful an asset it is to you. Effort, on the other hand, looks at how much that change is going to cost you personally. One important thing I’ve learned about effort is that it can be a number of things – how much money something will cost, whether you need support to complete it (e.g. guidance from a personal trainer), how much time you have to dedicate to something – not just how hard it feels to do it (like those 5 a.m. spin classes). Rather than going cross-eyed trying to choose between a list of actions you could take, leverage impact versus effort to find which changes will require the least amount of effort while having the biggest impact.
Let me walk you through an example so you can see what this can look like IRL. Imagine you are a client of mine and we have recently had your adrenal health assessed. Based on the symptoms you shared with me and my analysis of your labs, I suggest making the following changes: eat your first meal no later than 10 a.m., increase your total calorie and protein intake, reduce refined sugar and flours, eliminate caffeine, improve your sleep quality, and start taking a botanical supplement. It’s been a rough couple of months for you health-wise and I can tell you’re eager to try any/all of my suggestions, but…. Mornings are a bit hectic and it might be hard to eat a protein rich breakfast before work, and it doesn’t seem possible to avoid sweets and caffeine this close to the holidays when you’ll be with family.
Before we let our minds get carried away with objections, let’s analyze the impact versus effort of each of the suggested changes.
“If cauliflower can somehow become pizza… you, my friend, can do anything.”
Together we list out all of the potential changes I gave you. I go through the list and assign low, medium, high impact to each of those changes while you assign low, medium, high to the effort. We combine our answers and voila!
List of potential changes
(A) Eat your first meal no later than 10 am
(B) Increase your total calorie and protein intake
(C) Reduce refined sugar and flours
(D) Eliminate caffeine
(E) Improve your sleep quality
(F) Start taking a botanical supplement
Since I’m more visual, I like to make a scatter plot of our answers so you’ll be able to see which changes you should start on now versus those that might be a longer-term goal.
Here’s how you can look at this:
- Anything in box #1 is going to be something you can start right away because it has the highest impact with the lowest effort.
- Anything in boxes labeled #2 or #3 you can start after box #1 changes feel manageable.
- Anything in boxes labeled #4 or #5 may take longer to work into your day-to-day life because of the amount of effort it will cost you. But, that’s OK because those changes will also have the lowest overall impact.
Based on these results, we can see that the changes this client should focus on are (B) increase your total calorie and protein intake, and (F) start taking a botanical supplement.
So, now we have an answer to our question! How do we know what changes to make now to start seeing results? Easy. We just look at the change’s impact versus our effort.
Has this strategy just opened your mind to new possibilities of what you’ll be able to accomplish? Drop a comment below!