Secret Weapon: The Power of Replacement

As a wellness coach, you are working with individuals everyday who share a desire to eliminate something negative from their daily habits. The range of examples run the spectrum, but the concept is the same: there is some habit that your client realizes is having a negative impact on her/his life, but for some reason the person just “can’t” stop. Or maybe it’s you. Just because you’re a wellness coach DOESN’T mean you have everything dialed in (at least I don’t!).

Huh? Wait a minute. Why would something like this be an issue? They (or you, or I) know there’s a problem. The client has tuned into the issue. The defensiveness is absent. They see the value of change and they want to make the change – eliminating the issue for good.

But it doesn’t happen.

For some reason (I’ll let the Psychologists chime in here but it’s a repeated pattern we see everyday) the habit continues, as do the negative consequences.  So what can you – as a wellness coach – do to help the individual move past it?  Remember, they’re fully bought into the shift, but after a few days of temporary change, things revert back to they way they were. Now what?

The key might just be to move from “elimination” to “replacement.” Here’s a personal example that may spark some ideas…

For the first 25+ years of my life, I probably had a total of 3 alcoholic drinks. It simply wasn’t part of my life. However, as I got into my 30’s, I read about the benefits of red wine, had fun attending a wine tasting class with my brother, and even learned the difference between a Cabernet and a Chardonnay :-).  Fortunately alcohol never became a centerpiece in my life, but as I got into my late 40’s, it was absolutely a habit. Instead of a treat, the box wine in our refrigerator made it easy – really easy – to enjoy a glass of wine (sometimes a large glass of wine) with dinner every single night.

As an endurance athlete staring down age 50 in the next year, I knew that while wine does have some healthy benefits, the trade-offs for endurance athletes are notable.  So I’d stop.  For a week. Then I’d have wine just with certain meals (ie, spaghetti, tacos), but eventually it was back to an every night habit. Until six weeks ago. For the past 6 weeks, I’ve had a glass of wine no more than once/week, typically when out to dinner with my bride or other special occasions.  Wait – what? Why the sudden change after years of flip-flopping?!?

Simply stated – the power of replacement.  Each time over the past few years I’ve “committed” to moving wine from the “habit” to the “special treat” category, I fell short primarily because the choice created a hole in my evening. Ok – it wasn’t actually a hole in my evening, but there was something missing at dinner. Turning away from wine at dinner meant… another glass of water. Add to that the fatigue factor after a long day of work (we make many more poor choices when we’re tired/worn out) and after a few days, I’d throw in the towel.

Then 6 weeks ago, I finally got it.  I’m a smoothie guy – and I put a ton of stuff in my smoothies, so they’re pretty big :-). In fact, they’re generally so big that I could pour a glass, set it aside for dinner, and still have plenty to fill my smoothie fix earlier in the day. And that’s when I made the discovery!!  Now when it’s time for dinner, I’m not relegated to another glass of water. Instead I have a delicious smoothie sitting right there waiting for me.  Good tasting, healthy, certainly more anti-oxidants than a glass of red wine – and available with no effort! Now I don’t even care that I’m skipping the glass of wine – the replacement makes it easy! The hole is gone – I’m not just eliminating something and then moving into the role of martyr over my “big sacrifice” (which only makes it more of a focus). There is no hole – option A has been replaced!

Do I plan to avoid wine forever? No. Right now I’m gearing up for a big race and need every advantage I can get. But it’s nice to have discovered the secret to easily eliminating a habitual choice. As you’re working with your wellness coaching clients (or maybe thinking about something in your own life that could use a tweak but has been tough to change), consider the power of replacement. Maybe it’s the secret weapon that will turn the corner to your success.


Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on pinterest
Share on stumbleupon
Share on email