When Clients Struggle to Make Changes

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When Clients Struggle to Make Changes

Photo credit: FreeImages.com/Ralaenin

What do you do when clients struggle to make changes? As Functional Health Coaches, we are here to assist our clients, guiding them to make the lifestyle changes necessary to help them have more energy and feel better. And some clients do very well to make the changes that they need to in order to reclaim optimal health. But, many other clients struggle to comply with the changes they need to make to help improve their health. In fact, more than half of all coaching clients struggle with compliance in one or more areas that they need to change.

Why does this happen to clients and what can you do to help them to succeed?

Decision fatigue can cause clients to make poor choices.  Often times, when people have to make a lot of decisions throughout the day, the quality of their decision making ability decreases as the day progresses. That is why so many people choose go through the drive through and get fast food instead of preparing something healthy for dinner after work.  Or why they choose to sit on the couch and watch TV instead of going for a walk in the evening. One way you can help your clients overcome decision fatigue is by having them plan out their decisions the night before. You can also have them plan the most important things that they need to accomplish earlier in the day, and work to simplify their life so that overwhelm doesn’t take over. Also, encourage them to eat something healthy later in the day if they do have important decisions to make. Their brain will need the energy from that food!

Limiting negative beliefs can stop people from even starting to make changes. Many people get caught up in negative beliefs and allow those beliefs to undermine their efforts to make life changes. When a clients says things like “I can’t do it”, “it’s too hard”, “I’m not good enough”, “I’m not smart enough” it can lower self confidence and convince them to not even try to make changes. And there are limitless amounts of these negative beliefs that prevent people from moving forward. But what most people fail to realize is that a belief is nothing more than a thought that is repeated over and over again….and thoughts can be changed. For your clients, the key to overcoming limiting beliefs is to have them pay attention to those beliefs, recognize what they are and then ask themselves if the thoughts are really true. Most times they are not. You can then begin to replace those thoughts with ones that are much more positive and will help to motivate them and not undermine them.

The subconscious mind can cause problems with compliance. Just as the body works to keep a sense of homeostasis, so does our mind. When someone makes big changes in their life, the subconscious mind can view this as a threat, even if the changes are healthy. This is because change is different than what was the norm before, and so the subconscious mind will fight to bring things back to the way they were, back to homeostasis, even if that previous norm is unhealthy. This is why so many people who start diets fail and go back to eating unhealthy foods. They are usually trying to make changes that are too great, too quickly. The greater the change your client is trying to make, the greater the threat it will be to the subconscious mind.  If your client is struggling to make big changes quickly, then the best course of action is to make smaller changes. This is more acceptable to the subconscious mind and it will not fight as much to return to the habits or lifestyle that was the norm previously. So, if you are working with a client to move them from the standard American diet to a healthier, whole food diet, you may want to have them slowly transition their diet over a 3-6 month period. Longer and slower changes have a much greater chance of being successful in the long run.

Here are some other things that you can do to help those clients that are struggling with compliance:

  1. Talk with them about why making changes is important to them. If they are having a difficult time connecting with the purpose of making the changes they need to make, for their health and life, then having a conversation with them to define that purpose is in order.
  2. Make sure your client is confident in their ability to follow through on what you ask them to do. If they are not feeling confident, then the chance that they will follow through is pretty small. This is when you may need to help them break down the changes to make them smaller and easier to achieve. After breaking down a task, ask them how confident they are that they can follow through. Once they are confident in their ability, then you should begin to see more success and compliance.

Remember that there will always be some clients that will not follow through, no matter what you do or say to them. Unfortunately, you cannot force anyone to make changes, unless they are truly ready to make themselves and their health a priority. But these tips can help those who may be struggling to find a greater level of success as they begin to comply more. And as they see improvement in their health and how they feel, hopefully that will encourage them to continue to make the changes necessary to feel better.

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