Why Starting From Your Core is the Key to Sustainable Habit Change
Every Hintsa coaching programme starts from exploring the Core. But what is ‘the Core’? It’s not the muscles in your abdomen, but something far more important.
‘This year I will exercise more.’ ‘Next month, I will start living a new life and spend more time with my family.‘ ‘This time I will stick to my meditation routine.‘ We have all been there. Had big plans. Started a new healthy habit. And failed at making that habit last.
When I first met with our founder, Dr Aki Hintsa, he started our discussion by explaining how the Hintsa method works ‘ from the inside out’. That the motivation to live a good life comes from exploring your Core. But what is this ‘Core’?
In its simplest form the Core is answering three questions: ‘Do you know who you are?‘; ‘Do you know what you want?‘; and ‘Are you in control of your life?‘ For some these questions are straight forward, for others they are a life-long exploration.
In our coaching programmes we ask clients to look at their lives from a holistic point of view. To realise that everything has an impact on everything. If you are tired, your mental energy is low. When your mental energy is low, you may not want to exercise and so on.
But even if you have all the wellbeing and performance knowledge in the world, it can be difficult to change your ways. People don’t get motivated just rationally. You rarely change your life just because a coach tells you to do so. You need a deeper motivation.
Exploring your Core will help you find that motivation. It helps you to define what ‘your kind of life’ is and what choices you could make to make that life better. In some cases it can help you to see that you are worth self-care.
You can also think of the Core as different levels: doing, being and existing. ‘Doing’ is about how you live your daily life and make active decisions. ‘Being’ is understanding deeper who you are and how you can live your kind of life. ‘Existing’ is about going deep into yourself and the meaning of life. Personally, I find myself moving between the different levels depending on the phase in my life.
To make it more practical, let’s take a more detailed look at the three Core questions:
1. Who am I – my identity
Many of our clients have a fast paced life and feel like they have not had time to reflect, in years. Exploring the question of one’s identity can be confusing or intimidating even. When thinking about identity, people often think of a combination of their personality and a narrative: the stories they tell themselves about themselves.
A better idea is to have a look at your life and ask whether your are living an ‘ought-to-be life’. A life that is driven by what others want you to be. Or are you perhaps searching for an ‘ideal me’. The one you wanted to be since years ago.
But who are you, really? When all of the expectations and external pressures are stripped off? One good tool to help in this exploration is the Via Character strength survey that you can use to find words describing who you are.
We are all more than what we do. It can be exciting to find out what that is. Asking this question helps you to move to the next phase: purpose.
2. What do I want? – my purpose
Living a meaningful life and having a connection to what is important to you is one of the key building blocks for happiness. What are your values and how do these values manifest themselves in your every day life?
A helpful process is to draft yourself an overall mission. Think of the kind of life that you would like to live. Then have a look at how that becomes reality in the different roles you have.
For example, personally I have found that my key roles are: husband, father, mentor, communicator, and myself. Every now and then I have a thorough look at how my personal mission comes alive in these different roles. If it doesn’t, it is time to re-evaluate how much I prioritise that role. This is a way for me to make sure that there is purpose in what I do.
This leads us to the third part of core: control.
3. To what level am I in control of my life?
It is hard to build control in your life if you have not thought through the previous two steps. To be able to prioritise, you need to have a foundation set.
In the end, control is about making active conscious decisions that lead you towards your kind of life. A life that is purposeful, to you.
For some it’s all about time management. ‘Am I spending time on the areas of my life that I truly want to spend it on?‘ For others it’s about discipline in exercise and nutrition or about building and nurturing relationships.
Sometimes time management efforts or exercise routines can feel forced and heavy. But if you have clarity in your identity and purpose, these efforts can become a joy. They are taking you towards living a life that looks like you.
Exploring your Core doesn’t just help you get where you want to be. It can help you in times of trouble. Facing a complex surgery, the world class long distance runner Haile Gebreselassie said to his nervous surgeon, Dr Aki Hintsa: ‘Don’t you worry, Dr. Aki. It’s just running.’ This might feel strange coming from the mouth of the best long distance runner at the time, but Haile had realised that while running was a big part of his life, it did not define him. He had found his Core.