There is a very profitable lie that many gurus in the world of personal development and health tell.

It comes packaged as a formula for success, the key to helping you change your life:

STEP 1: Self-styled guru prescribes any combination of the following: self-belief, persistence, determination, thinking big, willpower, follow your dream, follow your passion, fearlessness, the law of attraction – oh yes, and throw a bit more self-belief in there too.

STEP 2: Said guru then illustrates application of the particular quality/ies with a story that is presented in as much rags-to-riches/failing health-to-miracle-rejuvenation detail as possible.

We have all fallen for these stories. It’s in our psychological DNA. Some of them are actually genuinely inspiring.

So why have most of us failed spectacularly to change our lives?

To get that business off the ground. To eat better. To give up addiction X. To transform our finances.

The answer is simple.

Because buzzwords like determination and fearlessness are not actually the magic ingredients of change. 

They are descriptions of the ideal.

They are about as much use when it comes to kick-starting the new diet/business/habit as asking a new born baby how it breathes. 

Just as a two-day old human cannot communicate how they know how to inhale oxygen, concepts like determination cannot break down the process of change for you. Self-belief and its cronies do not cheer you on as you tentatively start your life change, but are stationed around the campfire of success, claiming all the credit for the transformation.

Willpower on its own is temporary. Determination alone is no match for your overpowering cravings. Developing self-belief requires a lot more than an abstract agreement with yourself to follow your dream. Because most people chronically underestimate the roadblocks that even low-level stress, distraction and social pressure put up on the path to their goals.

Result: you have a crappy day and the detox is out the window. You argue with your spouse and the 2 hours you set aside to write your business plan are spent furiously messaging your friends to help you decide what to do. Or something else occurs that comes under the heading ‘life happens’.

You assume that self-belief, willpower and perseverance must be the private property of the already successful, a trait they were born with that is as fixed as the colour of their eyes. You crumble in the face of of this apparent truth, give up on yourself and immerse yourself in as many distractions as you can…until the next rags-to-riches/fat-to-thin/disease-to-health story gives you that temporary high, mentally leapfrogging you to the fantasy of the perfect abs or pain-free life or healthy bank balance that self-belief and its cronies can supposedly provide.

If self-belief et al cannot help you go from A to B, then what? 

Well, true to (my non-guru) form, I have no one-size-fits-all alternative.

Just lots of ideas that have helped my clients. Motivational Mindshifts. Daily check ins. Anti-commitment tricks like The Double Dare that get them to walk away from the junk even when they feel utterly compulsive. Focusing on daily behavioural change instead of the scales. Simple neuroscience.

And it all starts with questions.

*Is your binge eating really a distraction from a deeper life issue you think you cannot solve (but in reality, you can)?

*Is excess weight really a misguided protection mechanism? Can we get that perceived protection in a different way?

*Is your unused gym membership not a deep and intractable problem, but one of being able to prioritise?

*Is it REALLY true that men only want to date stick insects?

If you are sick of the gurus, and want to take back the power you have been giving to food, coaching may be the way forward.  Find out more about my Reclaim Your Life From Food  programme.

Harriet Morris