“I know what I’m supposed to do, I just can’t get myself to do it!”
Welcome to the club! We all know what we need to do, but we just can’t get ourselves to make the important changes that last longer than a few weeks. WHY?
The secret to building habits is through daily practice. If you structure your environment to be conducive to your goals, your default choice becomes the one that will be easiest to make. The less decisions you have, the easier it is to make the right choice. The more you create an environment that supports your goals, the more times you will make the right choice which amplifies your chances of success.
Building new healthy habits is tough and we don’t fully understand how habits are built. Life gets busy and the first thing you will default to is something convenient and easy AKA a drive through meal or skipping the gym. The right systems were not put into place to make changes stick, instead you are focusing far too much on willpower and motivation which is fleeting when times are stressful.
Did any of the above sound familiar? Maybe you started creating goals that are bigger than you can handle without the proper systems in place and fall off track before you even start. Here is an example of goal setting that might be far too extreme right from the start.
I’m going to eat 100% Paleo AND I’m going to run 5 miles a day AND I’m going to go to CrossFit five times a week. Yet, you haven’t eaten a vegetable in years, walked more than a mile or touched a barbell in years. Do you really think ALL the goals you set are going to magically fall into place at the same time? We’re conditioned to expect and receive instant gratification and we don’t, we immediately quit or move onto something else.
The most common goal setting mistakes clients make are:
Changing too many habits too soon.
Getting impatient when the results didn’t come as quickly as expected.
Taking the “easy” choice when life gets busy or stressful.
And then they fall back to square one.
How can you make small tangible changes towards creating habits? First, find your WHY. Without understanding why, you won’t to make the big life changes needed to make that habit stick. Why do you want to make a change? Why are you willing to give some things up in order to meet your goals? Once you figure out your why, then you need to start to deconstruct the current situation and create a new plan of action towards your new goals.
Habits contain three parts: The trigger, routine and then the reward. Depending on your why, your current habits can either be empowering or part of a negative downward spiral. You have the power to create or remove habits that are good or bad in your life.
Whether you are trying to change an old habit, stop an unhealthy habit, or begin one, it starts with the first step in the process which is the trigger. If you are looking to break a bad habit, it begins by identifying what the triggers are that make you take the action that you’re trying to stop. You can mentally train yourself to build a new healthy habit by identifying the habit you want to build and the action that proceeds it. Once you recognize the trigger, you start by fixing the action. Here is simple example of the trigger, routine and reward in real life context.
When I get bored (trigger), I eat snacks (routine), and it fills the void with a happy stomach (reward).
Here are simple ways to incorporate healthy habits into your lifestyle:
Struggling with incorporating more veggies into your diet? Make sure you ALWAYS have veggies chopped so that they can be cooked easily and quickly with your meals. No time for cooking? There are literally hundreds of frozen options to choose from that you can steam right in the microwave.
Struggling to get to the gym in the morning? Lay out your clothes beside your bed and pack your clothes for work so that all you have to do in the morning is get up, throw your clothes on, and go. Plan your meals ahead of time and have them prepped the night before. Keep yourself accountable by going to the gym with a friend or taking a group fitness class that you check in to.
Struggling with time for meal prep? Schedule a time block for grocery shopping and meal prep on a day that you can dedicate about 3 hours to. This gives you enough time to shop and prep meals for the week. Meal prep will help you stay accountable to your meal plan for the week because why would you waste your food?
Where do you start when creating new habits? Pick ONE habit, make it small, and make it binary. Something that at the end of every day you can say “yes I did it” or “no I didn’t.”
Here are examples for you to add into your routine. Be specific, start small and track it:
Want to start exercising more? For that first week, ONLY go for a walk for just 5 minutes every morning. Literally 5 minutes and commit to that until you create a habit.
Want to start eating healthier? Plan to take your lunch to work that is filled with fresh ingredients to nourish your body.
Want to add in meditation? Start by carving out 5 minutes of quiet time every day to reflect on your thoughts. Get a journal and start by writing 2 things you are grateful for each morning and night.
Never miss two in a row. Missing one day of scheduled training or not meeting your nutritional goals for a day won’t have too much repercussion. However, miss two days in row you are creating a negative motivation loop that can be harder to break free of.
Don’t pick a new habit that you hate. If you do not like running, why would you force yourself to do it? Can you get the same results from a different activity? Maybe you need to shift your thinking and revisit your why to see what your ultimate goal really is.
Keep your goals SMALL and simple. The smaller and simpler they are, the more likely you are to keep them. And the habit itself pales in comparison to the momentum you build from creating a new habit.
I’ll leave you with a quote from The Power of Habit:
“If you believe you can change – if you make it a habit – the change becomes real. This is the real power of habit: the insight that your habits are what you chose them to be. Once that choice occurs – and becomes automatic – it’s not only real, it starts to seem inevitable, the thing…that bears us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be.”
I want to challenge you today to pick just one thing to start working on. Identify the cue that you struggle with. Is it the time of day? Boredom? Hunger? After work? Stress? Identify the potential reward from your new habit. Maybe it happiness? Energy? Satisfaction? Create a new routine you’d like to establish that results in the same “reward” from the negative behavior but in a more productive and healthy way. With each day of you building your new habit, you’re overcoming any self-limiting belief, building momentum, and becoming a habit-building master! Then those habits become automatic in your daily routine.