“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
A new year is a great chance to start over fresh and embark on our path of change and transformation. Whether we have chosen to quit smoking, eat vegetables at every meal or lose weight, the path to transformation is the same: one-step at a time.
Contrary to common belief those who have the most healthy habits surprisingly have to use their willpower very little. This is because once healthy habits are ingrained, the need for willpower is slight to none. The following four tips will get you going on ingraining your new habits. Are you ready?
1. Start with Why
Without a clear idea of our values, we drift from here to there without a clear direction.
When establishing new year’s resolutions we most often choose resolutions that will increase our wellness. Before moving on to how to change our habits it is important to remember why we choose to do them as this can be an important motivating factor or ‘the’ motivating factor that will keep the habit going. As Steven Covey highlights in his best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Effective People, it is important to begin with the end in mind. On the same note, author Simon Sinek prompts us to Start with Why.
Ask yourself: What will you gain with this resolution? How does this fit into your life goals? How does it reflect your core values? By remembering the real and intrinsic reason why you are seeking to achieve something, it makes it meaningful and important in a completely different way. For example, if you are looking to lose weight perhaps this is to be able to be more active and healthy to be able to play and enjoy being with your children or grand-kids.
In order to remember and reinforce why you are seeking change you can create a list of your core values and then create a vision board of what you wish your future life to look like. You can create this by drawing, writing or doing a collage of your optimal life.
2. Change your Habits to change your Beliefs About Yourself
“First you make your habits then your habits make you.” – Marisa Peer
Change is contingent on whether we believe it is possible. If you’ve internalized past failures as being what you are, your likelihood of success becomes grim. Remember that failure is inevitable when trying something new.
In order to obtain what you want from the world your beliefs have to allow you to do so. Your goals, dreams and aspiration will only be met if you have the conviction that they can be met.
It’s also important to note that our habits change the way we see ourselves. Therefore our habits should be congruent with the identity we wish to have. For example if you have as a long-term goal to be fit, you can ask yourself: ‘How would a fit person behave?’ and let this question guide you.
If you create habits that are linear with your long-term goal you will begin seeing yourself as what you want to become and therefore become this person. If you start creating habits in your life such as training regularly, start spending time with people who enjoy fitness and keeping up to date with techniques on getting the most of your workouts you will become fit. You will become who you strive to become because you have adopted the every day habits of fit individuals. Every habit in the direction of your goal reinforces your new identity.
3. Repetition is key to creating a new habit
It is a outdated myth that a habit requires 21 days to be instilled. In reality it is not so black and white, some take only a few days but most will take around 66 days. The key to instilling habits is to practice regularly.
Bad habits, as well as good ones, have a physical existence in the structure of the brain we can use the analogy of train tracks here. If you are in a particular situation for example you are at a morning meeting and you are offered cookies. In the past you would take some (train track going from A to B) but you have recently trained yourself to no longer to eat sweets (A to C). The wiring for each scenario is there in your brain but the more you reinforce one, the easier it will be to do it in the future.
Every day you practice a good habit leaves a trace on the brain therefore it will be easier later. Be dedicated to getting better at doing your best, if you relapse be compassionate with yourself and continue trying. Just remember that it gets easier over time so focus on continuing your efforts.
4. Implementation Plan
When you create a new habit, it is important to be specific as to where and when the new habit will be done.
Schedule and block off your habit in your agenda. If it is not given a time slot it will be continually pushed back and procrastinated. It will float in your mind as something you must do in some way. Placing it in your calendar takes away the guess work or hesitation about doing it.
Habit stacking is a good way to getting a habit to stick. When you attach a new habit to one you currently have it makes it more likely to stick. The Diddio effect says that no behavior happens in isolation so when you choose to do your workout right after you go to the bathroom and brush your teeth in the morning, the chances of it sticking are much higher.
Do what you need to do (or what is difficult) first thing in the morning. It is coded in our genes to run away from a task we don’t want to do, especially if we fear failing. This is why doing the task in the morning when your willpower is highest is the best time for most of us.
Habits are the foundations of our lives and the more we have them, the less we have to use up our precious willpower to make the right choices during our day. To make profound change it is important to dig deep and identify our true motivation for change as well as any beliefs that may be obstacles for change. Success is also dependent on an implementation plan and daily practice. When times get hard and we fall off the wagon, it is important to remember that ” Every morning we are born again, what we do today is what matters the most.” – Buddha
If you are looking for inspiration on ways to get healthy, check out some of my other blog articles.