Have you ever seen a social media post about somebody doing something amazing? Do you think to yourself, “I wish I could…?” It might be running a marathon, being more consistent in the gym, eating healthy foods, or spending more time with your family. We tend to look at others and daydream about how easy it must be for “them” to do it. Then we throw ourselves a pity party and convince ourselves that we could never do it. We are too busy, have too many responsibilities, don’t have the time, don’t have the self-discipline, or don’t have the right genetics. Before we know it, one more day slips by and we haven’t changed anything about ourselves.
There is an old skit from Bob Newhart where he plays a counselor. His patient goes through a litany of issues she is having, and his advice is always the same, “Stop IT!” That’s it. He offers no other advice than that. If you don’t want to do something, yo just stop it. If you don’t want to be afraid to get in an elevator, just stop being afraid. While this strategy may work for some people, most of us need a bit more help. The following are some steps you can take to implement new habits in your life.
Steps to Beginning a New Habit:
Write down a list of things you would like to do. This could be anything from becoming a runner, getting up early, or being more consistent at the gym. Nothing is off limits here. If you have ever wanted to do something or to be known for something, write it down. Narrow down your list to one thing. Take your list from step one and circle three of them. Now take those three and narrow it down to one thing you want to focus on. Trying to do too many things at once will lead to failure. You can always come back to this list later when you want to begin a new habit, but start with just one thing.
Make it achievable. Start small and give a defined beginning and end to your new habit. You want to have frequent victories throughout the process as it will keep you motivated to keep going. Don’t say, “I am going to get up everyday at 4:00am for the REST OF MY LIFE!” Start by saying, “I am going to get up at 8:00am for the next three days.” Once you hit those three days, do it for another three days and continue this process until you are consistently getting up at 8:00am. Then set a new goal of 7:30am. Continue this until you are where you want to be.
Tell someone about it. Accountability is a powerful thing. It is easy to tell yourself that you are going to eat healthy, but when you tell someone else, it takes it to a whole other level. Not only does it make you more conscious of what you are doing, it gives you an immediate support group to help you along the way.
Tie it to something that is easy to do. In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear talks about linking your new habit to something that is easy to do. For instance, if you want to become a runner, you have to start running. But starting the process of actually walking out your door and moving your legs can be difficult. Therefore, make your new habit tying your running shoes. By linking your new habit to an existing habit like tying your shoes, you can trick your brain into thinking it’s easy. This is a bit of mental gymnastics, but it works.
Track your progress. I had a college professor who would always say “you can’t expect what you don’t inspect.” The only way to know if you are succeeding in your new habit is to be brutally honest with yourself (and your accountability partner if you implemented step 4). You can try and ignore your failures and setbacks, but this will not help you in the long run. Admit you failed and move on. Don’t ignore it, but don’t dwell on it either. Sometimes the most difficult day is not the day you fail, but the day after you fail. Don’t allow yourself to take yesterday’s failure and use it as an excuse to give up today.
Celebrate your victories, even small ones. There is nothing wrong with a bit of bribery! Make sure you celebrate all of the victories along the way, not just the big one. When a football team scores a touchdown, what do they do? They celebrate. Some of the celebrations are better than others, but they celebrate. It would be strange to go through an entire football game and only see a celebration at the end of the game. Reward yourself for every success.
Do you want to be known for something? Perhaps you want to be a runner, or someone who gets up early, or someone who eats healthy, or someone who makes time for their family. If this is you, then start now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not next month. Not next year. Start today. Stay consistent. And before you know it, you will have a new habit and a new life-style that you can be proud of!
Guide to Creating a New Habit Write down 5 things you would like to do. Circle the one you want to start with.
When will I start?
When will I end?
What is my defined goal for this time frame?
Who will I tell about this?
What easy habit can I link my hard habit to?
How will I track my progress (app, journal, spreadsheet, etc)?
What will my reward be for implementing this habit consistently?