Habits are powerful. Maybe more powerful than you think. Habits become more deeply ingrained than the color of our hair, both a blessing and a curse: a blessing in that they enact gradual changes upon us without demanding our full attention; a curse in that they can also be nearly impossible to shake. Become the master of your habits, and you will become master of your whole life. Learn how to build or break any habit with these 4 steps.
Massive, overhauling life change is almost never successful. Even if there are a lot of things about your life that you would like to be different, do not attempt to change them all at once. Building a new habit can be very hard; breaking an old one can be even harder. Most experts recommend leaving at least 30 days to accomplish either. Keep your expectations managed, and you will be more successful. That’s not to say that you cannot grow at some point in the future, but starting (or stopping) on a dime is not a good idea.
For example, if you decided that you wanted to develop a habit of daily exercise, do not measure your success against world class athletes. Instead, begin with something not unlike what you do on a regular basis. Carve out 30 minutes of your day to walk. You already know how to do that. You don’t need any special equipment. You can begin today. When you sense yourself longing for a bit more challenge, increase your time to 45 minutes or increase your pace to a jog.
Build your way to powerful, life altering habits by gradually adding small complexities and rising to meet the next challenge.
Eliminate Self-Defeating Thoughts
- I can’t do it.
- It’s not worth it.
- I’m going to fail.
- I felt better before.
These thoughts will arise at some point. Eliminate them with great prejudice. Meet every self-defeating thought with a counter-punch.
Of course your old routine was more comfortable. Change is hard work, and you are tough.
Of course you will fail. Everybody does, but not everybody wallows. Certainly not you.
Of course this is costly. Anything worthwhile is.
One of the biggest benefits of a habit is that, once it is developed, you can reap the benefits of it without investing your full attention. Habits are actions that have become so familiar they no longer require thoughts, which frees up your brain to accomplish other things. Early on though, do not try to do this. Don’t try to multi-task while you are cultivating a new habit. Give that habit your full attention. At the risk of sounding mystical, my advice to you is: be fully present.
Have a Recovery Plan
Setbacks are inevitable. You’re going to miss a workout day. You are going to forget. You are going to relapse. It’s bound to happen, so prepare for it. What is your response? Prepare a recovery plan ahead of time, so when failure does visit, you do not have to freak out. Move calmly into that plan that you’ve written.
What if you miss a day? Do you workout double tomorrow?
What if you relapse? Do you limit other indulgences?
Deciding ahead of time what recovery looks like can also help you avoid failing too easily. Knowing the path you have to climb might just keep you from giving up all the progress you’ve already made.
Most people think about habits in January, but with these 4 steps, habit building can be a year-round activity. What habits are you looking to introduce to your life?
by Ray Deck