Habits are not easy to change. The reason is because they are “habits.” They are behavior patterns we have repeated so many times that we have gotten use to them. They come natural to us.
Think about how many people set New Year’s resolutions. Now, think about how many people have stayed with their resolution after one month. Habits are hard to change. However, creating a new habit that sticks is possible with the right approach.
Let me take you back to something you learned in science class. Do you remember Newton’s First Law of Motion? An object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by an outside force. Think about it, we do the same thing.
A recent personal example comes to mind. I knew my flexibility was going from bad to worse. Although I exercise regularly, I never work on flexibility even though I know as you age it becomes more important. Then the outside force came. I had a bout with sciatica (sciatic nerve inflammation) and the pain was excruciating. I went to a lower back and spine specialist who found the cause to be a lack of flexibility in my hips. The pain was intense, so when the doctor told me I could get relief if I did certain stretching exercises several time per day, I listened and I did it. And, it worked. Now I have developed a new habit of stretching each morning so the pain doesn’t come back.
In the example above, I created a new habit because of the pain, but wouldn’t it have been better if I would have worked on my flexibility before I experienced the extreme pain. Fortunately, in many other areas of life I have been more proactive. I want to share some tips I have found to be helpful for creating new habits and making them stick, without the pain. Let the outside force be your motivation, your plan, your friends and family, or your goals.
- Think through your motivation. “If I don’t make a change, XYZ is likely to happen and it will not be fun.” Or, on a positive note, “If I do XYZ I can accomplish this and feel so much better.” The more you understand your motivation and the reward at the end, the more successful you will be.
- Replace the old with the new. If you are trying to change an unwanted habit, replace it with something new. For instance, if you are trying to eliminate soft drinks, replace them with a healthy green tea. Or, keep some healthy nuts handy for when you need a snack, instead of running to the vending machine with the Twinkies.
- It takes a village. Our will power can wear down and get tired. It is the support of others, family and friends, that can give us strength. Let your peeps in on your plans so they can hold you accountable and motivate you.
- Your faith can give you strength too. Pray.
- Don’t put yourself in a compromising position. Don’t have desserts in your house if you are trying to lose weight.
- Reminders. Put reminders on your smart phone. Write reminders or goals on notes and place them where you will see them. Visual reminders keep your goals top-of-mind.
- Institute a new way of thinking. Talk to yourself instead of listening to yourself. “I can do this.” “I am going to be successful.” Positive self-talk works.
- Reward yourself. Give yourself rewards for small wins.
- Get up early. People who get up and begin their daily routine early, typically are more successful because they start their day off with discipline. Rising early is a discipline that carries through to other aspects of life.
Is there something you need to change or a new habit you need to create? If not, you are not being honest with yourself. If so, then get up early tomorrow, think through what you need to do, and score a small win.