Monday will be the day many self-proclaimed “couch potatoes” will begin making changes in their exercise and nutrition routines otherwise known as resolutions. Many will buy gym memberships and fill their pantries with healthy food. They will give up cigarettes, alcohol and candy. By February, 8 out of 10 will fail to keep their resolutions. Behavior change is difficult and takes time. One reason is that our minds like the path of least resistance.
This is why building habits into your life will help to increase your chance of success. Habits are like short cuts for your mind. Once you have succeeded in developing a habit, the action becomes second nature for you. It becomes part of your daily routine. We will share a few tips of how to begin building new habits into your life so any change you want to make is sustainable
Don’t try to make too many changes at once.
Statistically, the more changes you attempt to make at once, the more likely you will fail to make any of them permanent. I am sure you have heard the following saying “Pick one thing and do it well.” You can’t decide to exercise, eat better and stop smoking all at the same time. It’s too much change. Each change requires time and energy not to mention focus and determination. Pick the one you feel will have the most impact on your life and develop with a realistic plan on how to achieve it.
For example, if you want to start exercising your habit may look like this-I will walk for 30 minutes three times a week. That’s it! You only have to focus on this one habit for 2 weeks and be consistent. Keep track of how many times you are compliant with your new habit and reassess at the end of the 2 weeks. You want to string together small successes to keep motivation high.
Don’t make the habit too big.
In this day of instant gratification, we want things NOW. It’s hard for us to be patient and stay in the process of change. Remember, we didn’t wake up 50 pounds overweight and not moving. It happened over a period of time and it will take time to make a change. If you failed to be consistent, don’t toss in the towel and give up so soon. Maybe your habit was just too big to start. Shrink the habit down. Give it another shot and say “I will walk for 15 minutes 3 times a week”. You can keep shrinking it down until it is so easy you just can’t fail. As long as you are making any progress forward, you are winning.
Using the “change-ruler” question.
In our coaching program, this is the question we ask clients to help them gauge how achievable a behavior change feels to them. After you decide on a habit, ask yourself how consistent you will be completing the habit over the next 2 weeks. Using the 0-10 scale, with 0 being “there is no way” and 10 being “psssh..it’s a piece of cake” give the habit a number based on how successful you believe you will be. Be honest. If you can’t give it an 8 or 9 then simply don’t do it. Choose another habit or shrink that habit down smaller so you can rate it at least an 8-9. Do this with any habit you are trying to put into place and aim for those small successes.
In summary, yes behavior change is hard. It takes time and patience. It also requires a little self-love. We show more compassion to others than we do ourselves. We are quick to offer encouragement or forgive other’s shortcomings than we do for ourselves. Over the next couple of days, pick one small habit and start doing it well. Be patient and consistent in working on the habit. Don’t give up if you missed the mark that week. Reassess the habit change and look to shrink it smaller. Ask yourself the “change ruler” question and go at it again. Every step forward, no matter how small is progress toward the goal. Happy New Year!