Commit to a habit


I've talked before about how motivation is often not enough to get you the kind of change you might want to see in your life. HABITS are definitely the way to go, rather than relying on motivational surges. There are definitely things that you can rely on motivational ebbs and flows for - cleaning behind the fridge, paring down your newsletter list, etc - but for things that are really meaningful for you, a habit means that you're consistently taking steps towards the Future You that you want. I've written previous blog posts on how to make fitness a habit before but want today to discuss habits in a more generic form. These habits might be related to physical fitness, but they could just as easily be about aspects of your professional or personal life.


The first thing to look at when thinking about instilling a new habit is:


What is your motivation?

You might be wondering why I've immediately mentioned motivation when I was dissing it in the first sentence? Well, you do have an element on motivation in deciding that you want to commit to a habit, or you wouldn't even be considering it. What is the real reason you want to do this?


What will doing this habit change about you?

Will it change you physically, mentally, cognitively? What benefits is this going to bring you? You can think about this as a short-, medium- and/or long-term thing.


How frequently do you want to do it?

This new habit of yours, is it daily, weekly, monthly? I'm personally all in favour of things that are done most days of the week because they are generally easier for clients to embed. But there are also amazing weekly or monthly habits that will benefit you. And there are some that will interlink. For instance, if you want to optimise your fiscal health, you might have a daily habit of checking your bank balance (knowledge is power), a weekly habit of setting and maintaining a weekly budget and a monthly habit of transferring money left in your bank account just before pay day to a savings account or other investment asset.


When are you going to do it?

First thing in the morning, when you get to work, at lunch, after dinner, before bed? The more you plan to do your habit at consistent times of day, the better. Even better if you can habit bundle - add a new habit to an existing habit. If you want to drink more water, add drinking a small glass every time you're waiting for the kettle to boil. If you want to learn a language, add your Duolingo class to your bedtime routine. Don't try to add a habit to a point in the day where it is really difficult for you to do. If you hate getting up in the mornings, adding a habit of getting up 30 minutes earlier to go running is going to be exceptionally difficult for you. (You can work up to it though if you really want it, but think about how you are most likely to be able to do it.)


How will you feel when you're accomplishing this habit?

Make a note of this. Physically think about it now and write it down somewhere. When I am {insert habit} I will feeling amazing/empowered/intelligent/calm/in control/happy/smart/fit/like a badass warrior goddess/a great spouse/organised/satisfied/healthy. Really connect to that feeling. Because that's why you're doing it!


What's the most likely obstacle for you?

The most likely obstacle you will tell yourself is 'lack of time'. I can guarantee for the vast majority of people reading this, lack of time is not going to be a genuine reason. 'Lack of time' really just means you are prioritising other things instead. That's not necessarily a bad thing. But you have to look at what have you done with your time instead? Out of those things, which are lower priority than your new habit but you've done them anyway. (Whilst I acknowledge a lot of people, including me, work on their phones, if you head to your screen time report, this will give you a good overview of how you are spending at least some of your day.) Often we also mean we didn't have time at the point where we planned to do the habit, or we didn't have the time when we had the energy and didn't have the energy when we had the time. That's all useful data. Because knowledge is power. When you know what is getting in the way, or likely to get in the way of your habit, you can work out how to change things!


How are you going to overcome this obstacle?

This is all about the preparation. Whether that's shifting the timings on your habit or things around it, or preparing for the excuse your brain is going to throw up for you. The better you prepare for things, the more likely you are to do the things that you have consciously chosen for yourself, even when they feel difficult.


Differentiate between your perfect week and your good enough week.

I love to have a week where I work out 6 times +. And it happens pretty often. But for that to happen, I have to be feeling pretty close to 100% every day. And while that happens often, it doesn't happen all the time. So I have to work out what good enough looks like. The difference between your perfect and your good enough weeks might be a difference in the frequency, the duration or the intensity of your habit. A perfect week might be 2 language lessons a day, but a good enough week might look like 1 a day. Or it could look like 8 portions of fruit and veg a day vs 5 on most days. The reason this is really important for our habit formation is because it interrupts that tendency to all or nothing thinking. 'I didn't work out yesterday so I won't be able to get in all of the HIIT sessions I wanted this week, so I may as well skip the gym today.' 'I can't do a full 30 minutes work on my passion project, so I might as well not do any'. Our brains are amazing at presenting us with these silly options which feel real and totally plausible at a time when our motivation is low. By having an option for a good enough set of habits, you're more likely to just do something, even if it isn't perfect.


Habits are a great way to get us moving consistently towards the positive, self-directed change that we have chosen. Once we're doing something consistently, we can start to see the changes begin to happen. Think about what habits are going to work best for you and see if you can create and commit to a habit for the next 4-6 weeks. At the end of that time, check back in and see how far you've come!





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