Here’s the honest truth; habits are hard but they aren’t impossible. Plain and simple.
Here’s the other truth; they don’t have to be as hard as they seem. We tend to make them hard on ourselves for a variety of reasons. Often overcommitting, being unrealistic to start, not being attached to the outcome, among other things.
Let’s break it down.
Habits, by definition, are an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost voluntary. Think about some things you do a daily basis right now that you practically do like clock work… brushing your teeth, washing your face, making coffee or tea in the morning, etc. These are all habits, despite how simple they might seem.
Why then, does it seem so challenging to add in a habit like eat better, exercise more, get more sleep? For starters, none of these have specific measurables of how much more, at what frequency and more importantly what it all looks like.
Let’s look at ‘exercise more’ as an example.
You currently don’t follow a consistent exercise program and you’ve been trying to workout on your own. Near the end of every week you tell yourself that you’ll start again on Monday. Monday comes and goes and maybe you’ve done one workout but are then resetting your clock to next Monday to start again or maybe you’ve skipped Monday and tell yourself that you’ll do it tomorrow. None of this is necessarily bad, we just need to make a few tweaks to the plan of ‘exercise more’.
Let’s start with some parameters.
- Define ‘more’. It can be as simple as exercise three times a week. Don’t over do it as you’re starting, saying you’ll exercise every day when you don’t currently do it at all will set most of us up for burn out. Regardless, pick a number of times you will exercise each week. My recommendation is to start with three times a week. There are seven days in the week and three gets you close to half the days of the week, this is a good starting point.
- Define when. Life gets busy and when you feel like you can easily push something off until tomorrow we do. When you’ve decided on how many times a week you will exercise, schedule those times into your calendar. If you need routine, find a time that works for you multiple days and schedule the appointment with yourself. Allow nothing except emergencies to get in the way. If you don’t need routine or your schedule doesn’t easily allow for it, identify three times during the week when you can commit to your exercise program. This might vary from week to week but if you plan it out weekly, you’ll attend your appointments with yourself.
- Define where. If you’re motivated by your own energy and working out at home or in a bog box gym on your own works for you then you’ll just need to show up on time and put forth the effort. If you need a little more guidance with your exercise then find a group training or personal training program that is either near your home or near your work and commit to becoming an active member of their community.
Now that we know the goal for the number of times each week for exercising, when they are and where you’ll be doing your exercise it’s far more likely that you’ll show up and start creating the habit of exercising three times a week. (See that too… the new habit is exercise three times a week and not just exercise more!)
Here are a few other things to consider as you start on this new habit creation or any for that matter.
- Overcommitting won’t get you to your goals faster. It might seem like a great idea to exercise every day but as you are starting out it’s not the best idea. For starters it will be overwhelming to make a commit that grand to your schedule. Start small and master then move up. The other consideration is that even elite athletes need a day off or at the very least an active recovery type day. Going hard, 7 days in a row, in back to back weeks is not ideal.
- Know what you want to get out of the new habit. Although there is plenty of evidence that tells us exercise is good for our health on many levels, if you are not motivated by reaching your own set of goals, sticking to the new habit will have less importance. Visualize what you want to get out of exercising three days a week (if we are sticking with our example.) Imagine what that looks like, how you will feel and what it will mean to you.
- Reaching goals takes time. Depending on your reason for exercise and the goals you want to achieve, you aren’t likely going to be able to hit them in a few weeks. Everything from weight loss to strength gains takes time to see results and then to maintain or improve upon those results. Patience and consistency truly are attributes for the long game of health and wellness.
If you’re still unsure of how best to start a habit and deciding what is realistic as a starting point, we’re happy to help – just reach out to schedule a success session with one of our coaches. We want to see you reach and exceed your goals!