Habits are fascinating things, we unconsciously form some habits like biting our nails, whilst consciously trying to give up some or create new ones. So, if a habit is something we can do both consciously and unconsciously, why is creating a new one so challenging? As I mentioned in my earlier blog “How to Create New Habits”, it is overwhelming, often we do not break it down into manageable chunks, it has to matter and be something that we truly want. You may well have had the experience where you thought “I want to lose some weight” but not made any progress and then something happens; like an invite to a party or plans for a holiday, and suddenly you are motivated to lose those few pounds. So, we can use a similar motivation to consciously create new habits….
Creating a new habit or changing your lifestyle takes commitment and time. It typically takes 4-6 weeks for a new habit or regime to bed-in and often we lose momentum before the time is up and hence fall back into our old habits or routines. This is often why New Year’s resolutions are not achieved beyond the end of January, we don’t give ourselves enough time, we are impatient or simply forget in the moment. The biggest challenge is that once we have slipped back into old habits we think that we are starting all over again, rather than just picking up where we left off.
So, here are my tips for making a new habit stick:
1) Make sure it is achievable: a goal that is too much of a stretch will feel too hard and you may give up once you start to feel demotivated. If the goal is a big one, break it up into smaller more manageable goals.
2) Test your commitment: ask yourself out of 10 how likely are you to make this change and if not a 10, how can you get it closer to a 10? For example: if the goal is getting fitter and so you think you’ll join a gym, however this is not going to fit in around your work and personal commitments consider an alternative approach, such as going for a walk at lunch times.
3) Celebrate success: ensure you have milestones so you can measure your progress and celebrate each one as its achieved. Enjoy the change that is taking place.
4) Forgive yourself: if you fall off the wagon, or eat that big chocolate bar, don’t chastise yourself, reflect on what caused the blip and consider how you can avoid the situation in the future. If it was a treat – enjoy it and then get back to your plan.
5) Keep a log or journal: not only will this help keep your goal at the front of mind, you can also reflect back on it when you are experiencing periods of challenge and take inspiration from yourself.
6) Visualize the new you, as in believe, behave, become (source: IDology): create a mental image of the new you and act the part. For example, if you are going to improve your lifestyle imagine how you will feel, embrace the change by behaving differently, adopt the routines of that lifestyle and soon you will become that change.
7) Make the change with someone: often we are motivated by joint experiences, so making the change with someone else who can support you and enjoy the highs and lows is a great way to achieve your goals. Make it fun by adding rewards or challenges for you both…
8) Enjoy it: the most important part is that the transformation is a fun experience: the journey is as important as the destination!
Once you have adopted the new habit don’t become complacent. It is still easy to fall back into old habits, so if that happens just reflect on what occurred and continue with the positive approach that helped you get to that point. Good luck… it will be worth it!