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Finding What Works

Ever wondered how some people are able to keep their habits going for months, years, even decades? 

Finding habits that work long term can be tough.  Comfort zones are comforting (hence the name).  There is a cozy feeling associated with doing what we have been doing day after day.  Yet, wanting to change is normal and sometimes necessary in order to grow and succeed.  However, finding habits that will last can be challenging.  Change is not an easy process, but it is doable.   

Here are three tips to help find habits that will stick:

  • Enjoy it.  You have to find contentment in order to keep a habit going, and the only way to keep a habit going is to do it and do it and do it, so find something you enjoy doing.  If the thought of running sparks middle school PE flashbacks — don’t run.  Find an activity that you look forward to instead.  Maybe its walking, perhaps its swimming.  There is no wrong way.  Ultimately, that walking practice you enjoy doing religiously will probably reap more benefits than the running habit you started (and loathed) that only lasted two weeks.  It is worth emphasizing that the enjoyment portion does not have to come directly from the activity itself.  You may not enjoy turning the television off at night to get to bed at 10:00, but you enjoy how well-rested you feel in the morning and that’s worth something. The enjoyment is still there. 
  • Ask Yourself Why:  As I’ve written about previously, the why factor is important in creating long-term habits.  If you have trouble finding the “why” behind the action, then you may lose interest in continuing it.  Asking yourself why you are taking on this activity can help cement the change you want.  Maybe the why behind giving up sugary beverages is to feel better physically or to set a good example for those around you.  Your “why” will help you through those tough times.  And next time a gallon of sweet tea starts to bat its eyelashes at you, your why factor will appear to remind you why you set your goal for yourself.   
  • Make it Genuine:  You want a habit that will stick with you?  Make sure it is genuine to who you are.  A night owl may not fare well with a 5:00 am sweat sesh – no matter how effective it is for your sister.  Someone who hates the outdoors would probably enjoy a run on a treadmill rather than a walk in the woods.  There is something out there for everyone – it just might take time to find it.  Aligning your habits with who you are can make them stick.  Don’t focus on what worked for your friend’s sister’s next-door neighbor’s meditation routine, focus on what will work for you. The point is you do not have to follow the crowd.  By doing the things that fall in line with your preferences you will end up dedicated to them.  Your likes and dislikes are just as valuable as anyone else’s. Respect that and honor them.

Change does not happen overnight.  Be aware that it will take time to see progress, but just because it doesn’t happen overnight doesn’t mean you have to be discouraged to try to make new habits.  Small increments lead to big changes down the road. Finding what works for you personally involves some trial and error, so don’t get discouraged.  Change is usually not linear. 

– Progress, Not Perfection –

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