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Why Habits Don’t Stick

We have all been there.  You know, trying to do something new in hopes of making changes to our routine.  We adopt a new eating regimen, a new sleeping pattern, perhaps a new fitness routine.  We buy what we need to make it happen, set ourselves up as best as possible and run with it. 

Only sometimes we don’t make it happen.  A spoke in the wheel alters this new plan.  A breakdown occurs sidelining the new habit and the old routine takes shape again. 

It’s not a willpower thing.  It’s not due to lack of motivation.  The new habit just didn’t set in.

Habits don’t stick because we are not creating habits that can last long-term.  Often times, they are extreme and used to get to a short-term goal, like losing ten pounds for your cousins wedding or running every day to train for a 5k.  Once that event is over, the need for that habit is over as well.  There is this line of thinking that new habits are only meant to support an immediate goal and when that wraps up, the gates are wide open to return to the old. 

However, not all hope is lost.  There are ways to make lifelong changes.  Although, many factors come into play, most times habits are built slowly and over a long period of time.  Do not expect to make life altering changes in two days or even two weeks.  Sometimes you have to stay the course for the foreseeable future.   

 If you are wondering why your habits are not always setting in, here are three things to look at when trying to make habits stick:

  • You are following a plan, not a lifestyle.  We’ve seen them, right?  Lose 10 lbs in a month.  Get a six pack in six weeks.  Bikini ready in 30 days.  Notice what they have in common?  They are not meant to happen for the long term.  They have an expiration date.  Instead of building a habit, you are merely following a plan for a specified time.   And what happens after that time is over?  Chances are you go back to your old habits because you were not given a clear direction as to what to do when the instructions end.  You were not set up for a lifetime.  What do you do on the seventh week to maintain your abs?  How do you lose that eleventh pound?  The habits created during this plan were not meant to be used month after month after month, therefore, it can difficult to navigate what comes next leading you to fall off the wagon and revert back to the routine you held before you were trying to become bikini ready.
  • Too fast, too soon.  You want to run ten miles a day? Fantastic. You want to do it by the end of the month? Okay.  You currently run out of breath after running a block.  Well then.  Being ambitious has its drawbacks.  When that initial excitement takes over it can be very easy to set unrealistic goals, but the reality is habits aren’t built in unrealistic worlds.  Set your sight on ten miles but make sure the timeframe to get there is accurate, otherwise disappointment may ensue and those running shoes will end up in the back of the closet (next to the tennis racket and yoga mat).  Remember, habits take time to build.  They get woven into an already existing routine.  When too much changes too soon, there is a chance it will not stick. 
  • It’s not genuinely you.  So you want take up cycling because your next door neighbor’s twin brother’s sister-in-law swears by it.  That’s great for her, but what about you?  Do you enjoy it?  Can you see yourself doing it for the next five year?  If the answer is no, then consider doing something that is more up your alley.  You should enjoy your new habit because it is that sense of enjoyment that will make you want to do it again and again.  If it’s not fun it probably won’t stick.  Embrace who you are and what you like.  Getting advice as to what others are doing is wonderful, but doing it just because someone else found it successful is a recipe for disaster.  If you want a habit to stick, make sure it speaks to you in a genuine manner.

– Progress, Not Perfection –

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