We’ve all been there: the lightbulb moment when we decide to make a fresh start. Birthdays, new year new me, pretty much every Monday. Year after year people set out to change something about their life for the better. Whether it is to cut out the sugar from coffee or wake up every morning at 6:00am the desire to create new habits tends to be something most people work on throughout the year. We set out on this new journey full of hope and optimism.
Although most times the goal is to be successful, a bump in the road causes a derailment. We try to make change happen, but something occurs that stops the momentum. We find out that the green juice the neighbor swears by just isn’t the way to start the day. Perhaps the morning run isn’t as enjoyable as everyone claims to it is. Then what happens? We stop in our tracks and go back to old habits.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You can create habits that survive the three-week mark. Although there is no one way to create solid changes, there are a few things we can do to make habits stick.
Here are 3 tips to ensure habits stick:
- Add Before You Subtract. Instead of swearing off soda once and of all, consider adding something else into your diet before removing it. Find an alternative, such as water to consume more of. Chances are if you are increasing the amount of water, or tea you will organically start to drink less soda. If you increase your water intake from three glasses to six daily, chances are you will have little room left in your day to finish that 40oz bottle of soda as well. As your new habit increases you will start to see your soda intake decrease simply because you cannot physically continue both habits at the same time. Remember, slowly chipping away at old habits is better than not starting at all. If cold turkey scenarios do not work for you, gradually decrease your old habit by adding a new one first.
- Watch Your Mouth. I’m not talking about swearing or even negative talk. I am referring to the words we use. Pay close attention to the word choices being made, such as “have to” (as in “I have to work out at 6:00am”). The connotation is that you are forced to do it or are doing it out of necessity versus desire. Pick words that empower your new habits instead of restricting your routine. Choosing words that are associated with more freedom, such as “get to” frames the situation as an opportunity to do something. Instead of “I can’t have potato chips”, consider “I don’t want have potato chips today”. Reframing the situation makes it clearer that you are in control and choosing to make a change, rather than being forced to modify your lifestyle.
- It’s All About Me. Personalize those goals. Don’t commit to a goal because you think it’s the right thing to do, commit to it because you want to. You aren’t a runner? Then don’t run – even if every article you read tells you running is the best workout ever. Swim, walk, bike, dance: do what feels right to you. Finding that internal motivation results in long-term staying power because you are doing that action for your own sake (i.e., because it is enjoyable), rather than as a reward (because it will help you lose weight). Keep in mind, your habits should be made in relation to your likes and preferences (or at the very least not include things you tend to loathe). If you do not enjoy cooking, then at-home meals may not be the solution to your fit journey. Perhaps the goal can be finding restaurants that cater to your needs or recipes that require minimal time in the kitchen. Connecting with your internal motivation means you will be happy with, not just the results but the process as well. Afterall, you are looking at creating habits that will be part of your life for years to come. Might as well make sure they are enjoyable.