Building Habits That Will Finally Stick: 4 Powerful Tips

September 19, 2021

It is not enough to set goals, big or small, I mean anyone can, right? But what sets goal-setters and goal-achievers apart? I've got some experience in both spaces but up until about four years ago I was a solid goal-setter. I set goals like for example, I am going to cut all crap out of my diet. I am going to workout consistently and train like an athlete to get a fit and toned body that would make a 20 year old jealous. I am going to be disciplined with how I spend my evenings and weekends so that I am not scrolling on my phone, shopping online or watching endless hours of the boob tube which always made me feel terrible about myself anyway. I would set these goals typically as a New Year's resolution, New Year, New Me, right? Who hasnt said that and really meant it that time? Hands-up. Well, for years I found myself in this pattern. I would set my goal, join a gym, buy cute workout fits, buy a few cooking books and fiction titles etc. you know, throw money at it and then come February my motivation would tapper out and I would find myself back at square 1, deflated and a little poorer than when I started. If you can relate and find yourself in this same pattern, keep reading.
1. Start With Internal Work The problem here is you and no amount of money you throw at it will change anything in the long term for you. Ouch! Sorry, but it had to be said. Four years ago I decided to accept full responsibility for the gap between where I was and where I wanted to be. I knew that I had to strip myself of all the excuses I made for myself. I sat down with pen and paper and thought about my goals. For this post, let's focus on my goal to workout consistently, to fully embed the habit of working out as something I do daily like example making my bed in the morning or brushing my teeth. These are habits that I wasnt born doing or knowing about. I was taught and the practice was instilled in me by my mother and it has, thankfully, stuck with me into adulthood and I passed this knowledge onto my kids. I know what you may be thinking, making your bed or brushing your teeth is NOT the same as working out everyday. Fair enough but the gist is that you can be taught, habits can be formed and solidified into a routine. Start from there. Now with pen and paper, write out why this goal is something you want to create a habit around and eventually a routine you dont question, you just do. Instead of focusing on your habit as a goal, reframe the habit into the type of person you want to become

  Prompt: "I want to become:" 

Let's use my workout example. Instead of "I want to get a fit and toned body that would make any 20 year old jealous", I reframed it to, "I want to become the type of person who shows her body love and respect by nourishing and moving it as an expression of deep self love." Then ask yourself, "What habit will help me form this identity?" Using my example, What would a person who respects and loves her body do? My answer, "A person who loves and respects her body will eat fresh fruit and vegetables 85% of the time, she will workout four times a week not as a punishment but as a practice of self love. She gets to workout to feel good and no number on a scale or pant size can determine the joy she feels when she is moving her body in appreciation. 

  Prompt: "The habit I want to build"
2. Be Specific: To get a habit off the ground, for real this time, you've got to set your intentions. They have to be super specific, the more specific you can get the better. 

Prompt: When will you perform your habit? For how long? How many times a week? Where will you perform your habit? 

To help, it might make sense to anchor this new habit with an existing habit, for example I workout at night before I shower and get into my pajamas. Anchoring it with my night time routine helped train my brain to expect a good sweat session before a wind down. The less you have to think about it, the better.
3. Mindset: I am not sure if you caught it in my Step 1 example but I used, "She gets to workout to feel good", when I was describing the identity I wanted to build. This subtle shift in going from, "I have to" to "I get to" is a mindset shift in action. Instead of focusing on what you might consider as being taken away like maybe, "I dont get to watch as much t.v. as I want" or "I have to wake up earlier", think about what you gain from this new habit. For example, shift "I have to wake up early now", to, "I get to have more time for myself before starting my workday" 

  Prompt: "I have to ________________ now becomes I get to ________________________.
4. Identify Obstacles and Create a Plan of Action: Now begin to think about why you have "failed" in the past. (Failed is in quotes because I dont believe in failure as a detriment to our growth, Ive learned the biggest lessons in my perceived failures and THAT feels like a win to me.) Now is not the time to judge yourself and allow that inner critic to paralyze you from moving forward, we are here now, we can make the changes we want to see in ourselves. Keep going. For me, an obstacle in creating a sustainable workout habit/routine was convenience. If I had to travel to a gym to workout after work, chances are on those dark, rainy, snowy, bone chilling cold winter nights I would talk myself out of going, the same was true on beautiful summer days, chances are I'd talk myself out of going. One day turned into a week, turned into a month and you get the picture here. I knew I had to remove that obstacle so I opted to find a program I could do anywhere (preferably my home) and at any time (at night). Please note, I did not throw money at this goal intially. I didnt run out and buy a home gym, weights and all the bells and whistles. I started at 0, I downloaded a workout app that I had researched and used items around the house like a chair, used waterbottles for weights or whatever I had on hand. It was important for me that I approached this goal from a totally different angle. Simply and honestly. 

  Prompt: Obstacles in the way of me doing my habit:     How can I get rid of those obstacles: 

 You want to make sure the habit itself isnt an obstacle, so make it short and simple. My workouts are no more than 20-30 minutes a day. Again, simple and honest. Make sure you keep this in mind as you set out your plan. Less is more and if you think you have to go from never working out to working out 6x a week, or going from waking up 20 minutes before you have to leave for work to waking up at 5am and meditating, you should revaluate your why. In closing, remember to create small, buildable steps. Be patient and consistent. Take a break, but come back to it. When you feel yourself falling back into old patterns, recognize that, think about what may be triggering this reaction and come back to this entry. Re-read your why, adjust it if it is clearer to you now. Be realistic with where you are and where you want to be and breakdown the steps to their simplist, attainable tasks. Reconfigure, readjust, restratigize, adjust the timeline, whatever it takes to reach that version of yourself that is within. 

Start NOW! 

 Thanks for reading, until next time.

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