We have all been there at one point or another when starting something seems like a great idea only for it to fizzle out within a few months, weeks or in the worse scenarios after you have bought all the expensive equipment and not even physically started.
While I am not claiming you will need no discipline to get your backside into a new routine. It may not be the answer to getting the most out of your new gym membership or to get you on that thigh blaster that is sitting under your bed unopened since you purchased it a t 2AM, 3 years ago.
So before you look yourself in the mirror, slap yourself in the face and listen to the rocky soundtrack to spring yourself into action maybe there is something else you can do to kick start yourself up into action?
Discipline is a finite resource, some have very little of it, while others seem to be able to remain disciplined no matter what. Regardless of which category you fall under one thing is for certain, no matter how much of the stuff you have, everyone has their weak spots and their breaking points.
You may work out hard, thrive at work, be a great communicator with your family, friends and just about every person you encounter. You may have a great routine which is just about as close to perfect as humanly possible, but every time you pass them Krispy Cream doughnuts your willpower just caves in and you are left with salted caramel and creamy goodness in your belly for the 5th time this week.
But don’t worry, I have your back on this one- there is a secret that will require less will power and more logic and if you decide to follow it will be a lot easier to implement. It is called habit forming and if you can get this right it can help you kick-start healthy habits, and eliminate the bad ones.
Face it you are just a great big bundle of habits that have formed over time- the good news is, you will be able to replace a lot of you not so good habits with new healthy ones.
Let me start by saying anything that you want to change in your life will require a little bit of dedication, hard work, being smart and discipline. If you have been doing something for a long period of time or have been inactive in doing something it will always be harder to change, but just because something takes a little work doesn’t mean we should shy away from it.
For me it has never made such sense to quit things, if you try to quit smoking, stop eating fried foods or give up the alcohol you are negatively charging the outcome, trying to remove it, what this does is give all the attention to the negative habit and none to the outcome.
What makes sense is to try to cultivate positive habits that render the old habits obsolete, so if you want to stop smoking, you could start running every day as you know that smoking will hinder your chances of being successful.
If that doesn’t work to get rid of your smoking habit, you can do something that I call habit stacking, which is to add another habit that will raise the chances of success. So- let’s say you smoke on your lunch break at work, you will instead spend your time having lunch in the office and reading or doing something you enjoy to replace the time you spend smoking.
If that doesn’t work you keep on adding them small habits until it’s impossible to live your life while still smoking.
They say it takes 21 days to create a habit and while this is disputed in some cases and cannot be totally accurate for everything you decide to do, there is an element of truth behind this.
Looking at a goal as a whole can be daunting, so instead of going from nothing to I want to be a marathon runner overnight you should look at the smaller pieces of the bigger goal. Ask yourself- “what am I going to do today to make this more real” You should still create a longer term plan, but break it down into bitesize pieces.
If you can get to understand the process it will be a lot easier to process, usually when you get started forming a new habit there will be a learning phase if it is a complex habit like learning to play the piano you will need this stage if it is simple like jogging you will not have this initial complexity.
This first stage can be enough to make people quit. This is when discipline is needed and when you need to fully accept your feelings of inferiority.
If it is not to complex there will be that initial feeling of satisfaction from achieving a goal and the feeling of how it was easier than you though. This can give you the initial boost needed to get into a new habit.
You will always hit a wall eventually, it happens. You will miss a day, perform badly or feel exhausted. This is normal and a point where many would be success stories give up.
I think the reason for this is because they don’t understand the process- so having this information, knowing that you will hit a wall and having a plan to overcome it is vital for moving forward.
When you do eventually hit this wall ask yourself what the potential results will be if you continue, envision your life with you completing this task and rationalise the fact that this is just part of the process.
In certain circumstances this feeling will only last a day or two, but it can also indicate the need for a change. Think of it like this- if you are running four times a week and you just don’t have the energy to run anymore, all your runs are getting slow and you are feeling fatigued, you may have to switch up your routine to a totally different type of exercise or you may just need a few days to recover.
Once you break through this barrier, you will be at the stage where your habit become second nature, this also comes with a few possible pit falls which you need to be aware of.
If you take a break, it can be hard to return because your routine will be broken. If possible try your best not to have extended periods when you are inactive. This can also alter what your peak is, so when you go from running a mile in 6 minutes to 7 minutes it can be hard to take.
Also thinking you are a master when you are still in your apprenticeship phase can be detrimental, because your ego takes a battering when you are not on top form. No matter what you do you should always be a student, if you are a black belt in jujitsu and a white belt teaches you something, that’s a good thing! Always be a student and always be open to learn for any situation.
One of the best ways to form new habits is to monitor them. Human beings have a tendency to hugely over and under estimate what we are doing. Monitoring takes away the ability to do this, but even better it helps you to do what you think you should be doing.
So whereas before you may think you are running a mile in around 6 minutes, when you monitor it you realise it is actually closer to 7. You can then do your best to correct the mistakes you are making.
What I have found to be incredible useful for forming habits is a habit forming calendar. It’s really simple, you think of the habits you need to form, list them on this calendar and then tick them off when complete. It holds you accountable, is very simple to do and allows you to monitor your day to day activities.
You can download your habit forming calendar here
So to summarize- your bad habits are best replaced with positive but conflicting habits, not just stopped cold and without warning. If you cannot replace them with one habit try stacking up multiple habits that render the old ones obsolete.
The most discipline is needed when starting a new positive habit, so try to break it down into manageable bite sized pieces.
You will hit a wall at some point so be prepared and just being conscious of this is very helpful. Don’t forget to monitor and measure your habits to see how far you have come!
Thanks for reading, let me know in the comment section what habits you are thinking of forming or kicking today!
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