“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
Successful people generally see the bigger picture, they understand that getting into good habits early on will be beneficial to them in the long run, from your health to managing money and being successful are all gotten through good habits. Eating healthy, managing stress and getting your finances in order take mental effort to get to grips with but over time these turn into your habits that will become a part of your routine.
But how do you create these habits easily and without having to chastise yourself multiple times a day? It is hard but with a few strategies in place you can create good habits that will pay for themselves time and time again.
Set Mini Goals
Don’t go in with your foot to the throttle! If you wanted to radically change your habits then giving up caffeine, junk food, nicotine, alcohol, setting yourself a punishing exercise regime, while starting a new course, taking on more projects at work, making time to fit in a full skincare regime all in one go, then you will fail. Change one bad habit at a time and do it slowly, until it is part of your routine and then get rid of the next, until you find you have completely changed your routine.
With every habit you change, set them up into small achievable goals, my favourite I’ve heard of is someone wanting to start flossing their teeth, we all know this is important for oral health however who has 5 minutes to spend the time flossing twice a day? Commit yourself to flossing just one tooth gap a day, even if you don’t do all of your mouth the goal of one tooth is achievable. More often than not you will end up flossing your whole mouth daily, but because you phrase it differently in your own head it is sustainable.
When you have set mini goals, think about sandwiching them in between usual everyday tasks for you to create a chain of behaviours. An example of this could be on a Wednesday evening, when you get home, before you allow yourself to change into your comfy clothes (as most of us do) then you put a load of laundry on and change the bed, only then can you get into those stretch jogging bottoms and settle down with Netflix; do that every Wednesday and you now have a habit that yields clean clothes and a healthy environment for sleep. This can be used for every behaviour change, have a go.
Plan for Success
Sometimes the grandeur of our visions for the future can stall good habits from the very beginning, maybe you feel you will fail, so what’s the point in starting when you have such a mountain to climb? If you can change this way of thinking then you will have unlocked the key to long term habit change! Take one day at a time and try not to obsess over the vision in your head, some imagination is key but focusing solely on it will not help you. A great idea is to work backward from your target and break up into weekly segments – what is the minimum achievement you have to reach to hit your goals? A great example is the couch to 5K training plan that builds up your exercise slowly over time and is in manageable segments; it takes into account what you need to do each week to reach your goals in over 2 months.
Don’t Think “I’ll do it tomorrow”
Tomorrow will never come and diets don’t have to start on a Monday – new habits are very fragile things, anything that you don’t enjoy about a new habit has the potential to become an excuse. Choose a gym that is on your route home, not one that is 10 minutes detour away…you’ll be much more likely to go and stop you from saying “I’ll go tomorrow”! A great scientific experiment called Pizza and Cookies showed this ‘what-the-hell effect’ to be a real barrier to those creating a new habit. Make sure you ‘fool proof’ your new good habit: if it makes you get out of bed earlier then put your clothes next to your bed so you don’t have to walk through a cold house, change to online grocery shopping if supermarkets are too tempting to splurge on calorific food. Think of what you need to put in place to help yourself and take away temptation and then go ahead and do it, not after you fail but before so you never have to.
Set Visual Cues
Creating a vision board (as part of your goal planning) can be helpful to help you visualise what you want – just remember to not obsess about it. Keep it out of sight until you need a reminder of why you are changing your habits and when you do then refer back to it. Post it notes are a helpful cue for a lot of people; in the early stages of a new routine you can sometimes just forget what you need to do – we’ve all had a friend who forgets they’ve recently become vegetarian and you find them eating a bacon sandwich. For the first few weeks, stick post it notes in your car, at home, the office, on your lunchbox…anywhere you will see them and they will remind you of what you are doing and why.
Over the past few years I have slowly introduced good habits into my life, overhauling my exercise regime, diet, goal setting and finances so I understand how hard it is. If you stumble then the best piece of advice I can give is don’t give up, remind yourself why you are doing it and get straight back on track. The small victories will add up to the big goal – let me know how you get on or have any other advice?