They say habits are formed in as little as 21 days. After that point, that change you’ve been trying to make will come more naturally and you won’t have to consciously force yourself into it. This principle can be applied to any area of life including exercise, diet, procrastination and even, how we speak.
Something I’ve learned over the past few months however, is that this isn’t as straightforward as it seems. It’s necessary to take a number of factors into account as you go about the habit-forming to become the “New you”. The number one thing is to remember that well, you won’t be a new you. In fact, you’ll be the old you with a new habit formed and perhaps, a slightly altered attitude.
When I started attending a new gym earlier in the year, I thought “Nice! This is going to fall into place and I’m going to be super fit and muscly and…” No. Actually, like every habit I’ve worked on forming (or changing) over the past number of years, a few home truths come packaged nicely alongside them. A habit needs to be for life, not just for the week you feel like it. Hence, the need for planning, understanding and taking BABY STEPS!
1) Slow down, Tommy.
Changing too many things at the same time is going to lead to your failure. Sorry but are you really going to take on loads of new hobbies, diet changes AND that pottery class in the same week? No, you’re not. Well, not successfully anyway. Your chances of succeeding are greatly increased by focusing on one change at a time. Give it socks and ensure it’s feeling right before implementing something else. I did this with my diet when I started to cut out wheat. When I realised that it didn’t tempt me to eat it any longer, I worked on the next change – ditching caffeine.
2) Ah, so THAT’S why I failed, again.
Avoid temptation when forming a new habit. It’s going to be way more difficult to start that new art hobby if you’ve got the TV sitting pretty next to your desk. Likewise, joining a gym a million miles away from you when you have no car is a bit silly, isn’t it? Chances of actually heading to the gym regularly are immediately less. Make it realistic and convenient. Cut the excuses before they have a chance to form.
3) Treats are for winners…
Rewarding yourself is one of the best ways to make something stick. Give yourself a pat on the back, a treat (not one that breaks your habit) or better yet, share your achievements with those you know. Reinforcing the merit of what you’re doing will motivate you to stick with it and will at least put a smile on your face in spite of the fact you can’t eat that chocolate cake.
4) Don’t go it alone.
Asking for support is OK. Find a Facebook group, go to a class or join forces with a friend who wants to do the same as you. Whatever the case, if making a change solo is tough, be part of a community that’s already doing it! I do this for several areas in my life including blogging, fitness and food and more recently, meditation. 11 days ago, I started an online meditation course with The Happiness Business. Forming the habit of meditation was hard for me so having mentor Hilda’s daily videos of support and guidance, have made me sit down and “Om” for a while.
5) Seriously though, you’re doing great.
Give yourself a break. It’s possible that a little slip will happen. The other day, I didn’t get around to doing my meditation. You know what? I got around to it the next day and every day since then. Slipping slightly isn’t falling off the wagon, you’re human after all. Keep moving, take those baby steps and see those habits fall into place.
Some other ways of keeping or forming habits I’ve found useful include keeping a journal (just for habits, also known as a habit journal), setting reminders of your goals on your calendar that go off three times per day (morning, afternoon and evening) and having a sponsor (in my case, it’s my boyfriend however it could be anyone who spends lots of time with you).
Keep on moving and you’ll get there.