“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.” ― Samuel Johnson
Achieving goals is often lined with detours and setbacks, however this should not deter you from awakening your potential.
Forming new habits is challenging, since it disrupts your natural state of equilibrium. While the rational mind is quick to embrace the new habit, the emotional brain is not as enthusiastic to your plans.
With any luck, you’ve given it considerable thought, along with your strong emotional desire to make the change.
Often, we have little idea of the journey ahead until we embark upon it. Have you noticed this, where setting the intention to achieve a goal is easier than sticking to it?
I know I have.
For example, in my early adult life, I was at the mercy of my habits, given the weakness of my emotions.
Several well-intentioned habits were met with resistance midway due to unreasonable expectations.
I’ve had the good fortune to implement sound habits in various areas over the years that continue to serve me well.
In my coaching work, my clients have enjoyed the benefits of my mistakes and steep learning curve, since I learned what works and doesn’t work.
To form new habits, we must stick to key principles to help us cement the new learnings. Blended into your daily routine, they shape the underlying desire to achieve lasting change.
“The truth is that everyone is bored, and devotes himself to cultivating habits.” ― Albert Camus
1. Understand The Change Cycle
I worked with a sports psychologist in a mentoring program for several years and have come to appreciate the importance of the change cycle when forming habits.
Undoubtedly as you adopt new habits, you will be met with resistance since you are disrupting the mind’s resting point.
Knowing the six stages of change affords you realistic expectations of the journey ahead. A little piece of trivia: 33% of people who undertake a fitness membership, cancel or fail to attend the gym after the third month.
Knowing people’s motivation wanes over time, health clubs lure you into signing twelve-month contracts in advance, with petty exit clauses. They know people are not going to stick to their habits and set about capitalising on it.
2. What Is Your Compelling Reason?
Avoid starting a new habit if you believe it is the right thing to do. Remember the conscious and emotional brain have different agendas.
You will be met with resistance as the going gets tough, since internal conflicts are likely to arise.
It is best to have a purposeful intent to pursue the new habit in the first place. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said: “We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment.”
For this reason, the pain of discipline bears lighter on our conscience than the pain of regret. Reconnecting with your WHY will help you connect with your intentions in the first place.
When you align with your original intention to start a new habit, this becomes paramount for long term success. As the journey gathers momentum, setbacks and resistance are enough to derail your progress.
“The pain of discipline bears lighter on our conscience than the pain of regret.”
3. Chunk It Down
Break down the goal into smaller goals. Pursue one habit or goal at a time until it becomes second nature.
For example, if your intention to ‘get fit’ means undertaking an exercise program, you might start with a series of long walks to get started.
Don’t have ambitious expectations how your health journey will take shape in the initial stages. Start slow and gain momentum is a better strategy than quitting altogether.
Allow the strength of the goal or habit to propel you towards consistent action. As the saying goes: slow and steady wins the race.
4. Manage Your Environment
Remove temptations that are likely to derail your progress. If your new habit is to curb eating unhealthy foods, have your fridge and pantry stocked with healthy food options.
While this may seem trivial, during times of emotional need, the conscious brain is irrational, leading to the probability of cheating.
Therefore, keep temptations out of sight. Similarly, avoid falling into the lure of rewarding yourself with food.
Your mind is intelligent having undergone thousands of years of evolution — it will use the rewards against you at an inopportune moment.
Opt for rewards that are non-food-related such as relaxing massages, buying a new item of clothing, music, etc.
It is important to factor resistance into the equation since you will become unstuck. Do not be hard on yourself when/if this occurs. Use the time to regroup and continue pursuing your habit.
“Allow the strength of the goal or habit to propel you towards consistent action. As the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race.”
5. Commit To The Habit
Time to put the pedal to the metal. Smaller victories achieved early in the habit-forming period add momentum to your habit.
Daily action is a worthwhile approach for forming sound disciplinary behaviours.
Daily action is paramount for maintaining motivation, rather than intermittent application. Aim for at least a 90%+ strike rate during the first month.
I find it useful to use a range of tools as motivational aids. I purposely place coloured Post-it notes around my home in places where I will see them.
However, if you rely on technology for motivation, avoid falling victim to it. Many people succumb to checking their statistics on their phones regularly and form a bad habit. Use it as support to help you stick to your plans.
Setbacks are unavoidable throughout the habit-forming period. Make a public declaration of your habit to a friend, colleague, or loved one.
Make yourself accountable to somebody that will offer you support or who has walked in your shoes.
Offer to return the favour. Being accountable to someone affords you a sound reason for keeping your word. This makes it worthwhile for adhering to your habit.
Resist overthinking or falling victim to your emotions as the going gets tough. Your mind will find excuses to jeopardise your progress, so I caution you not to buy into the excuses.
Remember why you set out to form the new habit in the first instance. Hopefully, you will overcome resistance and create habits to serve you well into the future.