Let’s talk about how to form new habits that stick. Okay, okay, I’m curious… raise your hand if you were totally fired up at the beginning of this month to start afresh, change your life, or maybe flip one or two bad habits into better ones? Yup, me too. Now, keep your hand raised if you stuck with it all?
Energetically, I just felt a ton of hands went down all around the world… woof, me too! I think if we step back and zoom out a bit, we’d see that there is so much more at play here then what we thought at first glance.
Why do we, as humans, seem to have a hard time setting and sticking with new habits?
First off, let’s look at the data. Many studies have been done on New Year’s resolutions but let’s take a look at this one. John Norcross of the National Library of Medicine states that people typically have an 81% failure rate when it comes to their New Year’s resolutions.
81%!! That’s basically saying, 4 out of 5 people who set one don’t stick with them, but rather fall back into their old habits and patterns before they know it. But why is that?
Author James Clear (of Atomic Habits) has some ideas here… he believes there are 5 common mistakes that cause new habits to fail:
Trying to change everything at once
- Instead, try to pick one thing and do it well.
Starting with a habit that is too big
- It’s better to make this new habit super small and easy where you just can’t say no.
Seeking a result, not a ritual
- …meaning it’s better to focus on changing the behavior, not the outcome. So, to translate… if you’ve got a goal to read 20 books this year, you focus on the fact that you are now someone who reads a book for the last 10 minutes of your day, right before bed. Make sense?
Not changing your environment
- Rather, consider building an environment that promotes good habits. As James puts it… “it is nearly impossible to remain positive all of the time if you are constantly surrounded by negative people.”
Assuming small changes don’t add up.
- James suggests just trying to “get one percent better each day.” That’s it, simple.
Teeny tiny incremental behavior changes each and every day are the true way to get to where you want to go.
So, let’s say you’re in a slump with exercise and you can’t seem to motivate yourself to do anything at all. (Man oh man, when I was slogging through another UK winter, I was like that more times than not, so I feel ya.) Okay so, how do we flip that? Simple.
Go for a walk or if you’re unable to do that, do some chair-dancing… no, I’m not talking Flashdance style chair dancing (I mean, unless that’s your thing – GO FOR IT!) but literally turn on some music and bop your body to the beat.
Start small… one song. And then keep going until you feel that endorphin rush that always comes from moving your body in a pleasurable way.
And hey, now that we all work from home, there’s no reason to feel embarrassed anymore. Just get your body moving for 10 minutes a day. That’s a 10 minute walk or three songs of bopping. That fits the criteria that James Clear has set out for us as being a micro small habit and getting one percent better today.
Now, do you need something a bit more advanced? Can you habit-stack doing five wall push-ups while you make your next cup of tea? Or ten bicep curls after each time you go to the restroom? (You get the idea.)
All in all, these are the simple ways to form new habits that stick. And if you’re feeling extra ambitious, I highly recommend picking up a copy of James’ book, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. Or better yet, listen to the audiobook… I found my local library has it for free and I can listen online!
One final whisper
I was having this exact same conversation with a few dear friends last week… one of them shared how he wanted to incorporate a particular new habit into his life but felt frustrated that he couldn’t seem to figure it out. Listening to him speak, I could hear frustration and an underlying, unspoken level of shame.
Like, “I’ve got all these other areas of my life sorted, why not this?”
And we talked further as a group as to what mental blocks there are in life that keep us from incorporating new behaviors that we KNOW will serve us in the long run. Like we know, intellectually, but we haven’t integrated this deep wisdom in on a heart-level.
And if you’re feeling this way too, I just want to encourage you.
We all get this way. It’s part of being human.
And I want to give you a bit of grace.
We try to gamify it or sticker-chart it, or cinch it all up with a pretty, little bow and the truth is, those work… for a season. But when life gets in the way and those tools start to falter, we tend to slip, fail, and then, hear those nasty little voices in our head that say, “ugh, well if you haven’t figured this out yet, give up now. You’ll never get it right.”
In the words of our great saint, Brené Brown… she reminds us that, “when perfection is driving us, shame is always riding shotgun and fear is that annoying backseat driver.”
Set your fear aside for a second. What is a loving thing you could say to yourself instead, in this very moment?
“You’re learning. You’re growing. You’re expanding… and today, you’re going to make a better choice.”
Now set your shame aside as well. What’s one thing you know is true about your identity and your spirit, in this very moment?
“I’m doing my best. I make good choices. I’m learning, growing and expanding my consciousness with knowledge that helps me get one step closer to thriving again.”
Make the reward you receive from your new habit be so BIG that it’s worth it. Change just one thing at a time. Make the new habit so tiny you can’t say no. Shift your focus on the behavior not the outcome. Change your environment to support your core values and what you desire the most. And ultimately, just focus on getting one percent better today.
You can do this, I believe in you.
It’s time to SIMPLIFY.
If this thought of the day inspired you…
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Happy new year, my friends! As you might have heard in the new intro, my last name has changed… more on that in the near future. But for now, I’m sending you my love and encouragement and I look forward to hearing how your vision board creative process went! Reach out and DM me on Instagram at @thesimplifiers and spark a conversation.
Show credits: Suzen Marie, our Podcast Editor and Jeffrey Lynn, our Video Editor. Aubri Nowowiejski, Chris Justice, and George Mills, our advisory board. Big love to Dennis Coleman and Kristen Kurtis, as well. And I’m your host, Mary Baird. Thank you so much for listening and telling your peeps about us.
As always friends, keep things simple.
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