If all this talk about changing habits has left you feeling drained and demotivated then we don’t blame you. Any journey of self-discovery will be fraught with hurdles and obstacles and no amount of self-imposed reading will be enough if you don’t face the music. The reality differs from theory and when you invest your time and effort in changing some hard-ingrained habits there are a few things to keep in mind. And sometimes these few things are quite simple and easy however, simple and easy doesn’t always result in full commitment….BUT …. remember that doing less today means that you will do more in a year! So I recommend you continue reading ….
1 || Start Small
But you already knew that! This is one piece of literature that you’ve probably memorised. With any habit that you wish to change you need to start small. Want to read more? Aim to read 5-10 pages a day. Want to start exercising? Commit to two-to-three days a week at the beginning. Make sure the commitment you made remains within your comfort zone, otherwise if you start too big you will quit too soon.
2 || Be Realistic
Say your goal is to read more, and you decided to start with 10 pages a day in the hope that you will gradually increase that amount. IF you succeed at increasing your page count then good for you but if you don’t….. then also good for you. Don’t push yourself to improve too fast. Aim to find the intensity level that you’re most comfortable with and the one you’ll most likely be able to sustain.
3 || Monitor And Track
This is another obvious one but when you track something you start noticing certain patterns of behaviour. Peter Drucker once said “What you track is what you do.” Let’s say you want to track your food consumption, you can do that using a simple Excel sheet or you can look for apps that can help you do that; there are literally apps to track everything under the sun. But what to do once you’ve tracked your activity?? Read the next point!
4 || Measure To Improve
Peter Drucker also said “What you measure is what you improve.” Tracking and measuring should go hand in hand. Train yourself to work with numbers; write down your daily expenditures, your daily reading and/or writing, your workout, your food! Whatever you feel you need to track and measure just write it down and keep going back to the numbers and see where you’ve improved.
5 || Go Easy On Yourself
You will have bad days no matter how great you have been with your habit, so go easy on yourself. However, and this is important, train yourself to compensate the following day. Keeping with our relatively easy example, if you set yourself a reading or writing goal and you skip your daily quota of say 20 pages, make sure to read 40 pages the following day. Some theorists are against that but for now I’m staying with this notion and you’ll find out why in the coming few points.
6 || But Everyday Counts
No single day of doing your habit on its own counts; it’s the sum of all days. Did one gym session make you fit? Absolutely not! Did a hundred sessions make you fit? You bet they have! This is why you should keep in mind that everyday counts, you just have to keep trusting the process.
7 || It’s Never Automatic
Unfortunately habits don’t become automatic but they do become a part of your lifestyle. It started with a conscious decision which then went on to get easier every time you did it, till it became a major part of your lifestyle but it will alway be something that you have to work at.
8 || Evolve
Keep on reassessing your habits to see if they need tweaking, upgrading, or ditching altogether. If your habits aren’t taking you where you envisioned yourself to be, then it’s time for an assessment. It is said that the most important skill in the 21st century is the ability to ‘learn’, ‘unlearn’, and ‘relearn’; therefore be flexible enough and adaptable enough to just about anything.
9 || Punish Yourself
This is another controversial part but here goes; bad behaviours must be punished while good behaviours have to be rewarded. You have to decide what’s good and what’s bad for you but you also have to commit yourself. One form of punishment is to do double the work the day following your missed habit. Your brain has to understand that there are certain consequences to missing your daily habit or to indulging in a bad habit. You can punish yourself by skipping your favourite TV show, or by prohibiting Instagram for a day, just remove something you feel strongly about and your brain will remember how bad you felt about it.
10 || Become ‘Process-Oriented’ Instead of ‘Goal-Oriented’
If your goal was to become a healthier person, then going four times a week to the gym becomes part of your process; you become focused on the process instead of the end goal. Process-oriented people focus on the daily actions that are part of their process, whereas goal-oriented people focus on the reward at the end of the line, which in time might become a de-motivator. So become process-oriented!
11 || Don’t Forget To Reward Yourself
IF you diligently follow and execute your plan, then don’t forget to reward yourself. A funny thing is that, keeping track of my habit inevitably becomes my reward; there is nothing more rewarding for me than jotting down my accomplishments, be they gym hours or pages read. Don’t underestimate the powers of endorphins and the dopamine coursing through your body! Create your own rewards and remember…..
Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going!