The Power of Habits

December 28, 2015

A new year is upon us and you know what that means… we all start making promises to ourselves: promises we inevitably cannot keep, the dreaded "New Year's Resolutions". 

We go around happily inquiring with friends and family "what are your new year's resolutions",  "what promises are you going to make to yourself that will be broken by February 1st"?!  You know what I'm talking about.  Your gym starts to feel unusually smaller come January and when you at least had a couple inches between you and another yoga mat at hot yoga, you now seem to be uncomfortably close to the other yogi.  As January makes room for February, you notice things have started to go back to normal.  You aren't so close to the next person at yoga, and you don't have to line up at the gym anymore for the treadmill.  This happens because as I said above, we make promises to ourselves that are unsustainable.  We want to feel that energy of "it's a new year, a new you".  The marketing tells us so.  We want to be new, we need to be new and we are determined to get there... at least in January.

How can we get to the place we want to get to without quitting?  Don't you notice most often when you do quit and you do not reach your ultimate goal, it doesn't feel good?  You feel disappointed in yourself and you get kind of down.  Now you are in a worse spot than when you committed to the resolution in the first place!  That's not healthy and that's not where you want to be.  I have to be honest, I am 100% guilty of making extreme goals or resolutions if you will.  I do this throughout the year, it does not have to be New Year's.  I have done this all of my life since I was a little girl.  Some people call it ambitious and some people call it setting yourself up for failure.  I prefer the former thank you very much!  I never want to persuade someone from not setting goals.  Goals are healthy, wanting to improve on our health, be it mental or physical is a very wonderful idea and should be cultivated.  We all should have wild goals written in our journals, taped on the fridge, on our vision boards, that is what life is about.  I think after all of these years I have read, talked to others, and learned that the one thing that sets apart the people that attain their lofty goals and the people that do not is one thing; habits, daily small habits.  That's it.  This sounds easy, but I can tell you, it takes practice and most often the simple things are the hardest to accomplish because our minds are programmed that if it's simple it won't work.  It has to be hard, we must "work hard", haven't we all been told that?  And yes, working hard, putting in effort are definitely important to achieving goals, but daily small rituals will put you on the golden path to success.

We first make our habits, then our habits make us

John Dryden

For example, when I started running I thought the best way to become a very good runner was to start out running an hour each day.  Well that is not attainable when first of all, you are a beginner and second of all the chances of having an hour per day or even having the energy to do this after having a baby are slim to none, let's be honest.  When that obviously was not working, I had to make a change.  I started to run for a shorter distance more frequently and I got there.  That was seven years ago.  Since then I've run two half marathons and although I have yet to reach my goal of running a marathon I know if that is something I want to do, then I will make it happen.  I'm not breaking any records, but I did create a healthy habit through small consistent changes which I still do today, seven years later.

Another reason we may sometimes fall short of our goals and aspirations is the fact that we create this gigantic goal but we then have no idea how to get there or what to do first so we jump in with both feet without even testing the water.  People with black and white thinking often do this.  Does this sound like you?  It kind of goes like this: set huge lofty goal, want this to happen right now, thinks "what do I have to do to make this happen right now"?  Say you have less than healthy eating habits and you are carrying some extra weight.  You are not happy, you feel sad on a regular basis and you know your blood pressure is up and your outlook on life is down.  Ahhh, a New Year approaches, perfect timing to lose this weight and change your lifestyle for good.  "I'm going to go to the gym 7 days per week and I'm going to eat nothing but salad and fresh juice all day every day, yep, in three weeks I should be at my ideal weight and my better self will emerge"!.  Great large idea, good start, not so good initiation. 

 

We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence then is not an act but a habit

Aristotle

Setting small habits tips:

·         Set an intention

·         Research on what is needed to execute goal

·         Break your intention or goal into smaller goals

·         Pick one or two components per week to work on, once you've achieved those, set one or two more;  (Example: You want to stop eating sugar; omit one sugar item per week from your diet; once you've successfully achieved that goal, omit another sugar item from your diet and so on.)

You are now well on your way to reaching your plan!  Stay focused, don't give up, you can do this.

Have a happy new year and may 2016 be your year for optimal health and happiness!