Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character. – Stephen Covey
Habit forming is a topic that I’m quite passionate about.
Back in university when I was stressed out and struggling with health issues, it was by focussing on my habits that I was able to dig myself out of the rut and forge the path that I’m thankful to be walking on today.
Even though they may seem insignificant, those micro-decisions we make on a daily basis – our food choices, how we stand, how we talk, how we walk, and even how we breathe – all add up to determine our life situation, our life satisfaction, and our state of health.
I made a whole load of mistakes when I first started out trying to change my habits, and I’ve seen many others repeat those mistakes since then.
In this post, I will highlight those common habit-changing pitfalls and give you a few alternatives that will make your health journey a more enjoyable one.
Dreaming big is not a bad thing.
Having a big scary goal to work towards can be a great motivator for some. That looming marathon or the idea of eating a fully plant-based diet can help to get you up in the morning, ready to put in work.
However, we humans have a knack for over-stretching…
We bite off more than we can chew, going for goals that are far out of our reach, or attempting to make too many changes at once. Either way, we’re dipping into our precious willpower reserves and setting ourselves up for failure.
Instead: By all means have a big goal, though break it down and make sure that the next few steps towards that goal are achievable. Make sure you stick to just one or two goals at a time – the more habits you try to change at once, the lower your chances of success.
Stumbling Block 2 – Not Knowing Your ‘Why.’
Sometimes when we try to make changes, if we stop and think about it, we don’t know why we are doing it.
Often we’re just acting on impulse, following the crowd. We’re adopting that diet or starting up at the gym just because everyone else is doing it. There’s been no real thought into what we truly want.
We might be able to keep up with the new habit for a little while, but eventually, our motivation will start to dwindle, and we’ll revert to our old ways.
Instead: Figure out what changes you want to make, and why you want to change them. You may want to start mediating to improve your relationships or to be more present with your family. Whatever it is for you, write it down somewhere where you’ll see it every day as a reminder to stay on track.
Stumbling Block 3 – Going Alone
For some reason, many of us are scared of asking for help. We almost see it as a sign of weakness, and we’d rather struggle through on our own, even if it takes us much more work.
When I first tried to change my training habits on my own, I struggled and would always revert to my old behavior patterns of training too hard. However, when I involved my loved ones and asked for their help, things became much easier.
Instead: Never be scared to ask for help. Involve those close to you in your habit-changing journey. Ask them to keep you accountable and provide you some support. Most people will be more than thrilled to assist you.
Stumbling Block 4 – Not Preparing
As the adage goes – “fail to prepare, then prepare to fail.”
Obstacles to developing new healthy habits are looming all around us, waiting for a chance to pop up. Habit changing is a fragile process, and even the smallest obstacles can send you off course without warning.
Instead: Be proactive and deal with any obstacles you can think of. That might be removing unhealthy food from the house, or setting out your gym clothes the night before your morning workout. Do everything you can to make sure the environment around you is conducive to making healthy changes.
Stumbling Block 5 – Being Too Harsh
Failure can be a difficult pill to swallow, but in reality, it’s not the end of the world.
Sure, missing a day or two of your habit change isn’t ideal, but you don’t have to beat yourself up over it. Perfection is an illusion, and failure to some degree is inevitable in life. In some regard, it’s a necessary stepping-stone towards success.
Instead: Change your perspective of failure. Instead of seeing it as something negative, use it as a learning tool. Figure out what went wrong, and how you can correct for it moving forwards to increase your chances of creating lasting healthy habits.