I like the idea of getting healthier and fit. I like the idea of going to the gym and working out. But what I also have along with aspirations and promises with the label “someday I will…”, is a hard time developing those habits. It is probably quite familiar to some of you, guys? So what’s going on? I usually start picturing myself actually putting my sport clothes on, then going out and actually entering the gym, then I picture a challenging workout session itself. Then I think how hard it is so I get put off from that positive habit till the next humble attempt to do something about it.
The solution is fairly simple. If you struggle with starting a habit of exercising, just do four push-ups and three sit-ups and see how it feels. Or you can go for a 10-minute walk to stretch your legs. Or you can try a hand stand against the wall for 30 seconds (like I sometimes do).
The idea here is simple: turn this challenge into something so easy and elementary that you cannot possibly refuse to do it for your good.
Sure, it might sound ridiculous and some of you would say: “Wait, what? That’s way too easy!” and try to do more at once. I had the same mind-frame that caused me a lot of grief on many occasions. I failed in forming new positive habits when I was trying to push too hard. We are so sure that we can accomplish more regardless of past evidence against that aspiration so we always look for greatness… It’s like attempting to climb Kilimanjaro without mastering how to walk properly first.
We need to learn more about the grounds our habits should be built upon. With that thought in mind, then and only then we are ready to advance our skills. So for now, let’s focus on the four first things we need to know about forming any habit you wish to introduce to your everyday life.
How to Develop Good Habits
1. Starting Small
Consider this. You are standing in front of a pile of dirty dishes. It didn’t bother you until the smell became overwhelming. So look at this once again and wash ONLE ONE dish. Nothing else. One dish.
It sounds so ridiculously easy that it’s crazy to say no to that.
Yesterday my kitchen was a complete mess. Even entering the kitchen was quite a challenge. I felt ashamed to live like that. Then I realized how fruitless my urges of guilt were so I told myself that I would clean thoroughly ONLY ONE counter out of the two. How hard is it to clean ONLY ONE counter? So i did that. I cleaned the counter leaving it spotless and shiny. And today is seeing that contrast between the counters urges me to clean that other counter.
The thing is, doing a bit of something you want to turn into a positive habit is way more important than doing a lot of it of it, to begin with.
If I want to exercise and see the results immediately, I would probably go for a week to the gym and work my tail off without actually forming a habit because hard work puts us off the next time we try to do it. But if I do a 5-10 minute simple exercise routine daily for 2-3 weeks the results will follow gradually so as the foundation of habit that will hold it’s grounded.
I was awful with drinking water. So I’ve started with ONE glass a day, then TWO glasses. I wasn’t that good with eating vegetables, so I’ve started with ONE. I wasn’t that good with meditation, so I’ve started with a 5 minute meditation. Start small and then see how far you get one step at a time.
2. Negative Thoughts Awareness
I failed to develop a habit and implement it into my daily life when I thought that it wasn’t that necessary. We all fail to stick with new habits when we give in to those tempting thoughts that try to control us and then succeed when we give up.
I wasn’t aware of the existence of those negative thoughts, beliefs, rationalizations and other unproductive crap that my mind was filled with. They were set up automatically. How many times have they caused me grief? How many times wasn’t I aware that I was manipulated by my outraged, scary and awfully childish ego?
I would go for a run for 1,5 weeks and then one morning one thought would appear: “You are doing great, baby! You are a pure success. How about we skip this one session today as the fog over the Thames is extra thick and the embankment looks exceedingly creepy. And you know, it’s cold out there. Stay in bed, darling, stay in bed. It’s too hard”. And I did stay there in my cozy bed. I thought that I made the decision to skip that one day and then the day after myself. But that thought that I was unaware of, kept putting me off from running until even an attempt to run as a habit faded away completely and never returned ever since.
I would eat healthy for many months. And then that stupid tiny voice says: “Hey, I love that you feel so good by eating healthy. But don’t you think that you miss your old friends pizza, bread sticks and potato chips? What’s up with that? Don’t you want to “reward” yourself with that?”. I feel ashamed now sharing this… But I never actually felt “rewarded” when I have gone into my old ways without any force of reason.
But then I was so tired of that self-talk and rationalization that my Ego was feeding me with; I decided to become a passionless witness of those thoughts. Watch them come and go. No engagements. They are like a falling feather from the sky while you are walking in the park: interesting coincidence but never a solid determination of your life.
Watch them and then let them go. Get more comfortable outside of your comfort zone, and then you will see how easy your life will expand becoming even more interesting and worth living.
3. Relish Your Habit
I love reading. I love plunging into the worlds of other authors and get lost there from time to time learning outstanding lessons and understanding their thoughts and ideas. But I wasn’t always like that. In fact, I remember the time when I had a hard time even reading one paragraph.
I was miserable in attempting to read. I didn’t see the point in it when I was young. The main mistake that I made was that somehow I made myself believe that forming a habit equals to a sacrifice I ought to make to get myself to lead a better life. I didn’t see back then that getting that habit and living it was ALREADY my better life in action.
Any new habit should be that special little something you enjoy doing. Otherwise, it’s not worth having it.
When I was at the very beginning of my journey into healthy eating I started with one simple thing. I began to enjoy and savour that taste of fresh and vibrant food full of nutrients and goodness. I appreciated every bite feeling more content with my new food choices. Pineapple strips were amazingly delicious as a snack comparing to potato chips because I took my time to really savour them and understand their taste. I never felt deprived. After all I started to take better care of myself and truly enjoy the process ever since.
The key here is fairly simple. We need to learn to enjoy our new good habits, and they feel like rewards themselves. It’s not about some exceedingly huge accomplishment in a distant future. It’s about relishing the whole way towards it.
4. Re-starting The Fire of Habit
This one is important. There were countless times when I would do something for a continuous period of time. Then something would happen and the whole pattern of having a good habit would stop and never restart. The idea here is to have that re-starting plan ready.
How do you start over? Easy. When you are not on track for one day – pay up $30 to your partner or spouse for doing so. When you miss 3 days of your new habit – double the price into $60. Or you can walk your neighbours dog picking up its shit from the lawn if you miss 4 days. You can tell your friends through the social network about this and that you will personally clean their toilets with a toothbrush if you miss your cool habit 5 days in a row.
Missing one day will not do anything terrible. Missing 3 days just might.
So do your best to stick with new positive habits, and you will see positive changes in your life.
Choose something simple and do it for the next few weeks. New skills will pay off quickly.
By Lesya Li
Pictures from vk.com