How many times do we start something, like a new exercise regime, but don’t maintain it? We quit. We then go back to the old habits and the old way of doing things. This can leave one feel like a failure and create a belief that this is just the way we are- we can’t stick to anything. We become discouraged and lose our motivation. The question is, how to make new habits stick?
Habits For The Long-Term
I am passionate about helping people create lasting change. Temporary fulfilled goals (for example, losing weight for a wedding then gain it back again straight after) has essentially wasted our time and energy. I believe we need to create lasting and ongoing changes in our lifestyle. Our mindset and where we place our focus becomes critical. Imagine a life where we program behaviours and habits that remove the resistance and struggle. I am going to share my top 3 strategies to ensure new habits stick!
People always ask me how long it takes to create new habits. Is it 21 days? 30 days? 66 days? Different literature suggests various ideas and time-frames. I don’t believe in a magic number here. But ultimately, I think it depends on the habit itself. For example, having a drink of water during your lunch break might not take long, as it will encompass less resistance. If it is a challenging one, it might take longer. Let’s say if your goal is to go for a 50km run every week, this might take longer. Some research shows up to 6 months.
Intentions and Goals
So, what I notice is when we set new habits we often talk about the end result or goal. For instance, ‘I want to lose weight’, or ‘I want to go for a daily walk’. Now, don’t get me wrong, goal setting is critical to success. In this way, if we don’t know where we are going, we don’t know where to steer our ship. But this is just one piece of the puzzle. Once we have established the intention (and charged it with a powerful WHY), we need to set up systems. The ‘systems’ is where the momentum lies…
Systems are the foundations of deep and great work. When I worked in project management, we would always have a goal but alongside this, very solid systems in how this goal would come into fruition. Ultimately, we knew what needed to be done to get there. The same is for us, we need to create and implement systems that support our environment, to make this goal easy for us. Once the goal is set, we focus on the systems. Here are my top 3 systems for making goals stick for the long term.
1. Form a Trigger
Set up triggers! A trigger is something that creates certain behaviours and minimises psychological resistance. For example, if my phone ringing is the trigger, the result will be the behaviour of talking on the phone. This is the same with exercise. Say my goal is to go for a 30-minute run. My trigger might be putting on shoes and going outside. My focus is not so much on the 30-minute run, my focus is on putting shoes on and go outside. If I have the shoes on and am outside, I am more than likely to continue with the walk.
Consequently, the trigger allows us to focus on the beginning, and the starting. But once we have started, the motivation usually comes organically. It’s like when we don’t want to go to the gym, but once we are there, we feel inspired to do the workout. So we need to set up a trigger to make initial resistance as little as possible.
Here is another example I personally use around eating. I always ensure my fridge is full of healthy and nutritious food so I am more likely to cook and eat it. Sometimes, I even pre-chop vegetables. This trigger makes healthy eating easy. This is how we develop new habits. For daily runs before work, try focusing on laying out your gym clothes the night before, not the run in the morning. This is the trigger.
Now, make sure the triggers are easier to achieve than the actual goal. That is the whole point; you are leveraging the easy part to do the challenging part. Like a project management meeting, try brainstorming some triggers and choose the one that will best set you up for success. Ultimately, the goal can feel overwhelming. So we shift focus from the goal to fulfilling the trigger.
2. Accountability: Get a friend, buddy or coach
Studies show us that accountability (through sharing our goals), as well as setting a day and time when we are going to take the steps increases the chances of taking actions towards our set goal by 95%. Find someone who has the same goal as you. You can support each other, and hold each other accountable. Or, just tell everyone around you what your goal is, so you feel this positive pressure and support. Another way to keep yourself accountable is to write a blog or share your goals online. When we make goals public we receive responses that propel our desire to succeed!
One of the best and proven methods is to get a coach who knows exactly how to get you where you want to be faster. Ideally, they have done or have been or are now where you want to be. This person can give you a precise action plan, support you emotionally and nurture your progress. Moreover, they are there to help you get up if you fall down. If you would like to get support to feel in control with your eating again and/or find peace with your body, book a free call with me HERE to discuss your challenges and how you can get from where you are now to where you want to be by overcoming your roadblocks that are keeping you stuck.
3. Be Imperfect
Don’t expect to be perfect when learning to set new triggers. We need to play around with systems and work out the ones that support us in the behaviour we desire to fulfill our goal. Expect a few bumps along the way! We will make mistakes but we need to respond with self compassion and not give up! Another rule I like to set for myself when I commit to a goal and a trigger: “Never miss twice”. Which means if I do miss to take action, I don’t miss twice.
Repitition is the key when it comes to creating new habits. Like it took you months and maybe years to create habits that don’t serve you, it will take you a few repititions to create a new habit.
I believe that if we can master habits we can do anything we want in our life. It is like a muscle we need to build. Start with something easy and small to build that muscle and even prove yourself that you can achieve anything you want. For instance, instead of the goal of ‘going to the gym 5 times per week’, start with ‘laying your gym gear out in the evening or having it in the car ready to use’. Instead of switching to a new ultra healthy eating regime, focus on having lots of healthy ingredients in the house.
And don’t forget to devise systems and triggers to these goals. Master this, then make the goals progressively bigger. And don’t forget to celebrate your wins and successes along the way. You’ve got this! I believe in you!
If you are unsure where to start, or struggling to set a goal or intention check out this podcast with Summer Innanen. She discusses 7 powerful questions to help set and charge an intention. FRR75 – 7 Powerful Questions to Help You Set An Intention. or book your call with me HERE.