How to make [and not break] a new good-for-you habit.
Ah habits. They can be your best mate and your most toxic frenemy, all in the same 24 hours. They can be the strongest of foundations that equip you to build a magical life, and the weakest of foundations that ensure you never get to where you wanna be too.
Until today that is 😁Y'see I've been researching a lot about habits as I'm trying to break and remake some of my own. The biggest habit I'm trying to turn around is using every window of non-family/friend-time to work, instead of working out (or basically taking time for 'me' in general). I'm beginning to physically feel the impact it's having on my health and my body and quite honestly, it's terrifying. So as I've never been one to hang out in Excuse Land too long (and just hope uncomfortable stuff will eventually 'go away'), I took action, expanded my knowledge and tried to get to the bottom of this slippery fish! So I'm here to today to share what I've learnt, just in case you're on a habit-mastery-mission too!
Isn't it bizarre when you know a new good-for-you habit is gonna help you/nourish you/support you, and you know it's going to change things for the better, but you still just can't feckin' stick to it!? Well it is bizarre, and it isn't. Because I think for most of us, me included, we expect the habit to bed in pretty much instantly. It's gonna be such an 'amazing new thing' for us, we sub-consciously assume after implementing said habit for a couple of days (or even weeks!) – the third, fourth, fifth days or weeks should just come naturally. Then when they unsurprisingly don't, we figure we're 'not cut out for this' or we're 'never gonna change, ah well'. But this is simply untrue! I believe each and every one of us is cut out for whatever we want to be cut out for. We simply just berated ourselves and ditched our new habit too soon.
You may have read the quote in amongst the tinterwebs, "It takes 21 days to form a new habit". For what it's worth, I completely disagree and I'm pretty sure it's prevented a helluva lot of people implementing new good-for-them habits – because the lifespan of expectations on ourselves is just too damn short! If we're not seeing pretty much instant results, it's not happenin' for us altogether – and that's b*llocks quite frankly! 😂 In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, a health psychology researcher at University College London, Phillippa Lally found that on average...
It actually takes more than 2 months before a new behaviour becomes automatic. Like 66 days to be exact.
And this is just on average, so it's very possible that your journey into establishing habits could be much longer.
I mean. Mind = blown.
So what does this actually mean?
It means my friend, that you're gonna be just fine. Whatever new habit you're trying to implement is still absolutely yours for the taking, you just need to be a bit kinder to yourself while you implement it.
If you try out a new habit for a few weeks and it's not yet become automatic, that IS okay honey! It's still totally possible for it to become so. You just need to keep at it for longer. There's no need to write yourself off if you don't stick to it after a couple of weeks. And you certainly don't need to berate yourself if this new behaviour isn't mastered in a measly 21 days. So what if you 'fall off the wagon' and make a mistake? It genuinely doesn't matter! It's all about getting to know yourself and learning lil' tricks to get you back on the wagon. 'Failing' on your way there has absolutely nothing to do with your ability to achieve longer term success with it, and everything to do with how many awesome opportunities you're giving yourself to learn from it.
But how do you even get started?
I've delved a bit into Charles Duhigg's book The Power of Habit, and the framework he distills habits down to, seem to ring very true for me, so maybe they will for you too. It's almost like some magical, habit-making formula! I'll give you a brief round-up myself but the way Duhigg's delivers his observations is bang on the money and really powerful. So if you're struggling to understand your seemingly unbreakable habits, I reeeeally recommend you give this post a read.
Duhigg's framework details four key steps in the process of breaking/making habits, so I'll use my lack-of-me-time habit as a case in point to try and help explain;
1. Identify the routine
Translation: This is the obvious bit. This is the habit you want to change. So for me, instead of taking a slice of time in the morning to work out or start my day doing something for me, I jump straight into working at my desk.
2. Experiment with rewards
Translation: Work out the craving that's driving this behaviour. So for me, the reward of diving into my work over prioritising myself is that it makes me feel in control. Feeling that sense of being 'ahead of myself' is hugely gratifying.
3. Isolate the cue
Translation: Work out the cue that's triggering this behaviour. So for me, that's basically the 8am mark in the majority of my weekdays. My daughter has gone to her childminders, and I now have my time to craft as I please.
4. Have a plan
Translation: Now you know the craving driving your behaviour, the cue that's triggering it, and the habit itself – you can begin to shift your behaviour. You can begin to create a better routine by planning for the cue, and choosing a different behaviour that delivers the reward you're craving – this. is. your. plan. So for me, my plan is to still get my buzz of a reward of feeling in control and ahead of myself by giving myself half an hour before the house rises to dip into my emails, write my to-do list and prepare my work for the day. Then I get my daughter organised for her day as usual. Then when I have time to myself again at 8am, I feel a helluva lot freer about spending half an hour working out, reading, doing some visualisation exercises – or me-timing in whichever way I want basically! 💪It's working so far so I'll keep you posted with how I get on!
Now I know I preach this a lot, but it applies in so many areas of life, especially when we're trying to implement new habits – but accepting that the process is – and should be – imperfect, will make the whole experience of making a new habit an altogether more enjoyable process. And remember, habits aren't an 'event' like the flicking of a switch, they are a process, that we need to learn, adapt and evolve through. That's what makes them lasting, and that's how we make them an automatic part of us.
The same applies for The Imperfect Life® Planner (whose 2019 Edition is coincidentally available for pre-order from tomorrow btw! 😍Gah!) – accepting the days where you don't use it doesn't mean you have to stop using it altogether, and accepting the days where you smudge/tear/scribble messily all over it doesn't mean you've ruined it and need to get another one altogether either. It's making a kind commitment to yourself to be 'in it' for the long haul, learning from the flops and fails along the way, and accepting that getting to the good stuff is supposed to take its sweet time.
Now tell me, what is the one habit you're gonna be kinder to yourself about implementing? What is that one habit you'd love to implement that you've always flaked on in the past? Are you gonna give Duhigg's framework a bash? Tell me in the comments below! I'm dying to hear 😁
Until next weekend sexypants 💋