One thing I notice about myself (a flaw, I suppose) is that it’s harder to stop doing something (wrong relationship, wrong job, eating wrong foods, not exercising) as opposed to making a change and staying the course … know what I mean? Maybe I’m not being articulate here. How about this:
We’re really the sum of our habits. And we stay or continue in these “habits” because it’s easier to stay in the comfort of a habit, than to get out and do something different. Resonate?
While we can intellectualize that it’s good to break bad habits (“I need to work out more.” “I need to eat less ice cream at night.”), it’s difficult to do. Think of all the things you’ve started but never finished. Also a not-so-great habit.
As I’ve been working on my “habits,” I’ve realized that I’ve been going about it the wrong way. It’s not about will power. It’s that we get stuck because we’ve trained our brains in a certain way. Our daily habits become deeply ingrained in our brain circuitry. When we repeat small behaviors frequently enough, our brain carves out new neural pathways. These neural pathways allow behaviors to become automatic. So we need to change our brains? Easier said than done, right? Here’s what I did:
- Start small. Whatever it is you want to achieve, break it down. Don’t begin to run a 5K by running three miles. Start by putting on your shoes and getting out the door for 5 minutes. Want to stop that candy at night? Cut your piece into 1/2 and throw the other 1/2 away – don’t just cut it out all together. In fact, sometimes you just have to think of the change (which I need to do) for a bit before you can even try it.
- Have a plan. This last year for me was changing my thought patterns. So, every day I told myself “You’re ok.” It was the positive affirmation I needed every time I felt scared or unsure about my direction. Now, I just feel it and I don’t need to say it and the negative thoughts are gone. Or, if you want to learn to meditate. Pick a time that you will do it every day – like after you brush your teeth at night. That will become your trigger – your reminder to meditate.
- Know that your plan will fail. If you need to have that whole piece of candy (or 10 pieces), don’t beat yourself up. Life has a way of getting in the way of our plans. As soon as you can, just pick up where you left off. Continue to make small steps. You’ll get there.
- Create accountability. Truth: If someone else is paying attention, we’re more likely to follow through. Announce your plans and let us help you stay the course!
Look, I’m so far from perfect it’s not even funny. And every year, I learn how little I know. But maybe that’s the beauty of it all. Here’s to another year!