How to create healthier habits and trash ones that don’t serve you
How many times have you crashed into bed, feeling like you ran a marathon but at the same time that you got nothing done that day, especially for yourself?
And laying there, scrolling on your phone looking at other moms who did yoga with their kids and baked vegan cupcakes after launching a great new product at work, you think, wistfully, “If I could only make time to feel better, I’d feel better. I’d be able to do everything they do. If only.”
Here’s the big secret that all those gung-ho people on Instagram have that maybe you haven’t discovered yet. It’s not that they have a bunch of built-in motivation you don’t have, or that they’re rich, or have a spouse that takes care of at least half of the household duties (though those things certainly don’t hurt!)
Their big secret is this: Habits.
How a simple habit can change your life
Habits like brushing your teeth, buckling your safety belt, texting your mom, “Landed safe,” praying nightly, reading to your kids every night, grabbing a Starbucks while you grocery shop and midnight runs to the kitchen for a bowl of cereal – these are all habits. Habits can be healthy or unhealthy, and are things you automatically do, that you feel compelled to do, or something feels “off.”
Habits will be there for you, rain or shine, even when you have no motivation or inspiration. Momentum and energy change day to day, and you need to rely on a habit to keep you on track.
Habit creation and implementation
I talk much more in-depth about habit creation in my book, Chaos to Calm, but here are a few highlights.
- Set a habit that is doable and specific. Don’t say, “I’m going to read more.” Say, “I’m going to read one page a day.” Make it achievable. It will naturally grow from there.
- When you want to eliminate an unhealthy habit (like running to the kitchen for a midnight snack), replace it with something else. Instead of cereal, grab a banana or a tea, or do something else completely like journaling for 5 minutes.
- Remove barriers and create a system for success. For example, if you really want to start exercising every day, wear workout clothes to bed so when you wake up you’re less likely to keep snoozing. If you always get a latte when you grocery shop (and you want to change that habit), bring your own mug of hot tea instead so you have something to drink with you and aren’t as tempted.
Creating habits is a journey, and that is a gift
If you’re so fixated on your end goal (like if you want to read a book a month) versus the habits and process to get there, you won’t relish the journey (each page you’re reading).
Imagine someone crossing the finish line of a marathon. You only see the smile and tears of joy at their accomplishment. What you didn’t see were all the tiny habits they had to build into their lives in order to achieve that.
When I trained for a triathlon, did I want to get up early, train, and swim in the cold ocean every single time? Definitely not. Any athlete will tell you: The accomplishment is not at the finish line, it is in the process. The look of full happiness on an athlete’s face at the finish line would not be there if they’d gotten driven through the course on a golf cart rather than toughed it out themselves.
The gift of a difficult journey is that when you get where you want to go, it is because of the challenge that makes it so rewarding. That feeling of euphoria of “standing on top of the mountain” could only feel that delicious because the process that brought you there wasn’t always easy. Sometimes it’s not easy. But do it anyway.
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