If we’re honest with ourselves, there’s always something we’d like to change, improve, try again, or just make better. All too often we attempt to make these changes suddenly—only to be disappointed when we aren’t as successful as we had wanted, or fail altogether.
Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.”
Research shows* that it takes at least about 2 months to form a SIMPLE habit—like drinking water with lunch, or taking vitamins. It can take far longer than that to form a habit that involves more time or effort. Starting small and working toward bigger goals is, in many cases the way to go. Here are a few tips on how making small healthy changes can amount to big successes:
1. Break down your big-vision goals into smaller chunks. Anyone who has trained for a marathon will tell you that they didn’t just set out one day and run over 26 miles. They started with a mile—and added to it as they saw success in smaller goals. Or even consider making vision-action board to help visualize the smaller chunks.
2. Plan the time for that task. Activities that aren’t habit yet are often the first to get dropped when we’re running short on time. If you’ve got a jam-packed busy day, be sure that part of your schedule includes enough time to fit your new small change in. This might be as easy as setting your alarm ten minutes earlier in the morning to accommodate your habit-to-be. Or add that small change to piggy-back something that you will ALWAYS do, no matter how busy your day. e.g. If your goal is to build a stronger core, after every bathroom trip, do 20 abdominal crunches or sit-ups. (Eventually, an activity as habitual as brushing your teeth can help train other habits to become more habitual.)
3. Swap things out. If you’re trying to add something new to your life such as exercise or healthy eating, it’s likely that there’s something it can replace. Evaluate your daily routine & identify what needs to be swapped. For example, if you’re trying to cut calories—swap out that 2:30pm triple grande latte for the same amount of black drip coffee! (Or better yet, skip the extra caffeine and stretch for a couple minutes, or walk if time allows.)
4. Dedicate some time to learn more about what you’re trying to change. Read some success stories from people who have done the same. Use the Vision Board to better define what & how you want to change, and then transform that board into an action board for simple steps to take toward achieving that vision. Don’t just focus on the greater goal of ‘losing weight’ or ‘playing longer with my grandkids’, look at the little steps along the way to getting there, such as choosing a healthier snack when peckish, gradually making your daily walk a little bit longer, etc.
5. Identify the challenges. If you’re anything like the rest of us, you’ve probably tried to make changes in the past—but have been discouraged by temporary defeat. What stopped you last time? What is a hurdle you know you’re going to have to leap over? Identify these things so that when they approach, you can avoid or defeat them. Make a plan for when those challenges arise. For instance, if you know that your book club host always has a table of decadent, sugary treats–come prepared! Arrive on a full stomach and bring your own snack, just in case you feel the need. Continuously sipping on water or a low-sugar beverage, like unsweetened ice tea, can also help combat the mindless munchies.
A very wise & lovable stuffed bear named Winnie the Pooh gave us this brilliant piece of wisdom:
“There is something you must always remember: You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
And we’ll add—you CAN make the changes you want!
Where do you plan to start? Have you found other methods to help you start to change? Share them below or on our Facebook page.
*Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Thing, Why We Don’t and How to Make Any Change Stick, by Jeremy Dean.