Creating Habits That Stick
Summer is the time for movement, to act on all those dreams and challenges that you journaled about this winter, that you prepared for all Spring. For most, taking that first step towards implementing new healthy habits can be difficult. But actually sticking to your own plan, dreams and desires can feel next to impossible.
Why is the creation of healthy habits such a challenge, and why do we seem to fall back into bad habits in the blink of an eye? The solution to this age old question is not concrete, however cultivating your new, healthy ways is possible, and may I say, even enjoyable, when you use the strategies below.
Take a Pop Quiz, Then Grade
When I think about any life long changes I want to make, I give myself a "pop quiz". I use the answers to help guide the decision on whether or not to take the leap.
First, I ask myself a few questions:
Why do I want to make this change?
Is it for the right reasons?
Am I willing to take the steps it takes to reach this goal?
Am I willing to set aside the time needed to make it stick?
If I can't come up with a good reason why, and if I said "no" to the three other questions, then I know that this particular habit won't be lifelong. Maybe it’s not right for me, maybe there is another area of my life that requires change, or maybe now is not the time to create a new habit. No matter which one it may be, it's critical to be okay with the decision to hold off on that particular resolution and move on.
At times I know exactly why I want to create a new habit, and I answer yes to the above questions. I will begin my journey feeling positive, like I can conquer the world! And then I falter, make a misstep, and truthfully, at times everything goes to crap and I completely fall off the wagon. That’s when I start questioning – How in the world am I going keep myself on track?
Below is my personal set of sticking points. When I implement them, I tend to turn my desires into lifelong patterns. Try one, two or all of the tips below to ensure that your new, positive habits stick for good.
Create A Vision. I enjoy vision boards of all kinds: collage boards, internet boards, Pinterest and so on. It's not just about the type of board, it's mainly about the vision board in my mind. I see the future like a movie reel in my head. I see what and how I want to live, and it reminds me of my truest desires and vision. Visualization, followed by the physical act of creating a vision board help give me a goal reaching platform that I am deeply connected to.
FInd Your Center. Yoga and running-,these two things are my saviors. They keep me sane. They center me. Keeping yourself grounded by doing the things that center you will help keep your fire alive.
Float Your Own Boat: Sometimes I have to remind myself that this is my life, I create it. And that’s what I tell myself. Do. What. You. Want. Disclaimer: the consequences are yours as well…good or bad.
Set Yourself Up For Success: I meal plan, lay my workout clothes out, organize my closet, balance my checkbook (Do other people still do that?), whatever it is I have to do to prepare. I do it. This is where setting aside time for yourself comes in. Manage your environment.
Reward…Often…I deserve it. I ran an extra mile today? Looks like it’s lavender vanilla latte time! Ate my goal of 10 fruits and vegetables a day? I deserve a delicious tub soak. I find I'll run an extra mile quite often or get those veggies in, just to get me closer to my favorite café or into a relaxing tub.
Get Back On That Wagon. This one is the kicker…the real make it or break it point. When I fail, and we we all do, I do utilize everything in my "I think I can" toolbox. These include eliciting support, finding healthy alternatives, getting cozy with my emotions (see my blog about releasing negative emotions), taking a breather and utilizing the power of nature through flower elixirs, homeopathy and aromatherapy.
You'll Get There, My Pretty. They say it takes 21 days to create or break a habit. But who are "they" anyways? It’s my life. It’s your life. And we all master things at different times. In fact, new research reveals that the average cultivation period is more like 66 days, and for some people it can take up to 254 days to form or break a habit.
I have a friend, who shall remain nameless, that for the sake of competitiveness can make a habit stick in just a week or two. I, on the other hand, take a little longer. I'm not discouraged, however, because I know that if I want it bad enough, I'll get there.
While I'm not a professional habit counselor, I have envisioned, planned, implemented, failed and re-implemented enough in my life that i know what works for me. You have to find what will work for YOU. Things that help you to keep on the straight and narrow. Find them. Write them down. Use them. These are the activities that help you to think clearly, center you, ground you, that make you feel like you. They will always bring you back to the reason you wanted to create this healthy habit or change in your life.