I am the king of new endeavors when it comes to self-improvement. It doesn’t matter if it’s January 1 or July 1. I get these waves of ambition or catch a random idea and I’ll attempt to build a new habit.
For example, each year I attempt to learn a new language. I’ve had this as my new year, new me goal each year for the past decade. Just to give you insight to how it’s going, I still only know one language.
The same thing happens with my health goals. I give my all to a new plan, just to see it fail a few weeks down the road.
They say only 7% of new resolutions actually stick.
So why do some new habits stick and others don’t?
Well, I think I know why and these are the five factors to make your habits stick.
You Identify With It
First, you have to see yourself as the person who does these things. I am the person who values health and as that person what decision would they make? I do have a couple of success stories when it comes to new endeavors and whenever I think of the common characteristics I think about how I truly saw myself as the person who did that activity. If it was starting my meditation practice, I was a person who meditated. If it was a journaling practice, I was a person who journaled. If it was competing in triathlons, I was a triathlete. When it comes to starting a health related practice, I am a person who values health.
Identify as the person who has that characteristic.
Focus on the Process, Not the End Result
In our coaching experience, the common reason we see so many people become frustrated when trying to lose weight is that they are constantly focused on the end result. There’s a weight they want to get down to and that’s their main focus. Their success is measured by hitting these targets. So what do they continue to experience every single day? Failure because they aren’t achieving their goal.
By focusing on the process of building the habits of the person they want to be, they can visualize their successes each day.
Be Realistic with Your Time and Attention
Every once in a while I’ll come up with this bright idea that I should workout twice a day. The first workout will be my conditioning focus and the afternoon workout will be my strength focus. I’ve seen tons of people do it and they’ve had amazing results with this process. On day one I complete my morning conditioning workout, I shower and get right to my normal job.
Then life happens and all plans go out the window.
When making these aspiring plans for my health I neglected to factor in that I had a full-time job that requires my attention. I have a couple part time jobs which require my attention. I have to be a good father to a baby that is just now one year old. I have to be a good husband to my wonderful wife and oh yeah I have to find time to de-stress from all of this.
And I’m trying to add to this full plate?
Many times when we think about the habits we want to onboard we forget to factor in how it’ll actually fit into our life and the willpower it’ll take to stick with it. Sure, adding in a five minute activity doesn’t sound like a big deal but when you are already doing so many other things it can get overwhelming.
Be realistic with your time and the attention this new activity will require.
Perfect One Habit at a Time
I’ll blame the baby boomers for this obsession with multi-tasking we have in our society, but our brain can’t do many things well at the same time. Sure I can listen to a podcast while washing the dishes and be awesome at both, but neither of those tasks are really going against the grain of my already established habits. A common process we follow with our health coaching clients is to focus on building one action at a time and then become really good at that action.
We can use getting in some non-starchy vegetables as an example. We often recommend a few handfuls of non-starchy vegetables each day and for some this could be challenging. So we don’t talk about how many proteins they’re getting each day or how many carbs or fats. At this time, none of that matters. We only want to focus on the non-starchy vegetables and we stick with this process until it becomes a habit. Something they don’t even think about anymore. And with this process, we only encourage them to be slightly better than they were previously. Then and only then, do we move on to other aspects of the journey.
Find a Coach or Community
Our environment shapes us in so many ways. I would argue they influence nearly all of our decisions in life. When it comes to sticking to your new health goals, the community you surround yourself with will matter. When the grind of sticking to this new goal gets hard the community or coach will help give you the encouragement you need.
You don’t need to do this alone. There has never been easier ways to find communities who are on the same journey you're embarking on. Throughout our coaching practice we've heard time and time again the struggles of people who were trying to go at it alone and that we were their only positive health influence. We as coaches can help, but if you really want this new habit to stick then you will have to be in an environment that supports your goals.
Starting a new health goal is hard. It’s hard to change the habits we’ve become used to.
Identify as the person you want to be
Focus on the process
Be realistic with your time and attention
Perfect one habit at a time
Find a coach or community
These tips will help you stay successful in your journey.