Positive Triggers to Stay Motivated When Starting a New Habit
When I started my career as a coach, in the beginning it was truly meant to reignite my own need to make some serious life changes. In doing so, thru research and observation, I noticed that many of my friends, women, ranging from 21 and 80 years old were struggling in areas of health, finance and every day mundane tasks that I myself had let slide. I wasn’t alone.
I began to take the dusty knowledge base of a past aerobics instructor, nutritionist, accountant and teacher, tweak it and create a plan. Sharing academic and pragmatic knowledge that could help others view sustainable action steps to transform the mundane into confidence and courage. All the while looking at life through a lens of pure joy.
How? Through developing healthy habits and what it takes to form a habit. You might be thinking “I just need to make myself do it” right? I have found its just not that simple. Life happens all the time and most often has a wrench in hand to trip you up.
30 plus years of knowing what to do and actually doing it…that education is still continuing, but I can say with some clarity that I know what it takes to get to week 4. If that sounds crazy, I’ll tell you that the only weeks that really matter are weeks 3 and 4 and weeks 6 and 7. These are the “Habit Hangovers.” If you can make it to week 7, you’re likely golden. But here’s what it takes to stay motivated.
IDEAS THAT WORK WITH ACTION
I’ve never seen a failure of will, but I’ve seen 1,000,000 failures of focus. A failure of will is something you see on TV when a triathlete is trying to cross the finish line at an Ironman and just runs out of gas. They stumble. They can’t get up. They pass out. This is NOT what is happening when you hit the snooze button instead of getting up for the gym. Which is great, because those triathletes are having a really bad day. You’ve just forgotten your “why.” Or to be more specific, your “what.” So before you read any more of this, ask yourself, “what is the best version of me that I want to be? And what does that person do every day?” Write it down and put it next to your alarm. Or make it what your alarm says when it goes off. You’re in this to be the best you that you can be.
1. Pick a habit that doesn’t require motivation. Whaaat? A habit that doesn’t require motivation?! Yep. These are the little things you can do to change your environment that will have big impacts down the road. Professor Wendy Wood, the academic with the best model for habit formation, recommends forgoing willpower and motivation altogether by picking actions that keep you away from your habit cues altogether. Instead of resisting cookies, get all the cookies out of your house in the first place. Instead of getting a small popcorn at the movies, don’t get popcorn at all. And she would know! A bunch of her experiments showed that we will mindlessly eat popcorn at the movies, no matter how stale it is, just because it’s a habit. Trying to save an extra $1000 a year? Instead of going in to the convenient store to pay for your gas, pay at the pump.
2. Outsource what you can*. Yes, you can outsource motivation. It’s as easy as calling a friend and telling them what you’re up to and why you are doing what you’re doing. Or emailing them. Or texting them. Just the act of involving another person will make the triggers and rewards more apparent.
3. Plan to adjust what you can’t. When it comes to behavior change, only one thing matters: momentum. It doesn’t matter if you’re moving ahead quickly or one step at a time, you’re moving forward. So when the going gets tough, make the tough easier. Instead of eating no sweets, try eating one sweet a day. Instead of going full paleo, eat a piece of toast once in a while. Make a new plan and treat is as seriously as you did the old plan. You’re moving forward. You’re getting there. Now call your friend and brag a little.
To be fair, a habit is sort of confusing or unclearly defined. I think we can all agree that a habit is anything you do regularly, but according to the definition used in psychology, a habit also needs to be done automatically — as in, without really thinking about it. Which is why identifying habits by yourself is so hard. How can you think about the stuff that you don’t have to think about?
Which is probably why we missed this next habit. And it’s exactly why this habit is so important for weight management and wealth.
You see, all habits need a trigger — a little reminder that says, “Hey, you should do this action now.” They also need a reward — a little reminder that what you just did was a good thing. But these are really hard to identify by yourself because they happen below our level of consciousness. It’s really hard to remember new triggers, and it’s hard to remember to reward yourself. Habits are hard.
But here's a habit that makes all the other habits we think we need on our list to succeed actually come to goal fruition...
*FINDING PEOPLE TO SHARE YOUR JOURNEY
Permanent lifestyle changes happen in relationships. Whether they take place with peers, a coach, family, friends, coworkers, the other anonymous people at the meetings or the other new recruits who joined your business team with you, new habits happen when people get together and help each other out.
Finding your own triggers are hard. Seeing other people’s is easy. Remembering to tell yourself, “Great job!” is hard. Remembering to tell other people is easy. Figuring out how to work new foods, new activities, and new steps into your own life is hard. Watching and learning from a whole bunch of other people like you who are trying to get to the same place you are is just so much easier! Even my colleagues, habit experts all, needed each others’ help to figure this problem out.
I call this habit, this all-important, Number One Habit, “Creating a Tribe of Consistency.” Putting the players in play to guide and encourage you, possibly even trick you into success. This can be as big a commitment as hiring a Coach, signing up for a free consultation or as simple as telling a friend your goals and inviting them to join a group with you to stay accountable. I highly recommend Live Well Now. Whatever you can do to share the load of learning, planning, remembering and rewarding will be one less thing you have to worry about.
Oh, and it doesn’t have to be around a campfire singing kumbaya. However fun, support doesn’t have to be fluffy to be effective. In fact, one of my greatest mentors and motivators was an Army Drill Sergeant, who has taught me more than a thing or two about being consistent, and he sure as hell never sang kumbaya with me. Maybe Steppenwolf.
Heres to a Vibrant-Stronger-Healthier-Sexier-Beautiful You!
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