Adopting New Habits Just Got Easier

Don't make it any harder on yourself than you have to

As we move into Back-to-School season, lots of us are thinking about learning, growth, and transformation. But change isn’t easy! Follow these 5 tips to make it as easy as possible to adopt new behaviors, establish new habits, and make the changes you want in your life.

Focus on habits, not outcomes

“I want to be healthy!” “I want arms like Michelle Obama’s!” “I want to have great work-life balance!”

These are all awesome outcomes, to be sure, but the way to get after each of them (or all of them) is through behavior change and establishing habits.

A habit for being healthy might be eating veggies at every meal; for Michelle’s awesome arms, it might be a weightlifting routine; and for work-life balance, it might be focusing on transitions between work and home. Habits are the way for you to gain control over your outcomes.

Select your habits carefully

It’s easy to get carried away when you’re starting new habits. Don’t pick too many – it’s hard for our brains to focus simultaneously on multiple behavior changes. If there are more than 3-5 you’d like to focus on (a client recently told me she wanted to make 18 changes!), take them in chunks. And focus on the one(s) you’re most passionate about first.

If you get a couple of weeks into your habit change and realize that one of them just isn’t working for you, feel free to modify it so that it serves you better, or drop it for the short term as you focus on the others. You can always pick up new habits later!

Set the bar low (yes, low)

When you’re establishing new habits, it’s super-important to give yourself the gift of success. One of the best ways of doing that is setting the bar deliberately low. To gain the habit, you need the dopamine hit of succeeding at the thing you want to be doing.

How low should you go? If you want to make a behavior change, think about what the threshold, or minimum acceptable level of change would work for you.

With a new exercise routine, could you commit to 10 minutes a day on those days where you TOTALLY don’t feel like it? Then, set your goal at 10 minutes a day. You might be exercising 30 minutes most days, but if you can see your way through to doing 10 minutes on your “off energy” days, you’ll be meeting your goal. And that feels great!

Remember, you can ramp up your goals once you’ve established your habit.

Be flexible

We tend to think of habits as black or white, on or off, success or failure. Reality is more nuanced than that.

As you’re changing your behavior, you’ll have moments of imperfection. Which is great, actually, because with every imperfect action, you’re learning how to get yourself back on track. Lots more realistic than being perfectly perfect from day one to infinity.

Give yourself grace, too. If you had a dear friend who was learning how to do something new, you wouldn’t expect perfection from her, would you? And if she veered a bit off track & made a course correction, you’d be thrilled for her! Treat yourself like that friend.

Stick it out (for 66-ish days)

If you really want your new behavior to be the norm for you, stick it out until it takes root. Habits can take 18 to 254 days to establish, and some might take longer than others. When your new habit becomes so automatic that you don’t even think about it anymore (and that includes arguing with yourself about it), you’ll know that you have integrated it into your life. This is definitely a place where slow & steady wins the race!

Originally published at katedixon.org

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