It’s interesting, when I ask people if they’ve chosen any new habits, goals, or resolutions for the New Year, I most often get, “no”. I wonder if it might be because so many of our intentions didn’t work out from years past? Were we too focused on ‘All or Nothing’ challenges or perhaps our schedules were too hectic to begin something new to start with? Perhaps you knew where you wanted to go, but just didn’t know where to start?
If you have failed before, or have felt that making a lifestyle change just isn’t ‘worth the hassle’, here are 3 simple strategies you can use to get going and keep moving forward despite life’s insistence on the status quo.
The first one is from a YouTube channel I follow called “Better Ideas”. The channel focuses mostly on systems refinement and thought processes around productivity, self improvement, and mental focus. Recently, (I’ll link it below) was a pretty good one where he tries to get you to accept the concept that the You of today, was decided on and inevitably created by, ‘90 days ago’ You.
The You in the now is the sum total of all of the choices you made 90 days ago through to this moment. Whether you were super productive and living your best life or binged all 11 seasons of The Walking Dead eating macaroni and cheese doesn’t matter anymore. It happened, and 90 days ago You isn’t in control any longer.
Rather, take this moment to understand that somewhere, out there, is 90 days from NOW You. He/She isn’t real yet and you have the ability to shape who that person can become. There’s nothing special about the 90 day figure but you have the opportunity to make different choices moving forward. Defining where and how those different choices manifest themselves is entirely within your control and in accordance with real life circumstances.
Continuing with the theme of alternate versions of ourselves is a little more concrete example I’ve personally been using for a couple of years now to really establish some lifestyle and habitual goals. In his book, “Atomic Habits” James Clear puts forth the idea of behavior change supported by the establishment of a new ‘identity’. The process works both in the positive, “I am a writer” and also the negative, “I am a non-smoker”.
The concept is simple, you settle on a new identity around a particular habit or trait you want to incorporate. In my case it was running. Saying that I’m going to run more or even setting a goal of ‘I’m going to run a half marathon’ wasn’t really dialing in the behaviors I wanted to establish.
Instead, I began declaring that, “I am a runner”. Now runners run, of course, but there becomes a whole host of fallout behaviors that runners do that incorporate a lot of the changes I was interested in making. In addition to running regularly, runners also; track their mileage (personal organization), incorporate regular mobility and stretching routines (physical wellbeing). A person who is a runner may also be more cognizant of their overall eating habits (establish a healthier weight) and may even examine strategies to improve their performance (staying out of ruts). In short, becoming a runner is much more than just establishing a habit of ‘running more’.
This last one is from a podcast the always amazing Hillary suggested to me. It was an interview with the aforementioned James Clear. During the conversation they discussed the very idea of failure. With any goal or resolution we set for ourselves, life’s difficulties WILL get in the way. Understanding the inevitability of this truth is central to making lifestyle changes. How do you deal with a situation where you aren’t meeting the standard you established? His answer was really great I thought.
“Reduce the scope….Keep the schedule”
If the goal was to exercise for 40 minutes 4 days a week and your Tuesday session was blown up for any reason at all, fit in 15 minutes of pushups and squats and call it good. You won’t get into great shape from 1 workout, nor will you lose all your gains from missing one. Skipping when things come up can become a habit too however, so instead, cut down on the expectation of the session and stick with the schedule thereby improving what really matters which is consistency.
This sort of rule gives us permission to live in the real world. Stuff happens that blows up our routines and goals all the time. That aspect of life won’t ever change so waiting until things calm down or get easier isn’t a viable strategy over the long term. Work with the time you have to achieve the results you can reasonably attain.
As a starting point I like the one that goes, “If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you choose to do?” I mean, how cool would it be to accomplish 80% of that, or even 50%.
Where do you start?
When do you begin?
YouTube – Better Ideas – Your life was already decided
Atomic Habits, James Clear
Interview with James Clear – Tim Ferris Show Podcast January 4th 2023
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