The Problem We All Have With Habits…

Our eyes are bigger than our tummies.   Our intentions are bigger than our schedule.  And our ‘shoulds’ are bigger than our ‘musts’.

There are lots of things we should change. Our income, our relationship, our jeans size.  It’s only when a should gets bumped to a must that we change our habits.

If your goal is based on ‘should’ you can forget about it.

You can forget about it because there is a must just waiting to kick its half-hearted ass off the schedule.

  • A catch up with friends.
  • Getting the kids to ballet
  • Helping your partner out with something
  • Whatever it is this week at work

‘Shoulds’ just don’t stand a chance.

Our habits have grown out of behaviors that met a particular need at a particular time.

When a few extra kilos have crept onto the hips.  When we find ourselves drinking red wine more nights than not.  When we have unhealthy communication patterns with our loved ones.

We tend to overcompensate with our plans for new habits… and the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

So, where an extra couple of sessions of cardio a week would strip the unwanted kilos, we promise ourselves we’ll hit the gym 6 days per week (and take out a new 24/7 gym subscription because all those hours of available access mean we can train any time of the day or night, right?).

Where we could schedule three alcohol-free days per week we declare that we’ll have 12 months of the turps…

We aren’t helped in this by the media.

We’re force-fed compulsive behaviours like sugar saturated junk food or sanctioned binge drinking.  

Alternatively, we are pitched short-term sales driven lifestyle improvements like 12-week churn and burn ‘transformations’, gym memberships that 85% of people will never use, cleanse diets that create a false (nutrient-deprived) sense of wellbeing.

At both ends of the spectrum, common sense is lost.

So at the beginning of the new year – notorious for the false, but well-intentioned, promises we make to ourselves – here are three things you can do build a new habit that will last i.e. a habit that will become a habit, not a memory we look back on at Easter with a pinch of remorse and self-flagellation.

  1. get some advice
  2. start small and build slow
  3. make yourself accountable

I recently decided it was time to have a break from alcohol.

I knew I didn’t rate as a heavy drinker, but I suspected (and my research immediately confirmed) that I did count as a binge drinker – 5 drinks in a 4 hour period.

First, I got some advice – I googled ‘health effects of alcohol’.  Sobering reading.

Then I printed out a blank one month calendar and pinned it to the fridge.  Every morning when I woke I put an X on the calendar.  I set myself the initial goal of 7 days.  I told my daughter that I was going to stop drinking for a while, starting with 1 week, and showed her my calendar so she can see and understand the growing chain of X’s.

Every day that I haven’t had a drink, I get to put an X on the calendar.

I did the week, and then the month and now I’ve set myself another goal.  It’s a little longer, requires a separate achievement and I’ve told my kid about it to keep myself accountable.

I did the same thing when I wanted to get back into shape after being seriously ill a few years ago. I wrote out on a piece of paper “minimum 10 minutes” and for every day I did a minimum of 10 minutes of constant exercise, I earned an X. After a month I changed the heading to “minimum 15” and so on until the habit was embedded and I could switch it to 4 sessions exercise with three days off. When I completed the week I would X the week past.

I’ve used the “Don’t Break The Chain” method made famous by Jerry Seinfeld to build and break a number of habits. You can Download my template here for a weekly, monthly or yearly calendar to get you started.

Download Weekly Template  Download Monthly Template  Download Yearly Template  

I love those three rules – getting advice, starting small and making yourself accountable.  They bullsh*t-proof my intended change. If I catch myself aiming for big changes in short periods, these three little chestnuts put a reality torch on it.

Scientists, governments and health bodies all over the world increasingly agree that the majority of preventable diseases and causes of death (including cancer, heart disease and obesity) can be avoided.

The means to this is remarkably consistent.

(Next blog we talk about the last point and really drill down into what the term ‘exercise’ really means)

If you would like realistic, no bulls**t help to create healthy new habits, take 30 seconds and complete our quiz, come in and see us, bring your pals and build yourselves some new chains.


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