TL;DR: Achieve your goals with my advice for developing good habits.
Sometimes I wake up, and I don’t want to go to the gym. And I ran the NYC Marathon! After I had an ACL injury, I got into a gym avoidance habit, even though exercise and physical therapy was what I needed for recovery. I had to reevaluate my motivation for exercise and think about how to get back on my sore feet, literally.
Here are the steps I follow for building and rebuilding habits:
Make a realistic specific goal
Identify what it is that you want to achieve. Maybe it is a better physique, a promotion at work, or being more confident in yourself. Every new habit you create takes you a step closer to your goal.
For instance, if I want to run the marathon again, running five miles a day at the moment would take me further away from accomplishing my goal because I could re-injure myself when I haven’t fully healed. Instead, I picked a specific goal I could perform easily. I decided that I would work out for 30 minutes each day on the treadmill because I know I consistently have a half hour. If I had picked a workout after work, I wouldn’t have defined what I’m actually doing.
And if I can’t commit to defining my goal, I definitely won’t complete it.
One great way to form new good habits is by starting small. Taking small steps toward your desired goal is ideal so you won’t get overwhelmed. Rather than thinking of exercising every day, start with two days per week. Set a specific time such as 12:30pm where you walk for 10 to 30 minutes during lunch.
The idea is to create small, attainable actions that you can perform regularly. The easier the actions are the better. When you do an action every day, it will eventually turn into a habit.
Create a Successful Environment for Change
When you are planning to make a new habit to change your life, you have to visualize and plan how you will do it. You must have steps in mind to achieve your desired goal.
For example, your goal is to eat healthier. You may want to make your first step throwing out foods in your home that aren’t healthy. That way on days you aren’t motivated, eating unhealthy won’t be as easy going to your kitchen and grabbing a sugary or salty snack.
Visualize doing the new habit
Imagery and visualization are powerful tools. They assist us in mentally familiarizing a routine or a scenario.
If you want to start a morning routine, visualize yourself running 5 kilometers in the morning. Think about yourself waking up early, changing into your running outfit, and going out the door. Because you have already thought about this routine step by step, it will be easier for your body to respond.
Plan for obstacles and challenges
There will always be obstacles and challenges when starting and sticking with the new habits you’ve formed. When old habits creep in, expect that you’ll feel demotivated. Then, prepare.
For instance, I know I may skip the gym because I don’t have time. I’ll make time if a friend or trainer is joining me. I’ve prepared for the demotivated moments, and I keep going.
You can, too. Committing to habits starts short-term and builds into a long-term commitment and recommitment.
To up your habit-building game, read my e-book “Adopting New Habits” with weekly exercises. For a more personalized approach take my accompanying course.
Rewarding yourself is a very important part of the process. You condition yourself that good things will eventually come when you stick to the habit you have formed.
Forming new habits can be hard—just think about your last New Year’s resolutions. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make it simple and fun. You need to develop your process and go at your own pace; after all, habits don’t just happen overnight.
And, if you weren’t able to perform the new habit that you are starting, don’t let yourself get off track. Just start again the next day.
Forming a habit and sticking with it takes a lot of work and consistency, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Give yourself time, and you’ll be well on your way to living your new habits and a better life.
If you’d like to be on the waitlist for the upcoming Adopting Productive Habits book and learn more about how you can adopt healthy habits and create support, you can submit a book inquiry through our contact form.
Krysti (Lan Chi) Vo, MD, is a psychiatrist, speaker, and advisor that helps people become the best versions of themselves. Visit our website and subscribe to see more content like this.