“If you own this story you get to write the ending.” ― Brenè Brown
Did you know that 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail by mid-February?
But this does NOT have to be you.
You have already decided that you want to create a positive change to your health. You have a VISION of a healthier you. Now you just need to work out how to get there; to achieve your goal.
If you’re tired of giving up on your health goals, of getting lost in the mundane grind of the day-to-day, of knowing where you want to go, but not knowing HOW to get there… the following is a simple outline of a 9 Step Habit Creation Plan that will help you create your new health habit in 21 days. For by now most of us are aware that habits take at least 21 days to master and to become automatic. The exact timing depends on the complexity of the habit you wish to create (or break). Repetition and practice are crucial.
Step 1: Identify the ONE New Health Habit You Want to Change
But I have LOTS of habits to work on!! Why can’t I do more than one? The answer is that your brain has a finite supply of self-discipline or willpower. Willpower is your ability to override your default habit loops, and it takes concentration and motivation to do this. Because you only have so much of it, you must focus only on one change at a time, so that you can devote your full supply to this vital change.
So, ask yourself what difference you REALLY want to achieve first. Write it down. This is the end point where you want to be in 21 days.
Step 2: Identify the components of your habit.
Every habit is made up of three key components.
Cue: or trigger. This is what sets off the habit (good or bad).
Behaviour: this is what happens when the cue occurs.
Reward: this is the result gained from the behaviour.
For example: Procrastination -
Cue: being asked to do a task that you perceive may be boring or time consuming.
Behaviour: you make excuses not to do the task, putting it to one side saying that you will tackle it later.
Reward: you do something else instead that you enjoy.
Step 3: Link Your New Habit to an Existing Habit
One way to ensure that you remember to practice your new habit every day of your life is to connect it to something you already do that is a well-established part of your routine. By doing this, you are cuing your brain to remember your new habit, and are establishing a reliable connection for your new habit loop. An example of this type of linkage is to change into your workout clothes every day just before you leave work.
Step 4: Identify Potential Road Blocks and Set-Backs and How You Will Deal With Them.
You know what they say about the best-laid plans, right? No matter what you anticipate or plan for, there will be challenges, temptations, and even setbacks on your road to a new habit. Developing an “If, then” plan will help you mitigate these factors and know ahead of time what you will do in case of these outcomes. By doing this in advance you will be able to push on through them.
Step 5: Make time every day to practice your new habit for a minimum of 21 days.
Time is often the most pressing obstacle that most people find it hard to get past. Not having time to work out, prep healthy meals, etc. is the number one excuse for people not engaging in their new habits. You must come up with a plan for what you will do if you do not have enough time. For example, if you get off work late, your plan may be, “If I do not have enough time for a full workout before I have to pick up the kids, then I will walk briskly for 20 minutes.” This ensures you are making incremental steps toward your goal and still engaging in some activity that is increasing your activity. You will know when you have successfully learned your new habit when you do it without planning or having to consciously think about doing it.
Step 6: Make yourself accountable to someone else.
Depending on your chosen goal it may be that you decide to get a coach or mentor. By doing this you are reinforcing your desire to achieve a successful outcome.
Step 7: Take positive action.
Identify the steps you need to take and take them. Be positive. If you are not positive and committed to your goal and new health habit then you are less likely to succeed.
Step 8: Reward yourself.
Reward yourself when you have achieved your goal and created your new habit. You will look forward to earning it if you make it something you really want; it will act like a carrot!
Step 9. Integrate Your New Habit into Your Identity.
If you want to really make lasting change and have your new habit stick around longer than the first 21 days, then you have to BELIEVE that this new person, the one who does this particular thing, is you. You must value this new behaviour as part of what makes you special and unique. This step is more of a mind shift than a behaviour or action, and will take time. But, if you do not decide that you ARE a healthy person who eats vegetables every day, then you will never adopt this habit full time. You will be the person who reverts to old habits after a few months or even a few years when you do not OWN the practice and decide that it is part of who you are now, always and forever.
Creating a new habit is an intentional process. You must be committed to achieving your goal. By creating a plan you are increasing the level of success you will have because you are taking action.
This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy. This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.