I think often when we get caught up in life we want to work on ourselves and improve. However, it is hard to know where to start when you find yourself wanting to make some lasting changes you know will enhance your quality of life.
I was in this boat many times: I had 15 to 20 pounds I wanted to lose, I had educational goals, and I also just wanted to get things done around the house because I hate clutter. Working full time, I felt like there was never enough time in the day. I had to sit back and really ask myself what do I really want to do?
Asking myself what was really important started to help me figure out ways to accomplish my goals. For me the key has been identifying specific habits I have wanted to build and take my time getting there. I love resorting back to my previous weight loss efforts as an example because year after year I would find myself having to start over and over again. I would beat myself up because the formula seemed really simple for weight loss, right? All I needed to do is eat right and exercise. The problem was I tried to do it all too fast too soon and would just get burnt out.
Let’s say your goal is to start eating healthier. First, ask yourself why you want to incorporate a new habit. Ask yourself, “why would this benefit me?” From there figure out what your current habit is. For instance, do you already eat fairly healthy and just want to make little changes to your diet or are you someone who eats completely unhealthy all the time and would like to make a more significant change for the better?
Asking these questions will help you set up a realistic level of expectation and help you to figure out a road map to get to your desired end goal. For instance, if you know you follow an unhealthy diet the majority of the time, start out by replacing just one meal with a healthy meal and give yourself some time to get used to it. Once you feel comfortable with eating one healthy meal a day, build on that habit. This may take you a few weeks or even a month or two, but realizing habits take time is key to your success. Try focusing on celebrating your smaller victories. It’s ok to be proud of yourself for consistently eating one healthy meal a day for two weeks. Realize that is better than where you were previously! With that said, sometimes things are just not as simple as forming one new habit. Sometimes our goals require a more structured routine.
I think a routine is essential to building lasting habits. It is a few weeks into the New Year and many people want to become more fit. I have been seeing so many people at the gym, but within the last few days the gym is not as crowded. Have you heard the saying it takes 21 days to form a habit? It may be likely these people who I haven’t seen in a few days have reached the make or break timeline for building an actual habit. If working out more consistently is a habit you want to form you will likely need to incorporate this habit into your overall routine and schedule. Here’s an example:
I work all day. Sure, I have standard office hours like most people have, but to be honest, my days never go as scheduled. I started realizing this when 5 p.m. would turn into 6 p.m. and so on, and it was becoming harder and harder for me to be motivated to make it to the gym after work. However, my fitness goals were very important to me so I decided to switch up my routine. I knew first thing in the morning would be my best bet because it was the one time during the day where I had the most predictability in my schedule.
Each day I made it a point to set my alarm and just wake up at 4:30 a.m. At first it was very hard. I won’t sugar coat how I felt each morning. I was never a morning person so each day was a huge struggle, but I kept focusing on my ‘why.’ As the days went by, I realized part of the reason I felt awful so early in the morning was because I wasn’t getting enough sleep. After realizing this, I just started going to bed earlier. From there the morning wake ups got easier. About a month into it I felt like I established a habit and working out became part of my new morning routine. The best part is my workout gets done, and I have more time in the evenings to focus on my education and ensuring my house is more organized!
The truth is we all will prioritize things accordingly. If something is truly important to us, we know we need to make time. I recognize I only have so much time in the day, but I continue to prioritize what is most important. Start out small and build over time. Remember to take a step back and ask yourself why you want to incorporate a new habit and set realistic expectations on how you should execute. You’ll be surprised how just a little bit each day will make a lasting change to your lifestyle.