I was recently asked to share how I have consistently shown up for myself and the strategies or techniques I practice to create new habits. It hasn’t been a quick process. I only add (or subtract) one thing at a time. I have implemented change by practicing one small habit consistently. For example, getting up and drinking a glass of water before I do anything else. As one change became more habitual and required less redirection, I added another small change. When I begin a new routine, I strategize ways to make it as easy as possible. It is normal to resist change. We love routine. Our minds are happiest when we do not surprise them. There are simple ways to make it easier and attain great success.
There are five ideas or principles that have aided me on the journey.
- Take it SLOW. My meditation teacher, Michael O’Brien, often says that slow is fast. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it has been critical in successful changes for me. When we try to change something quickly or go all in, often our brains throw a fit and resist. It becomes too hard to sustain, and we quit. Slow progress creates an environment that fosters the success of change over time. We can keep pace. We can easily add an extra glass of water without much resistance from the brain. We take one small action and build upon it slowly. Over time, we get farther faster. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.
- Our excuses are our reasons. All the excuses we make not to eat healthily, work out, or go to bed at a reasonable hour are ALSO all the reasons we would benefit. Think about that. I talk about this principle in detail in Exchange Excuses for Reasons. For example, claiming you are too overwhelmed and stressed out to take care of yourself is the reason why taking care of yourself is critical.
- Have clarity and specificity in what you would like to accomplish. Our brains do not like vague statements or plans. There is too much room for interpretation and justification. If I say I want to improve my relationship with Todd, it is important to create actionable steps to make it happen. I need a map. One actionable step could be starting each day with a cup of coffee and a few minutes of conversation to connect. This step is tangible and measurable. It is an actionable first step that can be built on with other actions.
- Motivation is not mandatory. That’s right, we can do things and not be motivated. I get up in the middle of the night to let my dog out to use the restroom. I show up to work when I am scheduled. I drop off my daughter at her day program. I stop at the red light. I am not motivated to do most of these things EVER, but I still do them. Lack of motivation is not a problem and there is nothing wrong with you if you are not motivated. As we begin to practice new habits, we are not going to want to do them. It is uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Resistance is what change feels like. Expect headwinds and embrace that they are a sign you are on the right path.
- Building integrity with ourselves. Self-accountability is another tool that is paramount in showing up consistently and attaining our goals. Self-accountability is not an easy tool to develop. It might be best to start out in a group that helps hold you accountable. We tend to show up for others more consistently than we show up for ourselves, but over time we want to teach ourselves the gift of integrity. Like any skill, the more you practice self-accountability, the better you will get at it.
Consistency is built one day at a time. It is not a linear path. Falling back on well-established habits is normal. Sometimes you will get off course, but the faster you come back to your practices, the faster you will be back on track. Soon you develop habits that make the new path smoother. Slow is fast and fast is smooth.