Once upon a time, a wise old man asked his son to take a walk with him through the garden.
After taking a few steps, the man stopped and asked his son to pluck a small flower out of the ground.
The young man grabbed the plant with his fingers and easily plucked it out. The wise man nodded and they resumed walking.
A few seconds later, they stopped again and the old man pointed towards another plant, a bit larger than the last.
The young man grabbed it with his hand and plucked it out of the ground with a bit of effort.
They resumed walking,
Again they stopped shortly after and the old man said “Now pluck out that one” pointing towards a bush.
The young man grabbed the bush with both of his hands and using all of his strength, barely managed to pluck it out of the ground.
“Now you see that small tree, there? Try and pluck that one.”
The young man grabbed the trunk with both hands, pulled as hard as he could but he couldn’t move it.
“It’s impossible. I can’t do it.”
“You see my boy, it’s the same with our habits. If we let them grow and take root it becomes harder and harder for us to stop them.”
Why are habits so important?
A habit is something we do so many times that it becomes automatic.
The quality of our life depends on the quality of our habits.
However, it’s all too easy to succumb to bad habits and once they have instilled themselves within us, it is extremely hard to change.
But the only way to make healthy changes to our life is to change our habits.
A great way to approach to do this is to start with something small.
Something so easy that there is no excuse not to do it.
In other words, starting small allows for the “lifestyle change” to actually happen.
Your identity has time to catch up with your aspirations.
The effort required to advance along a gentle ramp of small habits is doable for our brains which are hardwired not to change.
Do not underestimate the psychological power of making a small change.
The health and fitness industry is often bombarding us with transformational change, quick fixes and pushing through the pain. This just leads to burnout or losing willpower at some stage which can make us feel like a failure. It’s no wonder most of us are unhealthy! It should be about real lasting change.
By starting small, like the small flower in the story, it will take a bit more time but will grow and become a tree. That’s real lasting change.
Challenge your underlying beliefs
The story we tell ourselves about a new habit is incredibly important.
Behind every action is a belief.
It’s hard to change habits unless we start to challenge our underlying beliefs.
The truth is that most of the beliefs we have about ourselves are not actually true.
They are just narratives we have made up, in our minds, about what’s going on.
A couple of exercises to help you question your beliefs and find your own story;
- Ask yourself how you feel about the habit you want to create. Are you nervous or excited? Do you feel psyched up or lousy? This is all an indicator of what story you’re telling yourself. If you resent doing the habit, or see it as a sacrifice, you’re more likely to give up. But people with a strongly positive story will be likely to weather the storm of negative aspects of the habit.
- Start creating a better story by focusing on the things you like about the habit. You could focus on how much you hate the habit, or you could focus on what you like. Ask yourself who do you want to become and why? What would a person who is already living like this do? What would a healthy person do? How would doing this make me feel? Maybe you love starting a habit of walking more because it allows you to have some ‘me’ time and clear your head of stress or anxiety? Maybe learning to cook healthier meals means that you are a positive example for your kids? Maybe you see movement as a gift to your body rather than a punishment for eating that extra cookie?
5 easy and powerful ways to create healthy habits
1.Make it so easy you can’t say no
As previously mentioned, the first step when building a new habit is to make it easy. Like, really easy.
To create a better habit you need repetition and action.
So make it super easy for you to do. For example, if you want to move more, rather then saying you will go to the gym 3 times a week for an hour you could go for a five minute walk every morning.
It might not seem like much, but not only is walking the most underrated healthy activity you can do, it is incredibly powerful as it reinforces the identify you want to build. You build the repetition and action to become the type of person who walks every day.
2. Plan your habit
A large research study in the UK found that 91% of people exercised if they scheduled it in compared to just 35% who didn’t.
People who make a specific plan for when and where they will perform a new habit are more likely to follow through.
You could schedule your new habit to include the habit, time and location.
Examples could be;
After I wake up and go to the toilet, I will drink a pint of water at 8am every day.
After I eat my breakfast, I will go for a 10 minute walk around the block at 8.30am every day.
3. Increase your habit in very small ways
Rather than trying to do something transformational early on, always gradually improve.
Change that five minute walk to a ten minute walk.
Over a short amount of time, this reinforces the identify you want to build and you start making real lasting change.
4.If you mess up, get back on track quickly
We all miss screw up sometimes. Don’t think missing a habit one day means you are a failure! The mistake is in thinking we have to be like perfect robots when in fact we are complex human beings.
Failure is part of the process. Failure is only failure if we give up.
The key is to not let this derail all your progress.
Missing one walk or eating one pizza does not mean you have failed.
It’s about progress, not perfection.
So whenever you do slip up, try your best to get back on track the next day and try to never miss a habit twice.
5.Focus on the system, not the goal
It’s the system that gets us real lasting chnge, not the goal.
For example, if your goal is to lose 1 stone, you might go on a diet and take up running to achieve this goal. However, once you have achieved the goal, you will likely stop the diet and running because you don’t enjoy sustaining it. Inevitably, you will just put the weight back on straight away again because you have been focusing on the goal and not your system.
You can also change your environment by not having unhealthy foods in the house at all and keeping a fruit bowl in the middle of your kitchen so you will always see it.
If you followed your system you will still achieve your goal of losing 1 stone.
However, you have also created a system that has started to become a habit and therefore sustainable and enjoyable for you.
Take action now
Reading this article means nothing unless you take action straight away.
So I would like you to write down 1 small habit that you would like to start, schedule it into your routine and make 1 change in your system that will make it likely that you will stick with it.
Good luck 🙂