By Erika Fehrenbach Prell
Know what today is? Today is around the date that most people have given up on their New Year’s resolutions. If you are one of the masses that started out the year with good intentions and have found yourself falling short, shrug the guilt and extend yourself a little grace.
Feel better? Great! Grace period is over, time to get back at it. Kidding, not kidding. To quote one of my dear friends, there’s a fine line between grace and excuses, Dream Chaser. And no one on their dream chasing, goal getting, best life journey has time for excuses or quitting, so let’s get back at it.
I’m about to let you in on a secret to where the source of your failure may be…and it’s the exact place to take time to evaluate and take corrective action to learn from the failures and move on to success. It’s your habits! Those every day actions you don’t even think about or realize you are doing are your goal breakers or your goal makers.
That dream in your heart…that goal you are going after? Your habits are the key to making them a reality. To use your habits to your advantage as the goal maker, you need to understand the basics of how they work. Here’s a quick basic habit review before we move on:
A common reason we fail in our dream chasing, goal getting journey is we forget about habits, which is easy to do since they automatically happen. We jump into our goals and resolutions, making plans and taking big action. As our enthusiasm wanes and willpower fades, our already established habits kick in, inevitably leading to failure at reaching the goal. Here’s an example: the goal of eating healthier. You get all the vegetables, cut the sugar, throw out the snacks, drink the water. All goes well for a day or two, until you start getting hungry or having a craving for your old comfort snacks. You have a soda here…a few chips there…a little extra cream in the coffee…before you know it, you have circled back to where you started. Sound familiar?
Behavior change is possible when you work with your habits, not against them. Try these strategies to Flip the Script on habits, turning them from the goal breaker to the goal maker:
1. Small Changes = Big Results
Changing too much at one time is a recipe for goal breaking. Modifying your behavior slowly to give yourself time to adjust is less shocking to your brain and more likely to lead to lasting behavior change in the positive direction. We all want a quick fix or magic wand. The truth is it took time for unserving behaviors to point you in a negative direction, and it will take time for positive course correction. These small, seemingly insignificant daily actions compound on each other over time creating big results.
2. Stack Them Up
An easy way to add a new habit into your routine is to use the strategy called habit stacking. Habit stacking is where you add a new behavior with an already established behavior that is also a habit. This helps you remember to do it and makes the new behavior a new habit quicker. An example would be to practice gratitude when your alarm goes off in the morning or drinking a glass of water when you brush your teeth.
3. May the Cycle Be With You
Ready to create a new habit? Make sure to use the 4 pieces of the habit cycle (cue, craving, response, reward); each piece is needed to create a new habit.
4. Practice Makes Permanent
Habits are formed from repetitive behavior. The jury is out on how many repetitions are needed, ranging from 20 to 70 times. Why the range? Like many things, all behaviors are not created equal; easier behaviors and more enjoyable behaviors often become habits quicker. Regardless, you need to practice and be consistent to create a new habit or modify an existing one. Tracking your progress, setting phone reminders, and doing the new behavior at the same time in the same way every day will help.
5. Slam the Door
As mentioned earlier, habits are permanent brain pathways. They do not go away but can become inactive over time when not being triggered. This is the key to long term success…slam the door, twist the lock, and throw away the key on those old, unserving behaviors. Going back, even for a brief interlude, is likely to reactivate and restart that old habit!
As you can imagine, there is a lot that can go into habits. If you would like to dive a little deeper, I highly recommend the book Atomic Habits by James Clear; it’s one of my favorites! If learning more about the power of the compound effect, the concept of how small behaviors over time makes a huge difference, check out The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson; this was my start into personal growth and development. Let’s upgrade those habits, or develop new self-serving ones, that make getting after our dreams and goals just what we do!
Jackie White has been writing about life and its ups and downs for many years. With a degree in Industrial Psychology and a life-long student of personal development she is intrigued by how each individual chooses to live their life. Jackie feels strongly that truly living your best life is imperative to attaining peace and fulfillment. SoulShine was borne of her desire to inspire and teach others to live their best life. This is her mission and her dream.