All of us experience the same frustration.
We want to change our life for the better. But where do we start?
Habits are important. It’s an acknowledged fact. BUT for that we need the willpower.
That’s a lot easier said than done. I’d rather have that candy bar RIGHT NOW, than fit into that swanky pants a far away six months later.
So, how do we harness that elusive, slippery willpower?
Turns out, we have to sneak in that stuff. Grab it by the tail and slowly rope it in, trick by trick.
Good news. It’s not hard as it sounds.
Take Rachel for example..
Rachel’s battered old car broke down, right in the middle of the road. The repair shop was jam packed and she wasn’t going to get back her car for another two weeks. To get to work, she had no choice but to walk to the train station everyday. It was a brisk twenty minute walk.
The first two days, she overslept and raced all the way to the train station. The third day she got wiser. She went to bed half an hour early and woke up ten minutes earlier. That day went much smoother.
By the fourth day, Rachel was waking up twenty minutes earlier than her usual time, and even had time to sneak in a toast and coffee before she headed out. The brisk walk made her feel more awake at work. She noticed, by the time she had to walk back home in the evening, she was famished. She added more proteins to her lunch so she could stay full longer. Rachel even took time the previous night to set out her clothes she needed for the next day.
By the time her car was fixed, Rachel had started waking up half hour early, eating a healthy breakfast, walking for forty minutes a day, making better, healthier choices for her lunch and plan out her clothes for the next day. Rachel had made strides for a healthier, calmer, planned out lifestyle – something she had always wanted.
What did Rachel Do?
Rachel got lucky. Her car broke down, forcing her to build in one small routine to her day. And that set off a chain reaction. One domino hit the next, which got the ball rolling, that got the string to pull up..and well you get the idea.
So , should we all wait for our car to break down?
You could. But why wait?
Pick Something small
To make considerable changes to you life, you need to start somewhere.
If you’ve been reading my posts, you would’ve already guessed.
Somewhere small. Somewhere inconspicuous. Like hiding vegetables in a snack for a toddler.
Why would you start small, when you could go big, you ask?
Because, at the start of the journey, it’s the small wins that keeps us in that path.
It’s the feeling of being more awake, that makes us stick with that brisk walk. It’s the feeling of lightness, that keeps us journaling and the feeling of quiet contentment when the food you made is enjoyed by your family, that makes you stick to cooking.
It’s these tiny things that make the big changes less daunting. By keeping your mind on the next step and only the next step, you end up walking miles.
Pick a habit, roll with it and build momentum.
Focus all your effort on one thing
Have you ever tried having a conversation with a bunch of toddlers at the same time, all of them vying for your attention?
You end up harried, overwhelmed and ready for a nap, all in a matter of minutes.
Our habits, at the toddler stage are just as demanding and overwhelming.
Doesn’t it make sense then, to pick just one and focus on it?
You will feel a lot less overwhelmed, connected and might even have some fun.
Trick your willpower
Good habits free up some valuable space- in your schedule and in your head.
In the case of Rachel, her habit of putting out the clothes she needed for the next day meant, she didn’t have to make the decision in the morning.
Do you know what this means?
You are tricking your will power. Coddling it. Telling it it’s not overstretched at all. It’s not tired. It’s not time to slip away yet.
Now Rachel can eat eggs instead of a doughnut. Because, her willpower is curled right beside her, purring contently.
Your Confidence Grows
With every tiny change, your confidence grows. You were able to make one change after all. The next one can’t be harder than that.
And your willpower, the one you tricked to stay by your side, recognizes it. It becomes your constant, loyal companion.
Fall off the wagon sometimes
Embrace your fall. You will want to snuggle in deeper into your covers, you will want to skip cooking and order out. And that is OK.
The whole purpose of building a house is so you can travel far and return to a safe haven at the end of the day. Not so you will never leave it.
Habits are your safe haven, your grounding mechanism. Develop a night routine so that once in a while you can stay up talking to your loved ones.And when you do that, the night routine makes sure,that one night doesn’t derail you for a month. You leave so you can come back.
So feel free to fall off the wagon. But make sure you get back on it.
A Firm Foundation
Will any random habit do?
Any good habit you can tackle, will work the same way. But our mission is to trick our willpower. And there are tricks. Then there are some good tricks and some fantastic ones.
Charles Duhigg, the author of the mind-bending book “The power of habits” calls these fantastic tricks “the keystone habits”.
The keystone habits no matter how small, creates a snow ball effect.
Because it can change your self-image. Once you develop a positive habit, you start to notice something else that could be improved, and start working on that. And so it goes.
Before you know it, you can fit into that sleek black pants, and you didn’t even notice the six months slip away.
Cheat sheet of Keystone Habits
- Making your bed: According to Dr. Randall Bell, a socio-economist who spent nearly three decades studying high-achieving people, says, this cake walk of a habit will inspire you to have a productive mindset for the rest of the day and spark other productive behaviors.
- Cooking your own food: You will gain control over what and when you eat. Paying attention to what you eat means you’re already half way to a healthy lifestyle.
- Exercise: This is the habit most people have sworn by and it’s not hard to see why.
- Practice gratitude: This surprising little habit holds quite a punch.
- Sleep: If there is one habit I would recommend,it’s this one. Because the effects are almost immediate. One good night guarantees a good day for me. This one is a big factor in how long I can trick my willpower.
- Start a journal: Your brain needs a regular dumping session just like your body does. Writing is thinking. But now, you have the added benefit of noticing your thoughts. Often thoughts pass us by unnoticed. But unnoticed doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect our lives. Thoughts build our lives. And when we notice them, we have the power to work on them.
- Meditate: The best is as always saved for the last. This habit brings awareness into our lives. And that’s all we need to build a better life. To build something we first need to figure out what we need.
The keystone habits are not one size fits all. While all of them can create a positive change in our lives, the most effective one varies for each person. Pay attention to which one gives you a huge boost, the one that gives you more energy, puts you in a better mood and makes you motivated to add even more good habits.
But the most important thing is to BEGIN. Start anywhere. Follow your curiosity. It might take you places you’ve never imagined before.