Do you roll your eyes at overnight transformations due to new, healthy habits such as “I lost 50 pounds in 2 weeks” or “I quit my job and made millions from blogging”? These transformations seem too good to be true because they are. Forming healthy habits doesn’t happen overnight. Anyone who tells you that is obviously a bad liar. But what about transformations that seem achievable? Things like working out, spending more time with your spouse, finishing school, or losing weight. These are goals we can work towards, although there’s no overnight fix.
Setting Habits That You Stick To
This is where forming new habits come in. We replace unhealthy habits with new ones. Or at least that’s the goal, right? How often have you started a new habit only to give up on it after a few days, a week, or maybe a month? The reason why most people can’t keep up on their healthy habits isn’t that they are lazy, unmotivated, or apathetic. The failure comes from the fact that we think too big. If we want to lose 20 pounds, we focus on the 20 pounds. We might not ever get started because the goal seems unachievable. If we do make an attempt, we start by going on a diet or exercising and we quickly get worn out. It’s too much too soon. In addition, we don’t create an atmosphere that encourages our habits. You probably need to work on daily habits like getting enough sleep, taking vitamins, or removing stress before you jump all into a new diet or exercise program. The bigger picture matters. Besides setting the bar too high, we just don’t have the time. As much as I’d love to workout for 1.5 hours at the gym, it’s not happening, sister. If we want to carve out 1.5 hours of time for the gym, then something has to be removed to make that happen. You have to prioritize that goal in order to stay motivated. If you think your priorities are health and wellness, but you can’t make time because of other priorities, then you should be honest with yourself. Maybe you only have 10 minutes. Make that count.
5 Steps To Sticking To Your Goals
So let’s take an honest look at setting healthy habits. These 5 tips will keep you on track.
1. Start Small.
Maybe it’s waking up 10 minutes earlier in the morning. Maybe it’s choosing to replace your carb-loaded dinner with a healthier dinner. If your goal is about relationships, maybe it’s choosing to come home earlier from work to spend time with one of your children. Instead of focusing on a large scale change, think smaller.
2. Break down your new habit or goal into simple steps.
One thing I’ve learned about raising a child (now adult) with autism is the use of graphic schedules. Because my daughter struggled with things like brushing her teeth, combing her hair, showering, and cleaning her room, we broke down the tasks into small steps and displayed them for her in areas of the home based on the task. For instance, taking a shower would look like this:
As you can see, the graphic breaks the task down into very simple steps. The overall goal is to take a shower, but there are many steps involved. What if you took a big goal and used this process to work on all the smaller goals leading up to the bigger goal. Look at the goals you want to achieve. Maybe it’s healthier eating. If so, then break down the steps into smaller goals.
- Replace one meal a day with a healthier option
- Create a grocery list
- Schedule one day a week to grocery shop
- Buy healthy snacks instead of sugar-loaded ones
You might even want to look at the emotional aspects of how you eat.
- Journal feelings in a diary once a week
- Talk to a friend about my feelings
- When stressed, go for a walk instead of eating sweets
- Clean out the pantry and remove tempting foods
- Take more time for me
- Get more sleep
- Re-evaluate my schedule and remove stressors where I can
When you break down a goal like this, you aren’t doing all the steps at once. You are taking one small step and focusing on that until you achieve it.
3. Work on one goal until you’ve mastered it.
It doesn’t matter if it takes a year or two months. Work on one goal until you feel you no longer need to think about it anymore. In the above list, I mentioned getting more sleep. This can be broken down even further into time periods. Going to bed 10 minutes earlier, then 20 minutes earlier, then a half-hour earlier and eventually you get an extra hour of sleep each night. That extra hour of sleep will energize you, balance your mood, and possibly help with your food cravings.
4. Aim for effort, not perfection.
When do we know we’ve mastered a habit? Think about a time when you were scheduled. Maybe you woke up at the same time every day without being reminded. Maybe you took vitamins at the same time every day. When the dogs needed to be fed, you fed them without forgetting and without being asked. This is when you know you’ve mastered it. Does that mean you are perfect? No. Sometimes you might sleep in, get busy doing something and forget to take your medication, or have an appointment and the dogs don’t get fed. The point is that 9 times out of 10, you are on top of it and no one is telling you to do it.
5. Celebrate your wins.
Sometimes we get caught up in how far behind we are or how far we have to go. By congratulating yourself on small wins, you are motivating yourself to continue. Every time you choose a healthy food option instead of an unhealthy one, pat yourself on the back. If you get an extra hour of sleep, note your effort and give yourself some credit. When you get through a hard day at work and can still be patient with your kids, this is worth celebrating! Instead of thinking how far you have to go, think about how far you’ve come. Need help getting started? Download my free Big Ideas List which contains a 2-page list of habits you can work on. Pick one from the list and use the strategy above to keep on task and stomp your goal! One at a time, you can make it happen.