Habits are crucial to our success and happiness. But it’s not just any habit that will help us achieve success. Some habits can be awfully bad for us. Habits that add up to our goal are the only ones that will help us achieve success in our chosen goal.
Many times we talk about achieving weight loss, and we get so focused on the goal that we don’t realize that we first need to develop a habit to achieve that goal.
We keep visualizing the end about how we will feel once we achieve our goal of weight loss. So we look at small size clothing in the shops and begin to buy them too. I am guilty of that too.
We think that rewards will motivate us to achieve our goal. What we don’t realize is that yes, the smaller size clothes can be a good motivation to begin with, but it is only well crafted habits that can ultimately lead to weight loss.
Some of us focus on forming a habit, but we eventually end up trying to follow a habit that overwhelms us and we eventually have a breakdown. We go on a binging trip.
For example, if we take the decision to go for a run every morning at 5 am. How is it possible to be successful at this goal, especially if someone is a late sleeper and has a habit of waking up late in the morning? To change this habit requires forming a habit to wake up in the morning, sleeping early and then going for a run in the morning. That’s a lot to manage. It is possible to achieve this but may require tremendous willpower and focus.
Also it’s wise to say that breakdown is a real possibility with this strategy. Because some days you will want to sleep in or your body will be too tired, you will be too stressed. The truth is even if we succeed, it will not be a happy journey and there are real chances of losing our focus on other things that are important in our lives. So how does one form a habit that sustains and also keeps us in a happy place while we are in the formation stage?
In my many years of trying to build a habit. I have always focused on small goals. So for example, I start with forming a weekly goal and stick with it for at least a month. And initially, I try to make it as easy as possible.
So when I started with my yoga habit. I started with a goal of doing one class a week, in the evenings after work. It was easy, especially on Mondays or Fridays. Mondays because I have a lot of energy after a restful weekend and Fridays because I can push myself as I have a whole weekend to catch up. This way I allow my body to adapt to this change. In fact, the happiness I felt after my weekly yoga class meant that my body began to crave for it. Since I was not rushing, I had the time to feel the energizing and calming effects of a yoga class.
By second month, I started doing two classes a week in the evenings on Mondays and Fridays. By third month, I tried inserting a class on Wednesdays or Thursdays but I didn’t stress about it. With 2 or 3 classes a week, I was in a happy place and I stuck to it until I felt that I needed to change.
After about 3-4 months, when my body was stronger, I switched to a morning routine.
I again used the same strategy and started with 6:30 am class on Tuesdays. Why Tuesday? because it was the only day the class was available. I had a whole week to plan so that I woke up fresh at 5:30 on Tuesday to reach on time. Eventually, I started with one more day and now I can manage three classes a week in the morning without feeling stressed about it. I have been able to go for my scheduled class even on the most stressful and packed days.
Why is this successful?
First, because I have made a very specific goal and I have a whole week to achieve that goal.
Second, my intention is to achieve happiness, weight loss is a side result. If I can focus on this habit, weight loss or fitness will come on its own.
Third, it allows my body to adjust and adapt both in terms of a habit and strength. I took the time to understand the limitations of my body and other commitments and then worked on a habit that was achievable and sustainable.
The reason why I want to lose weight or be fit is because I want my body to be happy even in most stressful situations. This slow and deliberate plan allows me to feel happy and enjoy my happiness on a regular basis.
I did not try to stress myself trying to do a class everyday thinking that once I achieved my goal, then I can be happy. I understand that being fit takes a constant effort. And I need to form habits that I can follow in the long term.
I also understand that this strategy might not work in all situations but as long as we identify the kind of habits we need to achieve a particular goal and make a mindful effort to achieve it, we can succeed in most.
What are your strategies for forming a successful habit to achieve a goal?
This post was inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s post For Habits, Try the Strategy of Scheduling
I also like Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. It has some great stuff about habits