Before I reveal to you what the ONE thing you can do to create healthy habits which will lead to sustainable lifelong transformation is, let’s first see what habits are and how does the road-map to creating new habits looks like.
What is Habit?
Oxford dictionary defines habit as “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.”
By all means, habits are certain behaviors that we’ve been practicing for some time, where in similar situations we tend to automatically react on a similar way. Like when you enter in your car and fasten your seat belt. Do you think of it before or as you enter in the car? I’m certain you don’t. Cuz I know I don’t. I just get in the car and just it on without even paying attention to it. Or when you wake up in the morning and you go straight to the bathroom to brush your teeth. Or when you come home from work and you hang your coat on the chair (I’m guilty of that).
What I’m trying to say here is that these things didn’t happen overnight. It took you some time consistently repeating them for you to be able to automatically do all these things. Which leads me to my point: Creating HEALTHY HABITS and TRANSFORMING your lifestyle is a PROCESS, not an event. It takes time, patience, and persistence to develop new habit, and the only way to do that is through constant repetition.
ROADMAP to developing habits
One of the best models that explains the process of installing habits is the Transtheoretical model. It consists of 5 stages, and the main idea is to move from one stage to the next whenever you are ready to make that transition, without skipping any steps.
Precontemplation – when you are in this stage you don’t even have any intention to make a change, whether because of lack of awareness or information, or because you tried to make the change in your past and you failed at it, and now you feel hopeless and don’t even consider making another try;
Contemplation – in this stage you are aware that you need to make a certain change, but you are still not ready to commit to taking any action towards transformation in the next 6 months;
Preparation – when you enter in the stage of preparation, you know that you must start acting if you want to make the change, and you start to prepare and come up with a plan of action;
Action – In the action stage is where you start to implement your plan;
Maintenance – you enter the maintenance stage when you practiced your new behavior for 6 months. By that time that behavior should already feel natural to you, and become part of your lifestyle. Once you enter this stage, the changes of you relapsing and returning back to your old behavior are very slim, although not unlikely.
Now let’s look at the main reasons most people fail to develop healthy habits and what you can do to avoid that happening to you.
Why people fail to develop healthy habits?
Try to change everything at once – by doing so, people get overwhelmed soon after they start making the change, and go back to their old habits.
Start with a habit that is too big – same thing happens here too.
Focus on the goal, not the lifestyle – keeping their focus on the big thing they try to accomplish, prevents them from focusing on the small things which are going to get them there.
Stay in the same environment – whether it is the physical environment or the people they surround themselves with, if that environment constantly reminds them of the old habit they are trying to break, then they are setting themselves up to failure to make the change.
What can you do to avoid all this?
Set goals – it will give you clarity and help you define the actions that you need to take to get there.
Pick only one thing and stick to it until becomes automatic – start with transformation in only one area of your life, and once it becomes natural, move on to the next;
Start small – dissect your big goal into small mini goals and start from the bottom, then upgrade as you go along.
Focus on your behavior, not the goal – concentrate on each step that you need to take, keeping your goal in mind.
Create a strategy – write down all the obstacles which you might run into, and create a strategy on how to defeat each, and every one of them.
Piggyback your new behavior to an existing habit – if you are trying to develop a morning habit, tie the new habit before or after an existing one and consistently do it in the same order.
Change your environment (physical and social) – making a lifestyle change sometimes requires change of environment as well. If that is the case for you, don’t be afraid to change your physical environment (moving to another apartment, find new job, take different route to/from work), or your social environment (if a family member or friend drags you down, avoid being in contact with them or meet only on your terms, until the new behavior becomes part of you).
What to do to develop sustainable lifestyle habits?
Now you’ve probably done some of these things in the past and at some point, you still went back to your old, “bad” habits. And that’s because while you were taking action to change your behavior, you didn’t do the MOST IMPORTANT thing: you didn’t act on changing your internal values and belief system. When making a lifestyle change, changing your belief system will set you up for long term transformation.
A study done by Dr. Lawrence W. Green about 30 years ago, revealed that when people make behavioral changes without changing their internal values, beliefs, and attitudes were less likely to stick to the new behavior once external support disappears. This is especially true, when you rely on somebody else’s support and motivation for helping you make the lifestyle change. And when, for whatever reason, that support is gone you are more likely to go back to the way you used to behave before.
Therefore, if you want to make a lifelong transformation the BEST strategy is to start looking within yourself and find an internal motivation and drive. Then, align your core values and beliefs with it. One way to do it is with making a list of your social values (values which you developed under the influence the people in your surroundings and society) and list with your true values (your true, core values and beliefs). The bigger the gap between these two groups the bigger the chance for you to go back to your old behaviors. Once you have these two lists written down start working on bringing them close to one another until they become one. And the way to do that is to consciously, through small steps, fine-tune your thoughts, words and actions with your core beliefs and values.
And remember, EVERY SMALL STEP COUNTS.
Until next time!