We are all creatures of habit. According to the Encarta English Dictionary, habit is defined as:
“hab-it (noun) 1. Regularly repeated behavior pattern
…an action or pattern of behavior that is repeated so often that it becomes typical of somebody, although he or she may be unaware of it.”
The operative word in this definition is unaware. A habit is to do something without thinking or without intent. Take for example your morning routine: you wake up, brush your teeth, take a shower, comb your hair, etc. Whatever your daily ritual is, you enact it every day almost without fail — and without intention. On the other hand, forming habits is an altogether different beast. Forming a habit requires a good amount of intent and forethought if it’s to make its way into our everyday routine, especially when the habit you’re trying to introduce is a healthy one! For those of us who have ever tried, or are currently attempting to create a healthy habit, it’s possible you may have used a tracker or app to help get you there. And, if you haven’t yet tried a tracker, we suggest you do!
Trackers can be great motivators, but their impact can be short lived. When we are “all in,” tracking will help us get to where we want to go. When our commitment wanes, so too does our tracker use. New Year’s resolutions come and go, gym memberships languish unused and our running shoes collect dust. Trackers even tend to be stuck in the drawer after a few weeks! Why is it, that despite our good intentions, it feels nearly impossible to make headway when it comes to self improvement? There are some who might say we lack commitment, we have no willpower or worse, that we are quitters. Before you give up, consider this: maybe the reason we aren’t successful following through on our self improvement goals is because we are actually being too hard on ourselves.
Try Climbing Molehills Before Mountains
We all tend to bite off more than we can chew. This is one habit worth breaking. Instead of starting off small and saying we’re going to run once a week for a half hour, we commit ourselves to running every other day for an hour. Instead of promising ourselves to do ten pushups every morning when we wake up, we set our goal at fifty pushups before breakfast. Our intent is well-meaning but we’re setting ourselves up for failure by trying to do too much right out of the gate. How many of you have tried and failed to walk 10,000 steps the first time you used your tracker? Just because the Surgeon General recommends 10,000 steps doesn’t mean it is right for you!
Try this instead. Start by setting a low goal. And we mean low. If you want to run, try running for ten minutes instead of thirty. If you want to do pushups try doing one instead of ten. Sounds too easy? That’s because it is. Starting with something simple that requires much less time may seem fruitless to you. But the chances of you following through increase exponentially. Before you know it, your low goals become a part of your routine and habits are formed. Low goals inspire positive behavior that create good habits and ultimately open the door for greater accomplishments.
But don’t go it alone. Use your tracker to act as a reminder or better yet, a workout partner. Set your tracker to alert you at the same time each day when you want to exercise. After a while, you will have formed a habit, and you won’t need the reminder to exercise. Now all that’s left is to start striving for some loftier goals by starting small.
Take Small Steps to Make Big Changes
If you’re commited to creating healthy habits, using a wearable device or app to document your progress and keep track of your fitness schedule can be indispensable. We suggest setting up your tracker to make scheduled, incremental increases to what you are doing. This way, having created a new habit, you can glide into more intense workouts without hitting a wall! Now, it’s not a matter of will I exercise, but rather a matter of what can I do to build on my success? Which means you can focus on how effective your workout is and how much progress you’re making. The key to preserving your new healthy habit is to increase your effort in small amounts. An extra set of reps here, ten more minutes on your run there. A gradual and scheduled buildup prevents you from getting overwhelmed and disengaged from your health goals.
So the next time you put your sneakers on, remember to start slow and small and give yourself a break. As soon as you release yourself from the unhealthy habit of self-sabotage, the sooner healthier habits can be formed; one day at a time, slow and steady wins the race.