At some point, a lot of people have tried to build a new habit such as exercising more often, eating healthier food or reading more books. They had good intentions. They wanted to improve themselves and by so doing change their lives. After a few days of going to the gym or eating vegetables for lunch, they gradually slipped back into their old lifestyles. They might feel guilty about this but eventually convince themselves they gave it their best shot. Maybe they just aren’t the reading type. What went wrong? Instead of taking small steps, the people in our example wanted to take a giant leap.
Building a new habit isn’t easy. When you start to build a new habit, you are making a commitment to change the trajectory of your life. Naturally, you will face resistance. Old habits die hard. If you eat six chocolate bars and a cake each day, your mind will rebel if you switch to a vegetable only healthy diet the next day. You have spent years reinforcing your old habits. You will need patience to discard them in favour of a new one.
When building new habits, it doesn’t matter what you can do on a good day. What matters is what you can stick with even on a terrible day. There will be lots of terrible days when you make a commitment to lifestyle change. If you have never been the type to exercise before, you will probably be able to do one hour of exercise at the gym on the first day (That’s a good day). By the third day, when your muscles start aching, you might find yourself looking for an excuse to quit.
When you start, it’s more important to build a new routine than to focus on achieving success. 10 minutes of walking each day might be a more realistic place to start for the person who has never exercised in their lives. The act of showing up each day and walking around your neighbourhood reinforces the new habit you are trying to build ie exercise more. It also lets you explore your new habit in a safe environment with no pressure. By the time you have done this for a week, you would have recorded a number of wins and started on the path to making your new habit stick. At the end of the week, you could increase your walking time to 12 minutes. By the time, you are able to walk for 30 minutes each day, you could take your commitment to the next level by signing up for a gym membership. By then, you have already created a new mental image of yourself: You are now the person who exercises every day.
Small consistent changes will make you more productive not giant lifestyle changes. If you would like to read more books, start by reading ten pages a day instead of 50. Generate interest around your new habit and celebrate a few victories. It doesn’t look like much but trust me, the little things compound. The individual who reads only 10 pages a day will have read 3,650 pages by the end of the year. For someone who never read before, that’s a huge improvement.