We all want a quick way to feel healthier, happier and more in control of our lives, but the truth is that long-term progress means working at your goals. That's not to say there aren't a few shortcuts if you're willing to concentrate your effort in the right places though. Here are three ways you can help form new habits and ensure you stick to them:
1. Patterns are the key to success
The key to sticking with a good habit is changing it from something you have to do into something you have to choose not to do. For example, if your goal is to exercise, it's no good vowing to visit the gym more, or even to go twice a week. That still means that your future self has to decide to go to the gym. It is far more effective to identify the exact time you're going to do it - say Monday from 6pm to 7pm. Once you've done that, it's not a matter of deciding to go, but rather of breaking plans you already made. You can swap 'time' for 'money' or any other resource you currently dedicate to a bad habit, or want to dedicate to a new one.
2. Set achievable, observable goals and constantly update them
As already mentioned, vague statements are the enemy of forming patterned behaviour. Saying 'I want to get slimmer' is a good overall goal, but there's no way to say how close you are to attaining it and therefore no way to say what you're losing if you ignore your plans. Good goals have numbers attached - whether it's how much weight you've lost or how much money you haven't spent on your vices.
|Take it one step at a time until you reach your target|
Good goals are also attainable. Don't try to reach your ultimate goal the first time out, because then you can only either succeed or fail. Instead, aim for smaller successes, allowing you to succeed multiple times on your journey. Even when you fail, you'll still have that achievable goal within reach, and all your past successes to assure you that you can do it.
One great tip for smokers is to start making an e-cig a part of your smoking routine. This can replace more and more cigarettes; each time you choose to use the e-cigarette, it is a small success and can lead to you eventually kicking the tobacco habit for good.
Just remember not to get stuck on a low level goal - once you can lift the small weights, move on to the bigger ones.
3. Be kind to yourself
We can't help but acknowledge our failures, so be sure to reward your successes. The nature of the reward doesn't really matter - it's about providing yourself with evidence that you can use to motivate later behaviour. Even a sticker chart will be surprisingly helpful, as it makes your progress something you can observe.