Starting a new habit or lifestyle, sticking to it for a few days, then slacking and finally giving up is a familiar experience for all of us. I remember not making New Year Resolutions for a couple of years because I wasn’t going to stick to them anyway. But the thing about wanting to improve in life is that, our belief systems keep changing. So did mine! And now, I am back to doing half-yearly resolutions too. I still don’t stick to them beyond 2 months, but I have made progress. So what is the Key to Building Habits?
It has been 3 years since I have been constantly struggling to form habits and I always felt that I reached nowhere. But recently, I realized that it’s not true. I am in a much better place now than I was 3 years ago. The progress has been slow. But there has been progress.
As a part of my daily routine, I so badly wanted to exercise and write daily. But I wasn’t committed enough to keep at them because after the initial novelty faded, they all got boring. This is where I stopped. This is where we all stop. And once we stop, it is difficult to start again. But do you know what our mistake is? We fixate on the ‘once we stop’ part. Once we stop, we feel dejected. We decide that this isn’t our cup of tea and not think of the habit again for a long long time. What is necessary is a shift in focus. If you look for it, you’ll find many other areas of habit building that you can focus on instead. Here are a few that has been helping me:
Making Starting Again Your Strength
I wasn’t strong enough to keep at it consistently, but I was strong enough to get back to my habit building. I’d start practicing Yoga, keep at it for 4-7 days, get lazy, stop, and within a few months, I’d resume again. You have no idea the number of times I have done the ‘Day 1 of Yoga’ in the last 3 years. But there always has been a Day 1. You stopped working out? It doesn’t matter. Start again! And make that your strength.
Getting Rid of Mindblocks
This has been my biggest enemy. For me, working out has always been about waking up early, working out for around half an hour, giving 100% for it throughout the session, and doing it every single day without fail. Which means, if I did not wake up early, if I were on my periods, if I didn’t find my work-out clothes, if I couldn’t give my 100%, if I worked out only for 15 minutes the previous day, or if I missed one day, there is a 95% chance that I’d stop working out completely. These were the mind blocks that always stopped me from working out.
But now, if I wake up late, I try working out during the day (thanks to work from home) or in the evening. If I can’t, I just work out the next day. I try not to let one day’s workout affect the other. Yesterday I walked 5000 steps. But today I got tired after 2000. So I pushed myself until I covered 3000 steps and stopped. You just need to write down all the silly reasons you’d quote to not work-out and then work around these reasons.
Experimenting New Ways to Keep at Your Habit
Once I started the habit, the next problem was keeping at it. One alternative to this is, going to a gym or a Yoga class and finding a mentor. But you already know that! I didn’t want to enroll for a class. At least not right now as I’ll have to go back to Bangalore any time. So I started trying out different methods. For instance, I started working out only during the weekends, I tried different types of Yoga, different Apps, Youtube channels etc to see what suited me better, I alternated between Yoga and walking, I spoke to other people who were constantly working out, I spoke to my family since they are all actively trying to work out more frequently, and I was on a quest to find what suited me. Granted, there never came a point where I continuously worked out for months. I always ended up slacking and having gaps in my work out. But I never got fed up of trying new methods
Getting Back to Your Habits at a Faster Pace After Each Set Back
The bright side of it was that, each time I stopped working out, I got back to it faster than the last time. If it took me 3 months to get back to working out in 2018, now it takes only a week. For instance, last month, I was doing Yoga every weekend. But I missed last weekend. So I started doing Zumba since Tuesday (11-08-2020). I missed Zumba yesterday. So I walked 5000 steps yesterday evening. While I was busy counting the number of times I gave up, I was getting back to working out more and that matters the most! If this isn’t improvement, then what is?
With respect to writing, I used to blog frequently in 2013 through 2017. But once I got my job, I barely wrote. Throughout 2018 and 2019, I’d publish one blogpost, promise myself that I’d write a post every week and then not come back for months. But the important thing is, I did come back. And every time I did, I decided not to give up and that was the important bit – not giving up. I did this so many times that now, in 2020, this is my second month of blogging every week.
The most important thing to understand is that there is no secret recipe. Everything you need to know about habit building is a google search away. There aren’t really many new mantras. But you definitely can search for people (youtube channels, books, blogs and podcasts) who put it in better ways for you. Some people have the ability to give you a better perspective. This is the key to building new habits. Finding different perspectives, choosing the ones you like and tweaking them to fit your needs, and forming a practice that helps you get back to your habits. When you get back to your habits long enough, you’ll be getting back to them every day. Isn’t that our end goal?
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