It's been just over two weeks since we rang in the New Year. If you resolved to change or create a new behavior for 2013, how's that going? I'd love to be able to tell you there's a magic number of days needed to carry out your new behavior in order to make it a habit, but the truth is it's different for everyone. I've heard it can take anywhere from 21 to 30 days to create a habit, but your compliance also depends on your starting point and how achievable the new habit is on a daily basis. People who have the most success rate their behavior changes as a 9 or 10 on a scale of 1-10; 10 meaning you can without a doubt, easily carryout your habit each day. Working on several of these, one at a time, can add up to big results.
Instead of telling you to keep going for another two weeks because after that it will be smooth sailing, here are three things to help you stay compliant.
1. Planning: Winston Churchill once said, "He who fails to plan is planning to fail", and how true that is! Think of an action plan as a map to get you to your destination aka your goal. Without it, you might get lost along the way and delay your arrival time. For example, my goal last year was to lose the baby weight I had gained while pregnant with my son. I worked on a new habit that supported my goal every 2-4 weeks, and had the path planned out into small, achievable steps.
Short term planning is also essential. I like to prepare for my week ahead on Sunday. I map out my workouts, go food shopping, cook and prepare food for the week, and wash my workout clothes. Each week I know when I'm working out and what I'm eating to support my goals. Bam! Good decisions are now that much easier to make!
2. Resilience and Adaptability: Often times when I meet clients initially, they mention they used to exercise but stopped because of a short term illness, injury, or a chaotic work schedule. If you had the flu for a week and stayed in your pajamas all day because you were sick, would you continue to wear your pajamas everywhere after you felt better? Probably not. There will always be curveballs thrown your way, but finding ways to work around them is your best bet. Just because you took a day or a week off from your plan doesn't mean you have to stop indefinitely. It shouldn't be an all or nothing situation either. If I can't exercise my scheduled 5 times a week, I do as many as I can manage instead of just skipping my workouts altogether. Anticipate these challenges ahead of time and focus on the things you CAN do each day to bring you closer to your goal. For example, a client of mine had an elbow injury, but instead of cancelling our sessions, we focused on what he COULD do. To his surprise there were tons of exercises he was capable of without using his injured arm.
3. Visibility: Create multiple reminders about your goal in highly visible areas. I like to write mine on a sticky note or index card by my computer. Put reminders in your calendar (both paper and online). That way, even when things get hectic you'll be less likely to let it slip your mind. I also find it helpful to list out all the reasons your resolution is significant to you, whether they're big or small. Looking over these gives me more resolve to stay on track. Lastly, try creating a collage of motivational images or phrases that inspire you. I included pictures of myself when I was at my goal weight, images of inspirational athletes, and phrases like "you can throw in the towel or you can use it to wipe the sweat off your face".