Have you ever had a friend who was more than an acquaintance and who you thought you knew pretty well, but then, you got on their Facebook and you found out you did not know them like you thought you did? That happened to me!
If you read my last blog, 6 steps to break a bad habit, you may be wondering how to progress past breaking a habit that takes you in the wrong direction, to moving in a better direction and changing part of your life completely.
When I first met Mark, he was what I called a “lean mean fighting machine”. Fit, determined and disciplined. He still is. We get along well. We always have plenty to talk about. We live in the same town and we have friends in common. Mark invited me to be his Facebook friend. I connected with him there and was shocked at what I saw. In some of his photos, Mark was obese! I took a double take. I could not believe it was my friend Mark in those pictures. I thought maybe the photos I was seeing were of his brother or uncle or someone other than Mark. The next time we got together, you can imagine what the conversation was about. I wanted to know how he did it. How did Mark lose the weight, keep it off and go from obese and unhealthy to healthful, lean and fit?
It is easy to shed a few pounds here and there. Just tip the balance. Eat fewer calories and expend more calories. Done. Weight loss. But keeping it off, now that’s a different story. Losing weight and maintaining a leaner, stronger, healthier lifestyle requires more than watching what we eat and exercising. For most people, it requires an intentional lifestyle adjustment that includes a magnifying glass look at habits and daily routine.
My friend Mark is a John C. Maxwell fan. He quotes leadership expert Maxwell as saying, “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret to your success is found in your daily routine.”
- Have Goal Clarity
Eliminating a bad habit means removing something from your routine. Starting a good habit means adding something to your routine. Habits serve a purpose. So, when considering how to kick-start good habits, it is important to look deeper than the habit itself. Analyze the purpose the good habit will add to your life. Become clear on how it will affect your most important goal. Mark’s most important goal, for instance, was to improve his health. He did not want to live any longer with the unhealthy repercussions his obesity was causing. He was determined to change. His goal clarity partnered with his determination is when his healthy habits began.
- Use Addition and Subtraction
Continuing with Marks weight loss as an example, dieting is commonly thought of as subtracting food from the diet. While that is true is some cases, dieting is strongly about what foods you add to the diet. The addition is where Mark liked to focus. He told me that when focusing on the things he was adding, he felt like he had some control and some power over the outcome. When he concentrated on the subtraction, he felt as if the sacrifice was in charge. This is true of habits as well. Concentrating on the new goal-focused habit you are adding to your routine is powerful. As you intentionally add life-enhancing habits and concentrate on those, the less desirable habits will become easier to recognize and easier to change or break.
- Set yourself up for success
Any new habit needs to fit into the way you live your life. Back to Mark. Exercising was not a part of Mark’s obese lifestyle. He never made time for it. So, when it came time to start incorporating exercise into his routine so he could meet his wellness goal, Mark wanted to set himself up for success. He started by walking from mailbox to mailbox down the street where he lived. He told me that the closest gym to his house was more than a half hour away and he knew that even if he paid a membership, the half hour one-way commute would keep him from making a habit of going to the gym.
When you consider the habit you want to add or change, consider the way it will feel to have it in your lifestyle. Be real and be honest with yourself as you think about it. Mark added the habit of exercise to his routine by starting with walking down the street. He was confident he could make that happen. Now, he is a member of the local gym and spends a lot of time there. I call him a “gym rat”. He has worked the half hour one-way commute into his routine. Mark’s goals and habits have progressed.
- Be Accountable
The best way to bolster a new habit is to have someone looking over your shoulder. Social media is a great tool for that and so is a “success partner”. Become accountable to others. Blast it out to the world, if you have the courage for that, or ask one person to walk alongside you. Take charge by being transparent. Your chances of success will increase by a lot if you know someone is watching and will ask you about it.
- Reward Yourself!
Victory deserves to be celebrated! As you make improvements pat yourself on the back. Changing habits is a process and a lot of work that should be rewarded along the way. Mark tells about how he rewarded himself with a new set of pots and pans, after his kitchen habits included cooking meals from scratch. Find little rewards to give yourself each month, week, or day, if that helps you stay on track. Simple rewards like a warm bath, a dinner out, or a walk along the boardwalk might be the very thing that reenergizes you to continue your pursuit.
- Be Patient
Change is hard and real change usually takes time, persistence and most of all patience. If change were easy, everyone would be doing it. The thing that sets successful people apart from the unsuccessful people is they stick with it and do it anyway. Even if they don’t feel like it. Be patient with yourself and take it one step at a time.
Many people don’t transform their bad habits. They live out their days unhappy and unhealthy. The sad part is, they don’t have to. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. How we use it and the choices we make are up to us. Mark wanted to lose weight and live healthy. He wanted it badly enough that he changed his old habits and created new ones. He used the same time to change his diet and incorporate exercise and an improved thought life, as the time he would have used to sit on the couch, make poor eating choices and be self-critical.
You can do it! You can move your life from where you are to where you want to be. Go for it!
Karen Creasey is a Speaker, Author, Health Coach and Personal Trainer. She is passionate about motivating, inspiring and educating people to improve their health, wellness and overall life performance. Karen is a cheerleader everyone needs! Find her on www.karencreasey.com