Another new year is off to a roaring start. Like many of us, you’ve probably decided that this is the year to make some major changes to your lifestyle. Good job! But it’s important that you set realistic expectations about what it takes to get from where you are to where you want to end up.
The habits you have acquired–things like exercise, diet, time management, and recurring thought patterns—have been built up throughout the course of your entire life. Breaking these old habits can be a massive challenge. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy making up your mind to undergo an instant transformation.
Breaking a habit is an ongoing process. A repeated commitment to yourself. Instead of focusing “unwanted behavior,” replace your old habit with a new behavior. The easiest way to break a bad habit is technically quite simple: choose a new habit–and continue choosing it.
Sounds easy, right? But we all know it’s not. Let’s break it down.
It’s difficult to establish or maintain any behavior if you approach it with resistance. Overpower your internal struggle by getting excited about your new lifestyle choices. If you want to eat healthier, learn more about food preparation techniques, overall nutrition, the benefits of organic eating and creative healthy recipes. If you’d like to spruce up your workout plan–or get started in the first place–try exciting new activities like stand-up paddle surfing, dance, hiking, tai chi or rock climbing. Join a fitness club, attend a sports meetup or register for a weight loss retreat to get inspiration and meet others who are on a similar journey and share your enthusiasm.
Consider how your new habit will fit into the rest of your life. Make sure your activities and actions elsewhere don’t undermine your new choice. This requires taking stock of how a particular new habit relates to other aspects of your lifestyle. Setting healthy guidelines and establishing boundaries on other aspects of your life helps you make decisions in the moment that support your new habit, not impede it.
Make a plan
Dwight D. Eisenhower famously declared, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” To implement a new habit, you absolutely must get specific about how you’ll go about achieving it. This is where experts can help. Whether you work individually with a nutritionist, personal trainer, or doctor–or consult all of the above at a weight loss retreat–their knowledge and experience can help you craft a realistic plan for starting and sustaining a new habit. They’ll help you outline a course of action that supports your new habit in a healthy, achievable way.
Don’t let yourself off the hook
One of the biggest setbacks in breaking an old habit is allowing yourself to revert to your old ways, then using this misstep as an excuse to stay there. Maintain consistent expectations but skip the self-judgment. If you slip up, all is not lost. Just jump back in ASAP. Shut down your inner critic the minute it emerges so you can focus on continuing to maintain your resolve.
Give it time
It’s safe to say that you’re not going to wake up one day and say, “Phew, I finally broke that old habit!” Breaking old habits is about the absence of continuing to engage in a certain behavior. We did say that breaking a bad habit could be easy–but we never said it would be fast. Think about your new habit in terms of months, not meals; quarters, not weigh-ins. If you see sustained progress over time, you know you’re on the right track.
On that note, lay off the constant personal check-in. Like the proverbial watched pot, you’ll just drag yourself down if you’re obsessed with scrutinizing your progress. Instead, focus on feeling good about your new habit and your decision to maintain it.