How many times have you set out to form a new habit only to crash and burn?
With the best of intentions, you’re excited and motivated to make some serious change. You confirmed your new behavior with your diary, calendar and maybe even a loved one.
You’re committed, and the transformation starts first thing tomorrow morning.
….except tomorrow morning comes and goes. And so does the next morning, and the next, until you abandon the idea altogether.
Good-bye morning yoga practice, healthy food choices and evening family time! And hello self-defeating thoughts of, “why can’t I do this?”
Changing behaviors can feel like one of life’s great mysteries.
But why does it look so easy for some people to develop new habits — like jumping out of bed at 5 am — while you hit snooze five times every morning?
Well…because change is really, really hard and you can’t expect it to happen overnight. Those people you admire, or are slightly envious of, have worked hard to develop and stick to their good habits.
Your brain is pre-wired and requires serious retraining to incorporate new behaviors into your daily routine.
According to Psychology Today…
Habit formation is the process by which new behaviors become automatic. If you instinctively reach for a cigarette the moment you wake up in the morning, you have a habit. By the same token, if you feel inclined to lace up your running shoes and hit the streets as soon as you get home, you’ve acquired a habit. Old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form. That’s because the behavioral patterns we repeat most often are literally etched into our neural pathways. The good news is that, through repetition, it’s possible to form—and maintain—new habits.
So how can you form new habits?
Develop A Routine
Like the good scientist at Psychology Today suggest forming good habits — or bad habits — is accomplished by repeating them.
And the best way to ensure you practice something daily is to develop a routine.
While our routine helps us develop good habits that are in line with exploiting our full potential, it also helps to eradicate bad habits that do not serve us well. We can slowly replace our bad habits with good ones through repetition.
One theme I have encountered through my experience as a professional development coach — and something that I have refined over the years — is the importance of a morning routine.
A morning routine also happens to be the one things that all successful people have in common.
Whether it’s guzzling a large glass of lemon water, doing yoga, sitting in silent meditation, or cold water plunging — yep, self-help guru Tony Robbins claims he jumps in cold water every morning — successful people do it every single day.
It’s just a regular part of their morning…
…like brushing their teeth.
A consistent morning routine helps set the tone for the day. Something as simple as making your bed every day can determine how the rest of your day will go.
Reduce Your Choices
A good routine also reduces the number of choices you need to make throughout the day.
Knowing exactly what to do and when eliminates the covert feelings of constantly needing to decide what to do next. Like choosing if you should get takeout for lunch or eat the healthy meal you prepared ahead of time — because eating healthy, home-cooked, meals is one of your new habits.
Developing and sticking to a routine is the best way to ensure you practice your new habits.
It’s also a gateway to achieving your goals.
Because when your behaviors and actions are aligned, you’re able to live a life that feels good. And you can reach your fullest potential.
So what are some ways you can develop new behaviors?
Think Baby Steps
You would never show up the day of a marathon untrained and expect to run the whole thing.
No. You’d start with short runs and build up your stamina through proper training. And the act of putting your running shoes on everyday is how you initiate the habit of running…until you can run a full 26 miles.
According to blogger, James Clear….
If you’re serious about making real change — in other words, if you’re serious about doing things better than you are now — then you have to start small.
Imagine the typical habits, good or bad: Brushing your teeth. Putting your seatbelt on. Biting your nails.
These actions are small enough that you don’t even think about them. You simply do them automatically. They are tiny actions that become consistent patterns.
Track Your Progress
Keeping a diary or calendar — like my Expedition Ascent Plan — that allows you to monitor what you are spending your time on is an excellent way to track your progress.
If you notice your time isn’t being spent on activities that are helping you establish your new habits, you can subsequently make adjustments and get back to following your personal routines.
And seeing what you’re doing on paper, whiteboard, computer, gives you the confidence that you are on the right track again.
Don’t Let One Action Lead to Another
While writing this blog post, I got up to get a glass of water only to realize I hadn’t fed the cat.
So I fed the cat. Then read a few messages on my phone. And was about to start in on something else when I remembered I was writing a blog on forming new habits.
….as you probably know, it’s easy to get off on a tangent and into a rabbit hole that has nothing to do with what you set out to do.
Maintaining focus can be difficult — especially in this day and age when instant gratification is everywhere — but it is essential to staying on task.
If one of your new habits is to meditate each morning for ten minutes, do it somewhere with no distractions. Because you know what will happen if you pick up your phone to quickly check your emails.
Make It Easy
If you want to succeed, make it easy!
Don’t try to change ten behaviors in one day. And don’t decide to read five books in one week if you haven’t even read one book in the last six months.
These are surefire ways to fail.
Make your new habits attainable, and easy to complete and track. For example, if you want to start reading more, begin with 5 or 10 minutes a day, rather than trying to read half the book.
Remember, you’re establishing this as part of your new routine. You can slowly increase the time as you get better and avoid feeling resistance to your new habit.
Schedule in Downtime
Scheduling downtime is necessary. Especially if you’re someone who is constantly on the go.
It might feel weird to put “do nothing” into your calendar, but it’s an important habit that also needs to be nurtured. It fosters creativity and helps to restore physical and mental well-being.
And just like any other new behavior, doing nothing takes practice.
Life is never perfect. And if you don’t anticipate setbacks, you’ll constantly find reasons to abandon your new habits.
Setbacks are inevitable.
You’ll get sick. You might need to travel for work, take a family vacation or maybe even move. Just get through them and get back to your routine as quickly as you can.
When you take small steps to form new habits, you’ll experience greater success in many areas of your life. Your finances will improve, relationships will flourish and you’ll feel healthy and energetic.
It’s not easy, but a small amount of discomfort is worth pushing through to form new desired behaviors.
If you know you want to change something in your life, but are feeling stuck please send me an email. Sometimes all it takes is an accountability partner.
Your life was once full of freedom and adventure. You conquered, achieved, and got to where you wanted to be. Now you’re feeling stuck. You’ve reached your big goals and are wondering why you feel empty.
And why everyone else seems to be living a much fuller life.
You fear, “Is this it?”
Fortunately, it’s not. You just don’t have the right set of tools to get you to the next level – the place where you can “have it all” and still be in charge, focused and engaged.
It’s time for a shift in perspective that will inspire you, motivate you and give you specific, tangible results.
High performance living happens through adventure.
Download my free Ideal Week Planner. Get focused and energized today!
There’s an aspect of achieving goals that nobody likes to talk about, the sense of “Is that all there is?” that can set in once you’ve reached a major goal or accomplished a life achievement.
Achieving goals is satisfying, but there’s also a sense of, “What now?”
Back in 1980, Talking Heads released their studio album “Remain in Light,” which contained their hit “Once in a Lifetime.” It was a trippy existential query, where “you,” the subject of the song, find yourself having achieved those things you set out to, but wonder how you got there and what it all means. The chorus begins with the ominous lyrics, “Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down.” Do we really get to a point where we rest on our laurels and coast indefinitely? It sounds appealing in its way, but also deadly.
Aligning your values with your actions and doing your short-term planning with both in mind can keep you from settling into numb routine and propel you to keep achieving, to keep fine-tuning how you live your life.
There’s No Need to Give Up and Start Over
The good news is, you don’t have to throw everything out and start over. Assuming you achieved your standing through hard work, integrity, and ethical behavior, you can be confident that you’re doing things right in general.
In many cases, simply reminding yourself of why you do what you do – to improve some aspect of the world, or to provide a healthy and loving family life for your spouse and children, for example – can be sufficient to put you back on a track where you’re not only professing your values, but living them in everyday life.
Try Shifting Your Perspective
Writer Anne Lamott talks about forgiveness in her book Traveling Mercies, and puts the entire concept in a new light. Turning the other cheek, she says, quite literally forces you to look in a different direction. Shifting your perspective can inspire you to achieve tangible results that keep your actions and your values in line. We look at life based on our own experiences, culture, and values, and assign meaning based on these.
What happens when you look at things from a different perspective? How might a disinterested observer interpret what you’re doing? How do your actions appear to your young child? What might someone think of your actions if they were transported here from two centuries ago?
Simply broadening your perspective can help you notice things you take for granted, things that may be more important than you realize.
Planning with Physical, Mental, Social, and Spiritual Focus
When you plan, say, an ideal week, the task is not nearly as straightforward as you think when you do it from a perspective of aligning your values and your actions. You have to deliberately create space in your life for what means most and energizes you, so that your “best self” will be the one participating in life.
Making your actual schedule align with your ideal one requires practice.
Print out a calendar showing the upcoming week (there’s a handy one here you can print out), and start by penciling in those things you’re obligated to, like a dentist appointment or driving your child to sports practice. Now, consider everything you do and how it’s scheduled, including details like eating meals, exercising, driving to work, showering, cleaning the kitchen, and completing your work tasks. Which of your tasks address physical needs? What about mental, social, and spiritual needs, which we all have? Does your schedule engage all four of these?
What Does Your Plan Look Like on Paper?
How does the ideal week that you sketched out on your calendar align with the reality of your week? Unexpected events will undoubtedly pop up, but in general, are you spending your time in ways that are meaningful to you and your physical, mental, social, and spiritual needs? Many people are surprised with how different the way they actually spend time is compared to what they would need to do in order to live their most meaningful life.
With this in mind, adjust your “real” calendar so that it aligns more closely with your ideal calendar. This requires that you understand your priorities and obligations, but also that you be kind to yourself. Sure, there are many things you “have” to do, but it is also important to carve out time for the things you need and want to do to fill your spiritual and emotional needs and help you operate as the best possible “you” there is.
Carry It with You, Literally
Fold up your ideal and your modified “real” calendars for the week and carry them with you. Take them out and make notes:
What causes you to veer off-track, and what are you doing to align your actual week with your ideal week?
Aligning your actions with your values isn’t instant, and it isn’t perfect. After all, life will always throw things like traffic jams, illnesses, and other unexpected scenarios at you. But create your ideal calendar for several weeks running, make notes, and see how it aligns with what you actually do.
What Happens When You Live Your Ideal Week?
After a few weeks, you should be able to plug several of those “ideal week” items right into your ordinary calendar. Don’t assume you’ll remember or that you’ll somehow make time for them. Put them on your schedule. What you’re actually doing is using visionary work and plain practice to create a new reality for yourself, one where your values and actions line up, where you’re living an authentic, unique life. It’s how you take your accomplishments and bring them to a higher level.
My mission is to help you reconnect with your best self, so you can put your focus and energy toward living the fully engaged life.
In addition to planning out your ideal week, I encourage you to check out my book Adventure in Everything: How the Five Elements of Adventure Create a Life of Authenticity, Purpose, and Inspiration. There you’ll find a framework for making changes in your life that will help you align how you are in the world with how you want and need to be.
Quick and dirty and to the point – over the years I have had a love/hate relationship with travel. I find the disruption to my normal routine both energizing and unsettling.
Energizing in that it breaks me from my normal thought patterns and I find that my curiosity increases. I also have realized a pattern that occurs: I crave the simplicity of travel and the opportunity to focus on one thing at a time without distraction (I am writing this in a hotel in Portland with a bare table and only the contents of my travel case around me, my office is also at my home so you can insert any number of possible distraction possibilities here…).
Travel though has a flip-side. It can be unsettling in that my routine is completely broken up: where to eat, how to eat healthy, different lights and furniture, and limited options due to geography and weather (this am I felt like going for a run, not going to happen since I don’t have running shoes with me).
I find that having two specific pieces of gear with me while I travel allows me to cut through the noise and find a centered and optimal place for both creativity and productivity. Those two pieces of gear: the TRX GO Suspension Trainer and the UE Boom Bluetooth Speaker. (Note that I have no affiliation / sponsorship with TRX or UE – just a fan of both of these pieces of gear!). Both pieces are lightweight, small, and pack in your travel roller – no excuses not to have them with you.
So here is the routine as soon as I arrive in my hotel room. Regardless of the hour that I walk into my room I unpack and pullout the TRX and speaker. I travel as light as possible (hence the no running shoes with me), so I often do not have workout clothes packed – you don’t need them. The TRX workout is in your room and your room is climate controlled. Strip down to your undies and a t-shirt and get to work, no shoes needed, no tech gear.
Put on whatever music you want, doesn’t matter, just something that speaks to you. Start up the TRX app (it runs simultaneously through the speaker while your music is going) and do the first 15-minute general core-strength workout. Trust me, the first five minutes feel like syrup is running through your veins after the travel, but the last five minutes feels great and liberating: You are back in your body and your mind is cleared, simple and effective.
For an overnight on the road I get two workouts in: one when I arrive and one before I depart. No excuses.
Why the speaker instead of using the phone speaker? The phone speaker is terrible and terrible sound is not only not a creature comfort but it reminds me that I am on the road and disrupted from routine. Good sound, good vibes, good mood.
The second bonus for the bluetooth speaker is that I find my morning routine at the hotel is greatly enhanced by giving me motivation and audio engagement beyond the ubiquitous television. With the speaker in use, I never turn on the television and get sucked into the cable news stream, etc. Control your media input, maintain your focus, and make travel your friend. Two tools that make a huge difference in my world – give them a whirl.
What about you? Do you have an indispensable road warrior tool or must-have? Share below or send me a message – see you out there!