What if we told you that about 40% of everything you do in a day is purely because it’s a habit? Brushing your teeth before bed. Habit. Setting your alarm for the morning. Habit. Making your bed. Habit. Feeding the cat. Habit.
Why then is it so hard to form new, healthy habits, like exercising more, or breaking bad habits, like quitting smoking? Because often our goals are not specific; when goals are specific, they’re often easier to reach. The difference is: “I’ll walk 20 minutes a day” instead of “I’ll get more exercise”.
It’s also not enough to simply have a goal, according to the Harvard Medical School, you also need practical steps to reach it. For example, if your goal is to cut down on snacking, have a plan such as eating smaller meals more regularly instead of 3 big meals a day and constantly snacking in the long stretch between them.
The 21/90 rule
You’ve probably heard someone say that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Well, that’s not entirely accurate and omits the second half of the rule. Yes, it takes 21 days to build (or break) a habit but that has to be followed by a further 90 days to make it a lifestyle.
Once you’ve set your goal and defined a strategy, you therefore have to commit to it for 21 days. On day 22 it will be habit. But here’s the trick, you then need to hit repeat for 90 days. In the course of these 90 days, or 3 months, your new habit will become a part of your lifestyle.
5 steps to making (or breaking) a habit
1. Always start small
Break your goal into smaller goals will make it less daunting. Want to run a marathon? First walk around the block every day. Then jog around the block and build up to running 3km three days a week. Doing too much too quickly will almost definitely end in failure.
2. Identify your excuse
What’s your excuse? Too tired? Not enough time? Forgot to pack your gym clothes? Once you’ve identified your usual excuses, you can address them.
3. Address your excuses
If you don’t go to gym because you forgot to pack your gym clothes, pack them the night before. Not enough hours in the day? Put it in your diary and treat it like an appointment.
4. Don’t worry about failing
Don’t let failure get in your way of success – we all fail at some point. If you missed your morning jog for a day, dust yourself off, accept that you’re only human and go the next morning.
5. Track your progress
When you measure your progress, you’ll find it easier to stay motivated. For instance, write down how far you’ve run every day. Seeing that it took you 2 weeks to get fit enough to go around the block twice will encourage you to keep going.
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This post and content is sponsored, written and provided by Capitec.