Want to make a change? Interested in forming a new healthy habit? Think all you need is 21 days?
Guess what? It takes most folks longer than 21 days to create a habit (which is the key to creating meaningful behavioral changes).
But don’t despair – you have already successfully formed habits that improve your health and you can form many, many more.
Brush your teeth today? I am willing to bet that you did not emerge from the womb with this habit. It probably took some work and now you most likely have a fully formed healthy habit of brushing your teeth. Twice a day even! So celebrate that win and use that confidence to inspire you to make some more healthy behavior changes.
So how do we make lasting and meaningful life changes? Note, I am not talking about goal-setting. Goal setting is the important, fun, and sometimes ridiculous process of deciding what we actually want to do/accomplish (future blog post link). Behavior changing comes next – how do we actually implement the strategies that will help us achieve our goals?
It comes down to 3 key steps:
- Awareness – This is very important! Do not skip this step! The first thing to do is to take some time to reflect and bring awareness to your current situation. This helps you gain clarity on where you actually are, what works for you, and how you already accomplish all of the million things you do. By monitoring you actions, beliefs, and feelings you can gain insight into what the most effective and efficient steps will be to make those changes. Focus on when (when am I most energetic? most hungry? tired?), how (do I work best? do I thrive?), and what (are my strengths? my passions? my desires? am I currently doing?). The exact questions will depend on what types of behaviors you are trying to change – but the questions can initially start with when, how, and what.
- Tailoring – after monitoring yourself you will have a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. Use this info to individualize your plan. For instance, if you love dancing you might choose to start going to a dance class to help your achieve a fitness goal instead of running on the treadmill. Just like you would get a suit tailored to fit you perfectly, you will tailor your behavior changes so that they work best for you and your life.
- Shaping – once you have a carefully crafted and tailored plan outline what steps you will take first. Start with achievable and small steps that will get you where you want to go. Just like the tortoise who made slow and steady progress to ultimately win the race, create a series of small but mighty steps that will be a series of powerful, affirming victories! For instance, if your behavioral change involves eating in a more healthy way, you could begin by adding one serving of vegetables per day into your lunch. After a week you could add another serving to dinner. This way you won’t feel overwhelmed and can use the confidence to keep making positive changes.
Okay so now I want you to take some action and find a healthy behavior you would like to implement. Follow the 3 steps above and create a self-informed, tailored, and shaped plan to make the change. Then share it in the comments below!