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The article below is based on the work of James Clear in the book entitled ‘Atomic Habits’
We are at that time of the year, aren’t we?
Time to take stock, have a go at those resolutions, yes, the ones we made last year and the year before and that fell away around 16 days later. Just in case you’re wondering this is a real phenomenon, and it is really not our fault entirely. Read more about it here, about January 17th and what it means.
Jokes aside, I thought it an appropriate moment to share a potentially life changing, and easy to implement, integrate and maintain. I’m not talking about a resolution, more so about habit/s.
Best of all, the investment is around 1 percent of your day, at a minimum. I say investment, and not cost, since this will add your life, in terms of wellness, vitality and energy.
Why one percent?
Simply because a one percent improvement daily compounds to around a 37 percent improvement at the end of a year. If I gave a financial return based on that, no doubt you would take it, or at least I would.
Also, where massive action might appear overwhelming, incremental improvement is highly more palatable.
I’m going to give you the recipe, and I encourage you to give it a go.
Step 1: Forget about goals, focus on habits that build systems
Both successful and unsuccessful people set goals. If the setting of goals was the key, then people would have a lot more goals achieved, so it can’t be setting of goals itself that ensure the victory.
What is seen, is that those put in place systems and processes, associated with incremental and continuous improvement are the ones who seem make more progress in the direction they are seeking to go. Having said this, one must have a direction in which they know they wish to go and very importantly why.
Goals are great to set direction, however it is the systems that are best to make progress.
“…Atomic habits are the building blocks of remarkable results.”
Step 2: Focus on identity rather than outcomes
For lasting change, it is more effective to focus on identity rather outcomes. If you get the identity right, the outcomes take care of themselves, since identity is at a more foundational level.
If you’re wanting to take up running, it might be better to integrate being a consistent runner into the identity, rather than 20km each week.
Step 3: Reduce vagueness around your process. Clarity is power.
The failure to stick to a habit or process is often a result of lack of clarity.
The clearer the system or process, the more likely for it to stick.
A way to look at it is using the following:
I will <<insert behaviour>>, at <<insert time>>, in <<insert location>>
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re wanting to integrate yoga into your fitness regimen. You can say:
I will do yoga, at 530am daily, in the lounge.
You might notice, I didn’t insert for how long, and this is deliberate. At the beginning its important to just show up, so even if you do it for a minute, you’re reinforcing the habit.
Step 4: Prime your environment
This is related to a law know as the ‘The Law of least effort’
Habits are likely to be formed when they require less energy.
It is easier to stick with a process, if your environment is primed in a way that it is enforced, and derailers removed. Motivation, being an external driver is much harder to maintain.
Look to associate a specific part of your environment with the intended system and behaviour.
Using our yoga examples, perhaps, put your yoga mat out the night before, such that its easy to get to it in the morning.
If you’re wanting to eliminate sugar, opt not to buy anything sugary for a few months, or lock those treats away and make the key very inaccessible.
Step 5: Make it attractive and satisfying
Make the habit attractive to do. Back to our yoga example, reward yourself with a cup of coffee, if that is something you really enjoy once done with your yoga.
If this is something you’re struggling with take time to write down all the benefits and rewards of integrating this new habit into your paradigm, and for a habit you’re look to break, list all the drawbacks of it and what it has cost in the past.
If the number of times you get up is greater than the number of times you fall, over time, you win.
With any sort of performance in any sphere, it is never all or nothing. There are days where we all fail to show up. When this happens, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and go again. And that’s it! I wish you all the best on your journey. We are all going somewhere, and hopefully this adds to the compass that you use to effectively navigate life.
If you feel you need help with this, reach out to me, or anyone proficient. The important thing is to keep moving, literally and figuratively. If you're wanting to integrate yoga into your new habits for 2023, we are offering beginners workshops to help kickstart your journey. You can register here: https://www.yogaworks.co.za/events-1/yoga-for-beginners-3-workshop-series