With any new start, it’s good to get off on the right foot. The energy is new, the vigour is fresh and the willingness to go forth and create the right moments and momentum from the get go is ripe and ready.
For whatever reason, any good outcome needs a good plan. A series of events in place that determines step by step how we are going to approach the task. Part of these plans are being able to create 'good habits' that help us by making something routine. A habit is something we do without even realising that it might be a conscious decision, so if we can create 'good habits' as opposed to bad ones, then we may be making those goals easier for ourselves.
Some of us have to try and turn bad habits into good habits. Turning around a situation that may be preventing ourselves from achieving a goal, may just be the key to unlocking something that creates the situation to easily achieve what we are aiming for.
Behavioural Psychologists talk about the 3 'R's of habit formation.
Reminder - The cue to perform an action (or trigger)
Routine - The action performed
Reward - the positive (or negative) response you receive from the action.
The reaction that you receive from an action determines whether or not you want to repeat the behaviour or reinforce it. The 'reminder' is the key point in this process. If you can set up good reminders and identify which reminders create positive/negative behaviour, one can begin to manipulate the process to bring about the desired outcome. ie repeat or restrict the action.
Finding reminders in actions you already do and do 'from habit' are a great way of triggering other new habits. For example, so many people find it hard to give up smoking when they have a drink in a bar. This is often linked to the fact that when having a drink, a cigarette is a natural accompaniment. It's 'habit' to smoke when you drink. Imagine changing this habit by saying every time I have a drink - I do 25 push ups. Now this may be ridiculous and impractical, but imagine how much healthier you would become if this was your natural 'habit' of having a drink?
Reminders and actions also have to be reinforced but not being mountainous tasks that seem like an Everest Peak waiting to be climbed. As Leo Babauta says 'make it so easy you just can't say no'. Don't promise to do 45min of gruelling exercise. Build it up in stages. Commit to 10mins of work or stretching or exercise and find yourself celebrating those smaller achievements before you try to tackle the bigger obstacles. Rome wasn't built in a day. And the creation of 'routine' has to come from consistency, not massive efforts in singular doses.
Another factor to creating healthy habits is positive reinforcement. This is especially valid for fitness habits you may want to create. You have to keep doing fitness actions to create goals. ie - you have to 'do' the work. So every time you complete a workout, you should celebrate! Find a way (that is positive) to reinforce your good behaviour that makes you celebrate. This doesn't mean woofing down a burger and shake at Hungry Jacks! It can be as small as a little self high five or telling your coach in a text message "great workout". An action I have used in the past is to 'tick my to do list'. Having a daily list of achievements and being able to sit down at the end of the day and go 'tick tick tick' makes me feel positive about what I have achieved for the day - that's my reward.
Reward also has to come from you. It's no good trying to stick to something or find a reward because someone else says it is important. Reward has to be important to you and mean something to you for it to be a driving factor to complete the Reminder/Routine steps.
Self talk is a powerful tool if you are able to recognise and manipulate it.
"The words you speak become the house you live in" - Hafiz
If you keep reinforcing yourself when you start your new regime - 'oh this is so hard, why am I doing this? Can I stop now?'. You are simply reinforcing all the negative connotations of the action. Self talk can be amazingly powerful if you monitor and believe in what you are doing. With every step of a jog, if you can say 'good/excellent/bravo/one more' - even on a 10min jog, the amount of positivity you are reinforcing for yourself is going to be massive. Don't begrudge your new habit - embrace it. Feel good about doing something that is going to see you enjoy your life more. Not letting your internal dialogue pull you down whilst you are doing an action is vital to creating a good reinforcing habit.
Perhaps the best advice to receive when talking about habits, is having the plan in place when you fail. You are going to fail. No-one is perfect. Recognising when you have failed to create your new habit and being able to 'pick back up' is vital to creating the consistency that you do need to reinforce and commit. So you fell off the bandwagon - I see this so many times with injury rehabilitation. Recognise that you aren't doing the work but pick it back up straight away. Use that recognition to reinforce your commitment to achieving the task. Use it as a lever. Some people need to create 'accountability' for their actions. So that if they do fail, there is consequences. This can be as simple as vacuuming the floors, writing lines or doing the lawn-mowing in your wife's Sunday Best. (re the Simpsons Episode). Picking back up when you falter is a great habit to get into.
Habits aren't easy but if you can recognise that they are just 3 simple steps, you can see 'the plan' and identify where you may have missed a step. Keeping on track is vital. Staying on target and setting 'achieveable' steps is the way to go about establishing a good routine.