Forming habits — walk before you run

I’m no believer in New Years resolutions. If you desire to get something done and want to achieve a goal then the time of year should be the last thing that stops you from doing so (unless you want to build a snowman in the summer, which could still be done if you really wanted it).

On the flip side, I love setting big goals and working as hard as possible to achieve them. Maybe I’ll fall short, but if I do I’ll fall further than I would have setting small goals, but this doesn’t mean I don’t walk before I can run.

Speaking from experience, I’d wager a guess that the reason so many people fall flat on their face when it comes to creating new habits is down to one or all of the below:

1) They air on the side of polar extremes

2) They lack patience

3) They don’t have the burning desire for the results

4) They’re not passionate about what they’re doing

5) There’s no definitive goal or milestone in place

I’m certainly no saint! There are many times in the past that I’ve committed myself to doing something new, only to meander back into old habits within a matter of weeks. It’s easy to do when you’re a rabbit caught in headlights with no idea on which direction to head or where you’re heading to.

I’ve been working hard on forming new habits over the past year, and it’s been going pretty darn well because of the points I’ll describe later in the post. However, let’s take it from the top.

It all started with my rather spontaneous acquisition of a Kindle in early 2016, after my wife lost hers on a trip to the Canaries only for a friend to find it on a visit to the same destination the following week (that’s for another story!).

There I sat, with this device in my hand on a Saturday afternoon and a bit of time to kill. I decided to take a look at the selection of books available in the charts, and next thing you know I was knee deep in Rob Moore’s ‘Life Leverage’.

I was hooked. Something had unlocked the book worm inside of me that had been hiding all these years. I craved more; more entrainment, more knowledge and a new habit was sparked.

My mindset gradually started to open and I came to the realisation that I wanted more. I didn’t do this by committing myself to reading 5 books a week, or picking something I didn’t have a passion for, I took it one small step at a time and made it enjoyable.

Next up was fitness. Sitting at a desk all day has it’s downfalls, one of which is a hit on your fitness. I’m a pretty scrawny guy by default, so it was time to put some meat on this frame and improve my overall fitness.

I joined a gym, created a routine and got to it. Months later, I feel the strongest I’ve ever felt, super alert, super productive and constantly improving.

So how do I personally go about forging these new habits without falling back into my old ways?

I take my time

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” — Leo Tolstoy

Change doesn’t happen overnight. The sooner this is realised the easier it becomes.

When starting new activities or actioning resolutions, it’s all to easy to go from polar extremes and jump in at the deep end, but this makes it unenjoyable for many people.

Take the post Christmas diet for example. January hits and the diet comes into full swing. You’ve just spent the whole of December eating anything that comes within 3 feet of you, drinking more wine than you care to imagine and once January comes you stop cold turkey! (Yum).

There’s no break-in time, the instant and colossal change makes it daunting and tough to bear. If you’re going to do it, don’t forget that you’re running a marathon and not a sprint. You’re only competing against yourself so don’t create something so daunting off of the bat.

This leads on to:

I remain patient

“Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.” — Napoleon Hill

We live in a time of instant gratification. You can have a product delivered to your door within an hour, get a digital pat on the back with a few likes in a matter of seconds, listen to your choice of millions of songs at the click of a button and I feel like it’s making us impatient.

As I progressed through my originally ‘accidental’ reading journey, I started seeing improvements. The speed in which I was reading was improving, my comprehension increasing with every book, I could feel the results with each passing day.

The same was true with fitness. We often see the before and afters but neglect to see the hard work behind it both in the gym and in the kitchen, we just instantly want that body. Having once been at a relatively fit standard I was aware of what was required to really start seeing results.

Be aware that things will take time. If you can stick at something consistently for at least 2 weeks, you will notice massive changes in the way you carry out the task and it will quickly become a habit as you realise the potential inside.

I cultivate a burning desire inside

“The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way.” — Robert Kiyosaki

How? I set myself up 1 large goal within each of the above categories and break it down into smaller, actionable techniques.

Then using visualisation, I take the time to envisage the end goal and how it would feel. The more I do this, the more I start to yearn for it, the results become almost tangible.

I still do this day in day out with my long term goals, and it feels just as real every time I do it.

I stick to things I can get excited about

“Without passion you don’t have energy, with out energy you have nothing.” — Donald Trump (oh my)

Starting out, I make sure that I stick to things that I enjoy. This meant when I started reading I was reading books within a particular niche (self improvement), exercising in a manner that I enjoyed and allocating a trigger to them (listening to my favourite playlist when I work out) and so on.

Once you’ve cultivated the new habit you can then work on pushing the limits and expanding your horizons. Reading random books, trying new exercise regimes or tackling new business challenges.

I set goals to work towards

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” — Tony Robbins

As mentioned previously, to me it is vitally important that a goal is setup and steps mapped out to achieve the goal.

You can be as realistic or unrealistic as you like (I hedge towards the larger goals broken down into realistic steps) but the main thing is that you have a marker that you can aim towards and reward yourself once you achieve.

Lace up your walking boots

As with a baby when it first enters the world, it has a lot to learn and a lot of patience in doing so. A baby certainly doesn’t run prior to crawling, and then walking.

Any action that you take, no matter how big or small takes you one step closer than you were the day before and one step closer to tangible results so take that small step today and don’t look back.

I’d love to hear what you’re working on and how you’re going about it, comment below.