I’m practicing to become a habit-changing maven. In the last eight years, I’ve revamped my fitness and nutrition habits several times to manage various medical conditions. I’ve decided to start using the same strategies I used to teach myself to lift weights at 5:00 every morning, love running, and enjoy eating kale to tackle some other areas.
Here’s a list of the habits I’m working to cultivate right now:
- Make my bed every morning.
- Meditate to start my day.
- Journal each morning.
Three is enough for any given time. If you focus on too many areas at once, you can get overwhelmed. I have several strategies in place to cultivate these personal habits. I write them in my planner, journal about how I’m doing with each one and set reminders on my phone.
Those are all excellent strategies for changing habits, but none of them are going to get you over the fear of making a change. Do do that, you have to talk to yourself differently.
Humans are unwilling to change because of our biology
We are social, and changing our habits can disrupt our social lives. If you’ve always been a person who says they hate to exercise, a lot of your friends probably feel the same way. We identify with people who are like us. Your subconscious is afraid that if you suddenly start training for a 5K, your social ties will weaken.
People like the status quo because it’s comfortable. Changing involves risk and activates our flight or fight response. Spending your evenings numbing out on television is more comfortable than hitting the gym. Hitting the gym will hurt. Couch surfing doesn’t hurt.
Just because you’re human and risk-averse, doesn’t mean you have to allow that to run your life. You also can use reason rather than emotions to make decisions.
Change your internal monologue
Let’s start with making my bed. I’ve always said things like ”making my bed is pointless” or ”I wish I were the type of person who made my bed every morning” or my personal favorite ”I don’t have time to make my bed in the morning.”
Here’s the actual truth.
- Making my bed isn’t pointless because I love slipping into a well-made bed at night. If we look at the data, the national sleep foundation reports that people who make their beds are 19% more likely to get a good night’s sleep. (Humans love data, so don’t be afraid to use some of it to prove your point to yourself.)
- I am the type of person who does anything I decide to do. If I choose to cook crispy duck with orange glaze and caramelized onions, I’ll do it. If I decide to run a marathon, I’ll do it. If I decide not to make my bed, I’ll do that too. I can help myself accomplish anything, or hold myself back.
- I wasn’t prioritizing making my bed in the morning.
The first step to making a habit change is changing your internal monologue. I made a conscious decision to stop myself when I said “I wish I were the type of person who…” and say out loud, into a mirror, ”I make my bed every morning because I enjoy having it ready for me at bedtime.”
Then I make my damn bed. I even timed myself once to quiet that voice that tried to say I didn’t have time. It turns out it takes less than a full minute to make my bed (more data, people like that).
Obviously, I’m picking a somewhat silly example to prove the point. But, you can attack any habit change by first addressing the conversations you have with yourself. You wouldn’t tell your children or your spouse that they weren’t smart enough or strong enough to accomplish something, so why are you saying it to yourself?
What lies are you telling yourself? Make a list, and then turn them into truths
Once you’re talking with yourself in a way that will spur you to take ownership of your current condition and inspire a change, you’re ready for an action plan. Change the way you talk to yourself first: the action plan can come later.
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