How to adapt to new good habits?

Nadia Ahmed August 9, 2021

Suppose you are trying to learn a new skill, make some changes in your life, get a new habit, change something. How do you go about doing it?

Imagine yourself going jogging in the morning. Lately, you have been too busy and haven’t had enough sleep (both reasons why most people don’t exercise). But the moment has come when you realize it is now or never. Let’s say that today (day 0) you have decided to start running every day as soon as possible. Let’s do some math:

If you run 3 times per week at a minimum of 30 minutes then each month you will be spending 1 hour of your time on this activity – which we can assume all of us would gladly spend! That means in just 4 months you will improve your health and become more fit! 

All of this is within reach. But the thing I want to discuss here is how do you get started? What should you do on day 0 after making your decision? After all, there are still 28 days left until month 1! Should we be optimistic (day 1) or pessimistic (days 0-29)?

I propose the following simple approach which makes me feel good about myself each time I follow it: On day 0 – don’t worry about when everything will happen. Just decide that every single minute spent during the next 30 days will make sure that by day 31 you will run for at least 30 minutes straight. Note that it doesn’t matter when you will start running each day, just that you will be able to run for 30 minutes continuously by the end of the month. This means it is a good idea to not schedule anything else on day 31 – if you do so then something might get in your way and you would have wasted all of your days! So: On day 0 decide that every single second during the next 30 days will make sure that the one single minute (1:00) on day 31 happens as planned!

By doing this each time I am working toward my goal I feel good about myself knowing that today or any given moment was part of making me successful. Again – it does not matter what exactly I do at any given moment. The only thing that matters is that each passing moment is useful toward achieving the goal.

Photo by Jenny Hill on Unsplash 

Now let’s switch to another example: Let’s say that you want to lose 5 pounds before your vacation which is 2 months away (2 * 30 if you are a mathematician). That would be 20 pounds in total.  It seems realistic, but can we do it? Yes, if each day we lose 1 pound! Again, doesn’t matter what exactly I do during the next 2 months as long as by the end of month 2 I weigh less than on day 0. Each minute of my life then becomes part of my success and makes me feel good about myself knowing I am doing everything within my powers to achieve the goal. What if there are 3 weeks left until vacation… Well, again let’s use math: 3 weeks is 3*7 days. If I lose 1 pound per day then in 3 weeks I will lose 21 pounds – which means that on vacation day I will weigh just 2 pounds over the target weight… Not bad! Very realistic and achievable goal!

Again, it does not matter what exactly you do each day toward your goal: It could be running or going to a gym – as long as it helps you achieve your goal. Make sure that each passing moment of your life becomes part of an overall success story! Now go out there, get started now, and become successful in the future!!!

Another Trick

Focus only on today, All of this approach seems too complicated for some people so here is another approach that can be just as good. If you focus only on today and not on some distant future (like winning some marathon or arriving at your dream weight) then every single thing that you do toward achieving “today’s goals” becomes part of an overall success story. The trick is that each morning, make a list of goals for the day in terms of what exactly will get you closer to your long-term goal. But instead of thinking about all the steps between now and the end result (“I want to lose 20 pounds” -> “I need to go running three times per week for 30 minutes.”) just think about today’s steps (“Right now I will run 10 minutes straight!”).

Today’s actions are way more important than anything else so it should be okay to let other things go. I would advise against wearing a watch – if you wear one then each time you look at it another minute of your life is gone! Just set an alarm in the morning instead and work toward your goals from there.

The results are much more immediate this way. It is easier to keep yourself motivated because small successes happen more often. And, since you have very little time scale (just today!) it means that tasks are easier to estimate as well!  After all, tomorrow is a new day filled with surprises so no need to plan for it too precisely

Photo by Stefan Cosma on Unsplash 

How long should I exercise? There is only one good answer: As long as necessary until you achieve your goal! If you want to climb Everest then do it the normal way by walking and not by immediately jumping from a hot air balloon. If you want to lose weight then go ahead and try all of the above approaches – they will all work as long as they help you achieve your goal! Just make sure that each passing moment is part of an overall “success story”. So that, when you’re successful, every single second of your life was useful on your way there!!!

Basically, have a smaller approach towards your main goal. Take one step at a time and keep yourself motivated along the way. If you stumble – keep going! Just make sure that every single step is part of an overall success story!!!

Set achievable daily goals which will eventually contribute to your main goal. Each minute of your life then becomes part of an overall success story! Another thing that helps is to focus on one day at a time. When working toward your long-term goal, think only about today and not all the steps leading to it. Again, it’s like climbing Everest: Stay focused on the next step and don’t look back too much. Your main goal can wait until tomorrow but you should not postpone any of today’s goals!

Get Organized

Write a weekly planner Each week, write down your plan on paper. This way you will see how much time each task takes. In most cases, checking e-mail for five minutes or watching TV for an hour turns into hours of wasted time. When you write tasks down on paper then it is easier to spot these “time wasters”. Another advantage is that this helps you plan your work better – if you can see what exactly needs to be done then there are fewer chances for procrastination and just wasting time. Make sure that each passing moment becomes part of an overall success story!

Here are some practical strategies which I have used before: Track your progress. It’s easy to get distracted but when you know exactly what goals have been achieved already (as well as how significant they were) it makes motivation easier to maintain.

Photo by Jess Bailey on Unsplash 

Another thing is to keep yourself motivated and remind yourself why exactly it is important now – ie: what do I gain from achieving this goal? How will my life changed for the better when I achieve my goal? Remember: Life will throw challenges your way, no matter how good or smart or successful you are. You don’t have to let them depress you but you need to learn from each failure in order for it does not haunt you again and again!

And now I think it would be great to hear what other people are doing: Do any of these approaches work for you? Are there any additional strategies that you use to stay motivated or keep track/implement your goals? Please share them in the comments below! And now… GO OUT THERE AND GET STRONGER/PRODUCTIVE/FASTER NOW!!!