The Year of Habit

Full disclosure: I am very much an all-or-nothing person.

When I set big goals, I prioritize working out everyday. I am all in. But recently, I have found that without a big goal, I am entirely unmotivated to go to the gym. If I can’t train 6 days a week, I train 0.  

If you are the kind of person that feels lost at sea without a big goal, you may find yourself in a similar situation.

The realization I came to is a life without working out was not a life I was happy with. I love the gym, the classes, socializing and the feeling I get after doing something intense.

So how did I go from zero to not-quite-hero? At least two things needed to change:  

  1. I needed to sleep.Thankfully our kids started participating with that this fall.
  2. I needed a way to slot in time to workout where it felt easy to attend.

Enter the year of habit.

We’ve talked about James Clear’s Atomic Habits before. In the book he lays out what he sees as the four steps in establishing a habit; the cue, the craving, the response and the reward. 

In my own example, it was clear to me that an Alchemy class satisfied three of the four steps. . I crave the feeling I have after a workout;I feel more alert, I feel warmer, I feel stronger. That craving is instantly satisfied by participating in a class.  

All I have to do is show up.

For me, I discovered my cue is being at the gym already. Once a week I’ve decided to stay an hour longer after a shift and even volunteered to coach an extra morning class, so I could workout afterwards. I have attended 13 classes in the last 2 months and while that may not sound impressive, I only attended 35 in the previous two years.

So how does this help you? 

The advice from Clear is to make the cue obvious and make the response easy.

If you want to eat healthy, start by planning one or one more healthy meal each week. Put an alarm on your phone every Sunday morning. When it goes off you open a bookmarked website with healthy recipes, choose one and then go grocery shopping. 

If you want to run 5km, start by walking for 5 minutes each day. Put your running shoes in a place you see often. When you walk by them in the evening, tie them up.

The point is if you train yourself to a specific cue equalling a specific action taking place (think Pavlov and his dogs) it removes the hurdle of getting started, which for some of us can be the hardest part.

It is a lot easier to turn 2 workouts into 3, or 1 healthy meal into a healthy day, or a 5 minute walk into a 5 minute run. 

I haven’t given up on accomplishing big things, I have just found a better way to get started.

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