Why Do We Struggle To Stick To New Healthy Habits?
Have you ever wanted to start a new habit and then, in a matter of days, it just magically disappears and you go back to doing what you’ve always done?
The reason why we struggle to stick to new habits are several (our mindset, our physical environment, our supporting system or the lack thereof, our identity, etc.) but today I’d like to draw your attention to one in particular: lack of clarity.
MY FACE YOGA FAILURE
Years ago, I came across face yoga (don’t laugh, it actually exists, it’s a workout for your face!), loved the idea so I decided to fit that into my routine. Despite buying a $300 video course to commit to this new habit, I failed miserably.
I’ve never been so inconsistent in my life! A day here, a day there, and then skip for two weeks. Then feeling guilty because I even spent money on it (like when you sign up at the gym, you keep paying and you never go), so trying again.
Nothing, I wouldn’t do it. For a goal-oriented, stubborn, I-can-do-it-all type of person like me, that was difficult to handle. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve started a million things and then put them in the trash bin. But one thing is experimenting and realizing that thing is not for you, another thing is wanted to do something, going back to it over and over again and keep failing. There was nothing wrong with me, it wasn’t a matter of willpower. I just didn’t have the right system in place to support me in implementing this new habit. I was improvising rather than planning and consistently repeating it in the same way. What I also learned is that doing the same things won't lead to different results.
BRAIN AND HABITS
Before we dive into why we can’t keep up with new habits, let’s understand how our brain works and why we behave the way we do.
If we call an action a habit, it means it is so deeply embedded in our brain (i.e. a neurological pathway for that specific behavior is formed) that we do it without having to think about it. Isn’t it awesome? Yes, unless… it’s a bad habit!
Long story short, we stick to what our brain recognizes as familiar because we have done it a million times and we know exactly how to do it.
DO YOU HAVE THE INSTRUCTION BOOK FOR YOUR NEW HABIT?
When it comes to setting up a new habit, you want to simplify. We too often think that eating healthy, working out, doing self-care and healthy habits in general, are just too complicated. We feel overwhelmed and we don’t even try.
Be smart and remove any type of friction between you and your new habit, which also requires that you are exactly clear on what you’re trying to achieve and why.
Do you know what the habit is going to be about? Do you know when, where and for how long you are going to do it? Do you know why you want to do it?
One thing is saying “I’m going to work out” another is saying “I’m going to work out, Monday to Friday, at 8 am before work, for half an hour in the basement (where you already have your mat, weights and all workout gadgets laid out and ready for you).
The least decisions you have to make in the moment, the better. Leaving it to the motivation of the moment, won’t work long term. You’ll come up with a thousand excuses why you can’t work out (I have to work), you can’t eat healthy (I don’t have time to prep), you can’t meditate for 5 minutes (The kids need me to play with them).
Planning ahead and having clear, when, where and why you are going to do a certain habit, will make it a thousand times easier to perform and repeat. Your brain doesn’t like confusion bu understands what’s simple and clear. So, help him out!
Write down the new healthy habits you’d like to start and, for each of them, write down, what days, at what time, in which location, for how long you are going to carry them out. Be consistent and repeat, day after day and your habit will stick.