The fastest way to create a new habit or practice is to do it again and again. Painfully simple, right?
The trouble is that occasionally some pesky things get in our way, and we take unnecessary detours, revert back to unwanted behaviours and don’t do what we say we are going to do with ease.
IF you want to get the ball rolling and lock in a new habit or practice, you may need a little prep. I like doing this because to me it is fun. I love writing, visualising, planning and strategising. So if you are in any way the same, you may get a kick out of this too.
Think about habit or practice you would like to have. Make sure it is something you really want to do and feeds into you feeling how you want to feel, being who you need to be, and perhaps ultimately achieving something tangible you have your heart set on.
It may be something like going to the gym every morning. So we will use that as an example. It is also something I have adopted, so I can give you some firsthand insights about the process. It might help you to know that I am not a supermotivated person- at least not in the way I imagine a motivated gym-goer to look. I have to fine tune everything around the process, or else I won’t go. I could get an instant burst of motivation by telling myself that if I don’t keep up this practice I will get so unhealthy and out of shape that I die, but honestly, harsh talk like that kills my morning juju. And it doesn’t always counter the reality that is staring me in the face that day.
Ok, so… gym.
The first thing I do is get clear on why I want to go there. I need to get strong, just for myself. I need to get fit for karate. And I want to keep it tight for my husband. Haha! It’s also the principle of being able to stick with something and do it all alone, although I research personal trainers for hours before beginning this routine.
So now I want to go, I need to imagine it in the context of my morning and do a FULL RUN THROUGH in my head to see how this works. For me, I need to start right at the beginning, when I first wake up. Now if I watch what happens in fast motion, I see me getting up, having breakfast (which I choose not to skip because I am fungry in the morning!), writing a little something in my journal, getting dressed and driving off to the gym.
But, let me tell you, some seriously distracting shit happens along the way. If I slow it right down, almost like a real walk through, this is what really goes on.
I wake up gentle, as always, and contemplate for too long about whether I had enough sleep and whether hitting the gym is truly better than just getting back to sleep. I would normally do some visualisation and breathing here, but it is sullied by the process of resisting bouncing out of bed.
I hear my dog scratching at the door, so get up (either gratefully for the excuse or in a huff cos he won’t let up).
I pee and then walk downstairs to make breakfast. I feed Olly first to get him out of the way. He’ll scratch for more food soon. If something’s cooking I may go upstairs to get dressed in my gym clothes. I throw a handful of dog biscuits outside for him to chase and I shut the door and go back upstairs to eat.
Worried that I will not be able to do the gym and work, I probably eat too fast as I’m writing my gratitude list, describing what would make today amazing and setting an intention. I will leave my tea half finished. Olly scratches at the door again, so I let him back in. He wants to play. He sees me putting my gym shoes on and assumes we are going for a walk, which is heartbreaking. I might pop his harness on and take him for a quick walk around the block.
It’s getting late enough that the thought that it may not be worth going pops into my head. I think about how I could kick start the day with just a bit more… something else.
At this point in the morning, I can’t guarantee anything.
Can you see how messy that is? Especially because I planned none of it. Now, as I do the walk through in my head, I have pen and paper handy and I start taking some kickass notes about what to set up so that the morning flows- even with the dog scratching. There is a side column for stuff I need to set up the night before to ensure I’m not fumbling around.
I’M PRESSING PAUSE FOR A SEC. You could go to the gym every morning, easy peasy, just by doing it and making it a priority. What we are looking at is fine-tuning the stuff around it!
So as you are coming up with your new practice, know exactly what needs to happen before it for it to occur and occur as smoothly as you wish. I now have a really clear physical and mental walkthrough of my mornings that I believe perfectly sets me up for the day. I do need to get up earlier and go to bed earlier, which is exactly what I prefer.
Here as some random notes that came up:
I need a candle snuffer and Windex handy near my office desk.
All my gym clothes need to be in the spare room- with underwear, etc.
The best time to fill up my water bottle is when I make breakfast (not just before the gym)
If I follow what needs to be done, I will only go down the stairs twice. This is problematic because the stairs keep me fit. Lucky I’m going to the gym regularly now!
It was also interesting how my night routine became exactly what I needed to support this one addition to my life.
In order to get this all in place, you need to be able to see yourself doing it and it working. Visualise and you will see where habits need tweaking.
Also, when you run it through in real time as you intend for it to occur, you’ll notice the clunky parts. Make a note of how to eliminate these or smooth them over. Try again the next time you have the opportunity to apply this. Does it work now? Keep refining, visualising it the day before so that eventually it becomes programmed as a routine. Even if you have to consciously think about what is next, it is better than just running around, hoping you get everything just right.
Some succinct steps for creating a new routine/habit:
1. See what you want
2. Know what has to come before (and during)
3. Visualise going through the process until you see it in a way that works for you. Take notes on what you need to refine to make it work.
4. Give it a real life walk through. You can also visualise again with different circumstances, e.g. going to the gym in summer versus winter, or what would happen if you have an early morning meeting.
5. Start doing it exactly as you see it.
6. Keep doing, keep refining.
So can you now think of something you would like to smoothly integrate into your life? Are there blocks of time where you would like to flow easily from one activity to another? Try it with your morning routine. I love this for people who, like me, seem to live in (and be somehow comfortable with) chaos, even though it is probably slowly sucking the life force from us! Haha! Never more.
If you are in NSW, Australia, I am running a series of workshops to help you implement this technique, with a few more advanced strategies for removing unwanted behaviours and installing new ones.
Click here for info on the workshop, including location and pricing.
I believe that everyday can be the start of something special. If you are just looking for the dedicated space to you, I know that this workshop will be the kickstart you need.
Would love you to share what you plan to implement in your life and candidly address how you may smooth over any obstacles or ‘clunks’.
All the best in this endeavour.
We are forever refining.