Habits are hard to make. They’re also hard to break. Think about new year’s resolutions, for example. They can be so frustrating, right? In many of my presentations, I will often ask if anyone in the audience even still does them? Would you be surprised to hear that the answer is almost always “No!”? Of course you’re not surprised! You probably don’t either.
But this is no excuse to not set resolutions or create healthy and helpful habits. So let’s look at what works and what doesn’t.
Master Your Habits
First off, let’s talk about the word “master”.
How well have you “mastered” anything? Be honest. What areas or skills would you look at and say that you’ve mastered? Me…I’m still trying to think of one! You may feel the same way. But don’t miss this point.
The fact that we struggle to master something is no excuse to not TRY! Nor should we set the goal as anything less than the mastering level.
The problem, however, is that there is so much expert advice out there today:
- “Commit for 30 days!”
- “Get up early and do it first thing!
- “Start small”
- “Give yourself a cheat day!”
- “If it’s important to you, you’ll make it happen somehow!”
But this can be very frustrating, can’t it? I know for me, I’ve tried to master lots of resolutions and habits over my lifetime with these very ideas but have still not figured out the secret formula. In fact, if you’re like me, failing to master my goals after trying the “expert” advice is even more discouraging than helpful. If the experts can’t even help me, then maybe there’s no help for me at all!
Why It’s Not Working
One of the reasons this advice has not worked is because it is too general. It is not specific enough to who we are as individuals.
For example, some people respond very well to the idea of “start small”. For them, this is great advice and moves them in the direction they want to go. But what if you’re the type of person who simply needs big, bold moves -not small, take-your-time ones? If the advice is not tailor-fit to the individual, then it will never provide the traction or movement it needs to create lasting change or habits.
What To Do
Here’s the truth: there is no one-size-fits-all answer. That’s a bummer, huh? But its true. You and I are made differently from one another and are pre-disposed and affected by different stimuli and motivating factors. But there are steps that you can take to make the changes you want and learn to master your habits.
Here are 4 that may help.
1. Monitor: Keep a checklist of what you’ve done. This is so simple it is often brushed aside. But this would be a mistake. Do you want to master something? Then start by knowing the facts. The best way to get a clear picture of what you’re actually doing or not doing, is to write it down and see it for what it really is. Monitor what you’re working on for a minimum of 30 days (90 if possible) and then work off of what you know to be true.
2. Convenience: The more convenient you can make something that is important to you, the more it will get done. More convenient, more habitual. Obviously, the opposite is true is as well.
This can be as simple as setting your shoes out before bed so you wake up and can get to the gym. Or maybe writing down what needs to get done first thing the next morning before you end your day. This keeps you from having to waste time figuring out what to do and will be so much more convenient and efficient.
3. Accountability: Who can you go to as a progress-partner? Look for someone who will help you do more in the area you want to improve on and master. Finding someone who can do it with you (physically or emotionally) can make all the difference.
I know for me, I struggled for years to make exercise a routine. Then I found an accountability partner and it changed everything for me. This could be your missing ingredient as well.
4. Rewards: This can be a tricky motivator. For example, let’s say that we want to master physical fitness. We’ve heard that it is a good idea to give ourselves a cheat day or reward ourselves with a chocolatey treat. Right? This, however, may not move many of us closer to mastery. Why reward yourself with something that works against your goals?
Instead, we ought to reward ourselves with something that further promotes and moves us closer to our desired destination. For example, a reward of new running shoes or a new yoga mat is a much better reward for 3 months of exercise than a date with an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Want more ideas? Check out conversations from Gretchen Rubin here.
What are the differences between being good at something and mastering it? Please comment and share your thoughts or ideas below.