A Simple but Powerful Way to Start or Change a Habit
Who hasn’t struggled with starting a new behavior or eliminating an existing bad habit?
We all know that we need to stop this or start doing that. The most desired habits and changes relate mostly to health, fitness, relationships and wealth or career.
The magic of new beginnings gets us all excited—usually at the beginning of a new year. Then the enthusiasm fizzles and things start falling back to where they were— to our ingrained habits and routines.
How can you start a new routine that is guaranteed to stick?
The simple answer is: do one thing and one thing only—change your perspective.
Perspective is the way you view situations, ideas or experiences. It is your mental and emotional outlook as it relates to your life or certain aspects of it.
The beauty of changing your perspective lies in giving you an instant fresh start. You don’t need to wait for a special time, something or someone—you create your moment of change.
A change in perspective can be as quick as the flick of a switch but it can have a major impact that transforms your life.
Over the years, I have found that perspective is a very powerful tool that can be used to change just about anything in your life.
How can your perspective help you start and maintain meaningful change?
The best way for you to do something is to explore what you think and how you feel about it.
Determine what you want to do and be specific. You can’t have an outlook that empowers you if you are overwhelmed with so many ideas and things you want to change. Pick one thing only and be clear about it.
Dig deep into the how and why. Look at all aspects of why you want to build/eliminate this habit and how it can change your life.
- Why do you want to do it?
- What are the benefits?
- What are the costs of doing or not doing it?
- How will it improve your life or the lives of the people around you?
- How would you feel if you succeed? How would you feel if things didn’t work out?
- What have you tried in the past that hasn’t worked out for you?
- What are the things you enjoy doing that you can incorporate into your new behavior?
Spend as much time as you can answering the questions above or anything else that comes to mind. One of your thoughts or answers will click and resonate more than anything else. This is the magical wand that will get you started.
Become aware of ego driven responses. Are you starting something out of expectation, guilt, or to prove someone wrong? Are you doing it because it’s what everyone else is doing? Are you seeking validation?
If you do something for the wrong reasons and from a skewed perspective, you might succeed for a short while but it won’t stick.
Here are a few examples from my own life of how a change in perspective helped me in changing and starting new habits.
What didn’t work: loved ones guilt tripping, health concerns or saving money. I would stop smoking, then go back simply because I justified my behavior. Guilt became irrelevant in the absence of the source; death will happen regardless of whether someone smoked or not, and I can afford spending my money on something I enjoy.
What worked: freedom. At that point in my life I just quit my career and decided that my freedom was more important than anything else. The thought of being chained to an addictive substance and feeding into it meant that I was not free—I was a slave to Nicotine. That was it! I stopped that day and never looked back. That didn’t mean it wasn’t hard work. It was. But it was worth it because of my desire to be free.
I inherited weak genes when it comes to my teeth and gums. The dentist always advised me to take extra care.
What didn’t work: concerns about health or costs associated with periodontal care. I blamed genetics, complained about having bad luck or not having enough time.
What worked: time and effort vs. benefits. One day I decided to time myself. I did my full routine. It took around 5 minutes. Then the thought came to me out of nowhere—I can double my teeth protection and improve my health in less than an added 5 minutes per day—a tremendous benefit for a small cost. Now I do my routine twice a day no matter what.
I spend most of my time indoors so it is important that I move a bit and get some exercise.
What didn’t work: focusing on health and getting fit. I would get on a kick and work out for a bit then stop regardless of the type of activity I chose.
What worked: my health has an impact on others. What made it stick is the realization that I owe it to my loved ones to take the best care I can of myself. I don’t want my loved ones to suffer because I failed to do my part.
I don’t know if I will get sick or not. But if I do, I won’t feel guilty for being a heavy burden on my family—I’m doing the best I can today and the rest is up to the universe.
Drinking more water
What didn’t work: being told by fitness and health professionals to drink more water, being dehydrated or feeling sluggish. I would get a water bottle and force myself to drink. It was a struggle.
What worked: how I drink. I enjoy hot drinks. I like to have a mug and sip slowly enjoying my drink. Instead of a bottle, I started using a mug to drink water with a refill every couple of hours. Now I drink more water and enjoy it.
What if you can’t find something that would make your habit stick?
If you feel you can’t find a good reason or way to do something, start anyway—and do it now.
As you keep going, you will become more aware of what is or isn’t working. Be open to input from your subconscious mind. Most insight comes when we least expect it. The more you do something and allow the process to sink in, the more likely you will uncover what works for you.
Whatever you do, try to minimize your struggle and resistance. A peaceful approach is more effective in creating long lasting change.
In the next article, I’ll expand on the practical steps to work on your habits.