Why is it so hard to consistently do the things you know will make you feel better? Have you noticed after a few days, weeks or even months of trying to incorporate a new habit into your life does the old habit creeps back in? Doesn’t it take just 21 days to form a habit or is the old adage true that old habits die hard? I mean which one is it?
Here we are at the end of the year. The new year is just one day away and many of us are setting goals and making resolutions to change. Take me for example. With the exception of the first habit on the picture above I am preparing to integrate into my life everything else that is pictured there. In fact, my list looks something like this:
- Change my eating habits (cut out late night snacking, add more vegetables to my diet, control my portions, eat 5 small meals each day, etc.)
- Move my body daily
- Get quality sleep
- Eliminate debt
- Limit my time on Social Media and TV watching
- Get up the first time the alarm goes off (just to name a few)
Sounds pretty simple right? So why am I challenged by creating these habits? Likewise, why are you still stuck on habits that don’t serve you well?
Before I share some strategies on how we can change this around let’s first look at the roles of motivation and discipline in bringing forth new habits into our lives.
“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” In lining up motivation, discipline and habit…motivation is the lowest on the pole. But it does have it’s role if you leverage it properly.
You see most of us think motivation has to be present in order for us to go to work when in fact if we were to wait for motivation to hit us before we actually did something…there are a whole lot of things that just would not get done.
A good way to keep motivation in perspective is to think of it like this: it is your “why”, your reasons for acting or behaving in a certain way. It is based on feelings, situations, and circumstances.
That’s why when you “feel” tired you’re not motivated to workout. Or if it’s raining (a situation) you aren’t motivated to go to the gym. Of if you have too much work to do (circumstance) you aren’t motivated to stick to your workout schedule.
Even now while reading this post you could “feel” motivated to get up and do something, but shortly after the feeling has waned, you go right back to inactivity.
Motivation comes and goes. It’s not something you can rely on to spur you into action. It isn’t something that sticks around for a long time. In fact, motivation is something you have to be reminded of. Here’s the key: Motivation is something you have to create for yourself daily. Read this post for ideas on how to do that.
Discipline, on the other hand, is where the rubber meets the road. Having discipline means you do something consistently regardless of how you “feel”. When you are disciplined it doesn’t matter if you want to or not. Sure, thoughts of “should I or shouldn’t I”, “will I or won’t I” go through your head but rather than giving into your negative feelings you do what has to be done. Yes, you’re tired, you’ve had a long day and it’s raining. Yet discipline doesn’t give into the resistance that wants to keep you from doing what you know must be done!
Discipline is just one step below habit and has a specific target, purpose, and direction. It has it’s eye firmly fixed on your motivation (your whys, your reasons) and causes you to move out even when you don’t feel like it because discipline is keenly aware of what’s on the other side. Discipline is concerned solely with helping you to reach your goal.
Therefore when you are disciplined, regardless of your feelings, situation or circumstances…you take action…and you do so consistently! And when you no longer have to think, fret or fume about it that’s when your discipline in doing something turns into a habit!
Isn’t habit the goal for all of us? Don’t we all desire to have healthy habits, successful habits, and habits that will help us reach our goals? Don’t we all want to get to the point where we don’t have to think about eating healthy, we just do it? Don’t we all want to get to the point where we don’t have to fret about working out, we just do it? I know I do!
When we get ourselves to the point where we perform a sequence of actions that we do on a consistent basis without much thought if any, then and only then will we be able to say with confidence that we have created a new habit in our lives.
The thing to keep in mind is that habits cannot be developed without first developing discipline. In order to create a new habit or change a bad one, you must first discipline yourself to perform a sequence of actions consistently regardless of how you feel! In other words, habits can be created or changed but it will require discipline to do so.
Steps For Developing Discipline and Leveraging Motivation To Create Healthy/Successful Habits
Again, the goal is to get to a point where eating healthy and moving daily is a habit, a lifestyle, something we do without even thinking. That is, in fact, the definition of habit. Doing something over and over and over again until it becomes something we just do without thinking…without floundering back and forth with should I or shouldn’t I, will I or won’t I. It just happens! If you put the following steps into action you will soon develop the habits you need to reach your weight loss and fitness goals.
Step 1 – Start Small
Pick a habit. Decide on just one thing you would like to change. Don’t try to change everything at one time. Put your focus and concentration on one thing until you master it. Until you start to do it without having to think about or question if you should or shouldn’t. Until it becomes more uncomfortable NOT to do it than it is to just do it. That’s where discipline ends and habit starts.
Step 2 – Tap Into Your Reward Center
In other words, what is the instant gratification you’ll receive from doing this thing day in and day out? It is important for you to have a full understanding of what the benefit and reward will be for taking action. For instance, I am in the habit of making up my bed every day. This was not always the case, but I disciplined myself to do it because the reward for me was coming home each day to a sense of order. Clutter and an unkempt bed made me feel frazzled and overwhelmed. The opposite feeling was one of calm and serenity and that’s the feeling I wanted to experience each day when I arrive at home.
Here’s another example. Let’s say you want to start working out daily. What would be the instant gratification for doing so? Allow me to give you a hint…it is NOT the benefit of losing weight. Nope! Sure, that’s your ultimate goal, but the instant gratification you’d receive from working out daily would be things such as:
- a feeling of accomplishment
- stress relief
- sleep better
- better mood
Do you get the point? It’s those things that you will experience instantly once you’ve completed your workout. These are the things that will get you out the door, get you moving and “motivate” you to workout on a consistent basis.
Step 3 – Create Your Motivation Daily
Remember, motivation does not show up every day. You have to create it. And then, whether it shows up or not you have to rely on discipline (doing it in the absence of motivation). Regardless of how you feel, regardless of whether you want to or not…you go do that thing.
Step 4 – Establish A New Pattern
We are all creatures of habit. We take the same route to work each day. We put our pants on starting with the same leg each time. Try switching it up, I dare you! It throws you off balance, doesn’t it?
My question is…what kinds of habits do you want to be a creature of? Good, healthy, successful ones? Or habits that keep you stuck, sick and unsatisfied? You do have a choice you know?
The key thing that needs to happen when you are trying to create a new habit or break an old one is to shake things up, disrupt the pattern, change the trigger and set up a new cue. Simply stated, you have to do things differently. Remember this, if nothing changes, nothing changes.
If it is your pattern to come home from work and put on your pj’s and veg out on the couch…the way to change that habit is to break the pattern, change the cue. The new pattern could be to come home from work…put on your workout gear, which would signal you to workout. Discipline yourself to do this daily and when you no longer have to think about it, then you have created a new healthy habit!
I’ve created this worksheet to help you with consistency and discipline. You can download it here to track your habits and to have a visual of the progress your are making.
Your Turn To Share
What habits would you like to create in the new year? How are you planning to create your motivation to stay disciplined?