At any rate, I really liked what he had to say - and not just because he agrees with what I’ve been thinking!
When we try to change an old habit or add a new habit, many of us try to leap from point A to point Z with no real steps in between. We think that because we’ve decided to exercise, we ought to be able to just jump into the middle of it and be perfect at it. We set great big overwhelming goals which of course we can’t meet. We get discouraged by our “failures” instead of being encouraged by our small successes.
I’ve written the words “successive approximations” repeatedly for the past month or so. Just in case someone new runs across this and doesn’t know…..
When you train a puppy, you don’t walk up to the puppy and yell “Sit” and then beat the puppy when it doesn’t sit. That’s hardly motivational nor is it very nice. Yet don’t we do that to ourselves? “Exercise, Zaz!” I tell myself. “Do it every day!” And when I fail to live up to that or life gets in the way or whatever reason I don’t feel perfect enough, I beat myself up for being a failure.
You don’t wait to reward the puppy until he’s done the behavior perfectly. He’d get bored and we’d get mad. You stay enthusiastic with the puppy and make the training fun. You only train as long as the puppy can stay interested and you reward, reward, reward.
Just like we shape the puppy’s behavior and reward each small step, we need to shape our own behavior and seriously feel good and successful about each step we make in the direction of our goal.
Haider Al-Mosawi called this “Half Habits” and I like that concept.
Rather than trying to commit FULLY to a new habit, you simply take a step in its direction.
For example, instead of immediately joining a gym in order to become healthy, if your body has almost forgotten what “physical activity” means, incorporate a mini-exercise routine at home. That way, you don’t feel guilty that you’re not going to the gym every day, and you’re not taking something on that will be met with resistance. It’s a small adjustment that you won’t have difficulty keeping up.
An advantage to half habits is that you accept that you need to go through a transition period from old habit to new habit. You accept this as something natural and not a failing on your part.
Your focus then turns to the progress that you are making instead of the times you fall off the wagon!
“Oh great! I exercised four times this week!” instead of “OH MY GOD! I haven’t exercised for THREE days this week!”
So, as we’re reviewing last week’s goals and setting new goals for this week, think about half habits. I suggest reading the full “Two Simple Ways…” post. Consider where you can add new habits into your life painlessly. Would the way you’re trying to change your behavior work with a puppy?
Also, I have to add, that there are some people who do best by jumping into the new behavior. I’m not one of them! But I know that they exist. If that’s you, please consider writing about why that works for you!
Here’s the Action Plan - please feel free to copy it or to write your goal out a little more informally now that we’re used to the different parts of the plan.
In writing your action plan, be sure it includes
what you are going to do, how much you are going to do, when you are going to do it, and how many days a week you are going to do it.
For example: This week, I will walk (what) around the block (how much) before lunch (when) three times (how many).
This week I will __________________________________ (what)