Elastic Habits -How to Establish Healthy Habits that Last
Habits are powerful- they create your reality. They grow stronger and stronger over time eventually becoming automatic.
The automatization of your actions free up energy that can be used to focus on other tasks. This can work to your advantage, giving you the breathing room to focus on becoming the best version of yourself. Now if a bad habit is created, you need to change it - to interrupt it and “install” a new one.
As a health and fitness coach, a common mistake that I notice is that people tend to set habits that are too ambitious. The problem with setting goals that are too large is that you are susceptible to burn out which will keep you from building lifelong habits.
In order to build a habit- it should be done everyday. If your goals are too intense- it will be extremely difficult to keep them up.
Here is an example of an ambition goal that someone new the a fitness experience may set:
"I will make a habit of going to the gym 5 days a week"
Do you know someone who has set a goal like this before? Have YOU set a goal like this before? If so, you may be familiar with how it plays out.
Excitement and sheer will power gets you to the gym the first 3 days- maybe even a week with a lot of force and effort.
Then, life happens.
You have a long day a work, and skip the gym. Disappointment sets in, so the next day you make it. The same week, the kids tell you about a project that's due tomorrow so you need to make a last minute run to the store and skip the gym again. Since you have already missed 2 days this week, you feel defeated. Your mind starts saying things like "What's the point?" "See, I'm too busy to stay fit." "I'll be able to commit to my health when I am less busy." And this is where the habit dies.
Here's the thing, folks. Life ALWAYS happens. Good days come with bad days and that is to be expected. Things will always come up, so you have to be flexible. That is why this goal is quite ambitious, especially for a beginner.
So what's the solution? Insert elastic habits. On those harder days that life throws at us, instead of skipping the habit all together, have a mini version to complete. This way, you will still be able to stay consistent and keep up the momentum as you move toward your goals. On days were you have more energy, you can stretch and challenge yourself a little more. Think of it as an "elite" option- not the standard.
Repetition is how you build a habit, so it is vey important to not miss a day. An elastic habit make look like this:
"I will make it a habit to move daily."
Each day, you will have options for movement- a mini version, a standard version, and an elite version.
On days where you my feel physically or mentally exhausted, chose a form of exercise that takes little effort. An example of this could be 10 jumping jacks, 10 squats, or 10 wall push ups. The point of a mini version is to keep you moving.
As stated before, something must be repeated daily in order to become a habit and the mini version gives you the space to do so. An object in motion, stays in motion and the use of a mini habits keeps you moving forward towards your goal.
If you miss any days, that means your mini goal is still too big. Make it smaller. You want to pick something that is so small and so easy to do that you would feel silly saying no. Sometimes starting with a mini workout will give you to motivation to end up completing a standard workout.
This is the workout that you plan for an normal day. An example of this may be gym workout, fitness class, or a home strength workout.
On days you may have may have a little more energy, you can chose to stretch yourself a little more. Once your standard workout is complete, you make chose to get in a long work, a cycle class, or a run around your neighborhood. Days like this you may have fewer demands competing for your time and attention so you are able to do more.
WHATEVER version you chose on a particular day- celebrate the completion of that workout. Click here to read more about the importance of celebrating your fitness successes
Celebrate the fact that you are building a healthy habit that will last a lifetime- all thanks to the use of elastic habits.