How to Build Habits That Will Help You Stick to Your Fitness Goal
Past attempts to improve our health has shown us that healthy habits are hard to maintain, and it’s caused us to fear change because of the discomfort that comes with it. Even when we do get started, it’s not long until life comes full swing back at us, and we are back to doing the same old same old thing. So how can we break this cycle? What is the secret recipe to successful habit formation? In this article, I am going to break down the blueprint for successful habit adoption so you can reach your goal.
Start with the end in mind
First, what is it that you want? What needs are not being met? What values and strengths drive you to this vision of change? Before we can be successful, we need a clear vision of where we want to go. History has shown us that if we fly too close to the sun, we will catch fire and fall. Put another way, taking on too much at once usually works against us. How do you prevent this? Take baby steps. Make your goal realistic and manageable. You’ll get to your destination with well-developed habits to support this change with this approach.
Be specific about what you consider successful. Write out exactly what you want and why you want it. Visualize yourself at the end of your journey. What is different than right now? What new habits have you added into your behaviors?
Now that you have a clear vision of what you wish to achieve, let’s get into how to get to your goal. In the next several sections I am going to go over the three vital pieces to successful habit formation. You need supporting habits to reach your goal and maintain the benefits from reaching it. To increase the chances of completing these new habits, the process needs to be simple. We stress ourselves out when we say, “how am I ever going to get this done with my busy schedule?” Well, step one is to set small behavioral tasks or habits to fit into your life; it’s like a puzzle. You can’t smash pieces together and hope to see a clear successful finished product.The three key steps to achieving new behaviors are; triggers, willingness and ability to achieve the goal, and a reward for each step along the way (BJ Fogg’s model).
Setting your triggers
When it comes to being successful, your goals and habits along the way must fit into your lifestyle and who you are. Forcing new habits will only set you up for frustrations. Triggers are going to be your first tool in making your habits stick. These cues act as internal and external reminders to do the habit or tasks you have set out to achieve. Base your cues off of habits that you already do on a day-to-day basis – piggyback off of your current routine. What better place to start than with something you are already successful in doing?
Take time to test the waters, which part of your day and which trigger works best for you? Is it when you first hop out of the shower, have your morning coffee or walk through the door after work? Below you will see an example of setting a trigger
After I drink my morning coffee, I will put on my gym clothes.
After I change out of my work clothes, I will start to prep dinner.
After church on Sundays, I will meal prep lunch for the work week.
Write out 3-5 triggers that you’ll use to start building your new habit. Don’t write-in your habit yet, come up with a few cues that you think will work best for you. Setting and achieving new habits is a learning experience. Use failures as a feedback loop to learn what doesn’t work then readjust.
Willingness and ability
Next, you’ll need to look into your willingness and ability to do the habits you set for yourself. Losing 60 pounds, cutting out sugar, stopping your smoking habit, or exercising five days out of the week sound like great goals. But how willing and able are you to do these?
Using a scaling system, you can rate each of these factors. Each time that you set a new habit goal for yourself, ask yourself, “on a scale of 1-10, how willing am I to achieve this goal? Do I have the desire to do what it takes to get to my new destination?” If you rate yourself at a 7 or higher, then you are in a great spot. If you’re below a 7, though, then your chances of sticking to your goal when life gets busy are low. Readjust your goal to increase your chances of reaching your goal. What small tweaks can you make so that your willingness is at a 7 or higher?
The same concept applies to your ability. Do you have the means, tools, skills and resources to achieve the goals that you have set out for yourself? Before you achieve your end goal, do you have to set smaller goals to learn new skills to make it to the end? Take the time to assess your level of ability to the level of difficulty of your goal. Don’t be afraid to take smaller steps to become more successful in the long run. Below you’ll find a few examples of how to test your willingness and ability;
What vital skills are needed to complete this task? Do I meet them?
What strengths do I have that will allow me to be successful?
How would I rate my ability to_______?
How would I rate my willingness to ______?
How can I make _______ more manageable?
We must crawl before we can walk. Each baby step we take is a step towards success. Be proud of each successful moment, no matter how big or small and know that you are on your journey, not anyone else’s.
The last tool in your box is your reward system. We are hard-wired to crave instant gratification. If we don’t see the results we think we should get, then we lose our desire to continue. In this section, you’ll learn how to set up your reward system that motivates you to keep going.
Imagine that you’ve finished that massive load of laundry that has been hanging over your head for days. Now that it’s finally done, you feel a sense of relief and can now spend time with your family. This feeling of relaxation and love for your family drives your desire to keep up with chores. We can apply this same feel good moment to other habits we are trying to the time to figure out what drives us to keep going, is a key part of staying motivated when times get tough. There will be moments where we find it challenging to stay on track. To help ease the pain of habit formation, create a backup plan. Be prepared to face failures and challenges. The more open we are to failure, the less it will set us back when we face it. Remember your rewards and change them up if they no longer help you. Below you will see a few examples of setting rewards.
When I select healthy options for dinner, I have more energy in the morning
After I go for my evening walk, I can read a bedtime story with my children
When I exercise in the morning, I have more energy and focus the rest of the day
In summary, forming habits doesn’t have to be daunting. If you can attach new habits to your current routine, you can fit your new behaviors into your lifestyle – increasing your chances of success. If you follow this 3-step guide to successful habit formation, then you’ll start living that healthy lifestyle in no time. Remember, tough times are inevitable so plan for challenges. The more backup plans we have, the easier it will be to stay on the horse.
I leave you here today with one question, what is your next step?
About the author
Seeing how health leads to improvements in all areas of life for people has had a profound impact on me. It is what keeps me motivated to help others achieve the same success. My mission is to change lives through lifestyle change instead of just a quick fix or short-term programs. When I’m not helping people improve their lives, you can find me outdoors. It allows me to take a step back, clear my head and appreciate the moment.
When I feel that I am having a hard day or things seem impossible, I live by the quote “Straight ahead, never turn around, don’t back up, don’t back down”
You can learn more about my coaching practice here.