5 Steps To Create A New Habit
5 Steps To Create A New Habit by Liz Nierzwicki
I'm asked frequently how to get started with a fitness program, so today I wanted to address how to create a NEW habit based on what science and the yoga tradition have to say about creating habits. We will look at a few ways a beginner can get started and gain the confidence that is needed to keep moving forward. If you're not currently working out, doing yoga, or lifting weights, it can be scary to even think about going to the gym because let's face it, "I don't want to look stupid," (I hear that from so many people who want to come and try yoga for the first time at my studio – they don’t want to look stupid). Silly people!
When getting started with any sort of fitness program, it's important to start where you are - at your level. Don't feel like you need to be where other advanced athletes are, honor where you are. If you are not currently doing any movement, you need to start in a beginner class or hire a trainer to help you so that you do not end up getting discouraged, injured, or end up hating it and bailing on the entire process. Every gym has trainers that can help you. At my yoga studio (and all others) all you have to do is come to a beginner class or set up a private appointment to help get you started. You can even find free workouts and training videos online to help you get started.
So let’s take a look at 5 steps to create the new habit of working out (or any other habit you want to start).
First Step: What is your big goal?
I think it’s important to identify your big picture goal (your Why). Why do you want to get started? What do you hope to gain from a fitness regimen? Take a moment to identify your big goal? Look at the big picture of your life, grab a pen and paper, and write down your "Why." Here are some of the reasons my clients have started their fitness programs:
· Lose weight
· Feel better
· Prevent illness
· Move better
· Be able to keep up with kids or grandkids
· Gain muscle
· Be able to eat whatever you want
· Live a ling healthy life
Second Step: What is the process you are willing to live? What are you willing to add to your life? What time are you willing to give this new venture?
Now let's identify some things that you may like to do. There are a ton of different ways to get started working out, it's just about finding what YOU are willing to add to your life. This is a critical piece to the puzzle because if you don't associate enjoyment with this new thing, you're not going to be willing to do it on a daily or weekly basis. As with anything new, there is often initial discomfort, so this process of finding what you are willing to do (even when it’s initially uncomfortable) is extremely important. Here are some ways you could get started working out:
· Weight lifting
· HIIT training
Third Step: Set a behavioral commitment!
This step is important for building this new habit in the brain. The brain likes to help us build habits and make things easier for us. This is the process of making a concrete decision of what you are willing to begin doing. So take some time to sit and think about how you are willing to weave this new fitness regimen into your life. For example:
- I will pack my gym bag and take it to work with me so that when I get off work, I will go straight to the gym no matter what kind of day I have had. I will commit to this 4 out of the 5 days per week. Or
- I will wake up every morning 20 minutes earlier so that I can go outside and take a walk. Or,
- I will begin by taking the stairs everyday at work.
Research has shown that this is the single most important factor in achieving your goals. When we set behavioral commitments, the goal of our fitness program becomes primed in the brain (because you have told your brain what you are willing to do). Then your brain goes to work and anytime it sees something that reminds you/it of this new goal, it begins to nudge you to do this new thing. What also happens because of this commitment is, the brain begins to build a new habit outside of conscious awareness. The last thing behavioral commitments do is, help you overcome the stress of even getting started. So no matter how small your behavioral commitment is, just by setting one or two, it will help the process get started.
Fourth Step: Start a Visualize Process
We have all heard by now that the brain does not know the difference between actually doing something and imagining it, so when you visualize yourself doing this new thing successfully, you literally help the entire process from getting started, to successfully completing this new thing you are committing to.
What this also does in the brain is what neuroscientists call “encoding prospective memory.” You have planted the seed in the brain and then the brain begins to form the neural process to successfully completing this new task.
Fifth Step: Imagine The Obstacle (Most important step)
It's important to know what will derail your new commitments. So take a moment to write down what is likely to get in the way of you doing this new thing and what you will do when this thing comes up. Examples are:
- I am likely to get derailed when my co-workers ask me to happy hour. So I will politely decline and invite them to join me.
- I am likely to get derailed when I do not take my gym bag to the office. If this happens, I will go home and immediately change and go to the gym or do a home based workout.
- I am likely to get derailed when I have too much work to do. Work will always be there, but my health is just as important as any work that comes my way, a 20-min workout will always help me stay on top of my game. I will make time for me.
All of the five steps listed will help the brain create new habits. A habit is formed by you doing something enough times that the brain makes is an automatic process. A habit is also something that initially gave you some sort of comfort even if that thing isn’t necessarily good for you. When you do the above steps you help the brain build a new habit.
If you’re ready to get started, start here and sign up for the monthly coaching program. I will give you workouts and videos that will show you how to do the moves. You can start at home in your own home, and then when you are ready to go to the gym, I’ve got those workouts for you as well. If you’re ready to get started in a studio or gym, call them or go in and let them know you’d like some help getting started. Or you can always go outside and start walking.