Have you been planning a change? Maybe trying a new exercise class? Thinking about signing up for a language course or joining your local drama group?
If you’re anything like the vast majority of us… you may have “decided” to embark on this new venture and you may be spending an awful lot of time dreaming of your sparkly life when you are a karate black-belt or a professional tango dancer.
You know what to do to reach your goal. Running a marathon? Google one of the hundreds of plans available online and get going. Learning a new language? Download that app, sign up for the local course and do 20 mins a day. Simple, right?
And yet, so many of us haven’t quite started…. we all wait until “the time’s right”, the muse descends and we feel motivated… we’re waiting till we feel like it
Newsflash…. YOU WILL NEVER FEEL LIKE IT…
We have to learn to do it anyway.
We are creatures of comfort. Our bodies like comfort. Habits are comfortable. Our subconscious minds like habits because those little routines free us from some of those constant, infinite decisions we need to make on a daily basis. If we always reach for chocolate after supper, we don’t have to make a decision about what (if anything) to eat. If we automatically reach for the remote when we sit on the couch, we don’t have to think about how to fill our evening.
And so our subconscious mind will always favour our comfortable habits. We may long to get into those tight jeans or to be able to do 50 press-ups, but the reality is that if we have spent the vast majority of our lives sitting on the couch, it’s going to be easier to reach for the remote than to pull on our trainers and go for a run.
So, if we want to change our habits from a conscious level, it’s pointless waiting for ourselves to “feel like it”. It’s like waiting for your tween to “feel like” hanging up her clothes rather than dumping them on her bedroom floor. Ain’t never going to happen.
But we also know that our kids are more likely to do something if we make it simple for them. Helping them by picking up their blazer and hanging it up, is more likely to get them to join in with the rest of the room, than if we simply shout at them. Once they’ve done one sum or eaten one carrot, they’ll often quite happily go on and finish a set of questions or eat a portion without further fuss.
In other words, getting started is the hardest part. In chemistry, “activation energy” is the minimum amount of energy that must be available for a chemical reaction to occur. We all know that trying to light a large log is not the way to start a fire, we’re better off starting with a small piece of kindling. When applied to changing habits, you can make it easier for yourself in the same way. Leave your running shoes by the door so that you see then when you come in and they’re there, ready to put on. Put your Spanish book next to your couch (and hide the remote). Small cues and baby steps that make it easier to get going mean that you need less activation energy and are far more likely to take the steps you need to change your habits and reach your goal.
And get ready to get uncomfortable. Acknowledge the discomfort that comes from changing a habit – and know that it won’t always be like this. After a time, this new routine will become a comfortable habit – one that you won’t need to change.