People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.
Hello September! The reset button as we head into the last quarter of the year.
There is still plenty of time to adopt a positive habit, and live fully, with purpose.
If you are on track, and still making progress towards goals set previously, you may find this delineation of a year-long timeline a good reminder; perhaps a bit of a “yikes!” type of motivation.
If you’ve stumbled a bit, or gotten off track, you may be inclined to find this post noisy nonsense. You may feel a bit dejected or defeated. However, there isn’t any need to abandon your intentions or beat yourself up.
No, there is absolutely no call for that. It is simply time to start again.
Commitment Steadies Our Hand.
Commitment is the first step. Re-commitment is the second step. And the third step.
Commitment is what steadies our hand, before we make the free-throw shot; it is what guides the trajectory of the ball once it leaves our foot and heads to the goal; it is the handshake we make with ourselves to solidify the deal.
To know what we are committed to, we simply need to look at the results we are getting. Personally, I’ve been more committed to enhancing my middle-age waistline than doing crunches or the plank on a consistent basis. I did, however, commit to running and established a Personal Best for myself in a trail marathon on Saturday.
What have you been committed to? What have been the results of the first quarter? Of the second quarter?
Commitment: Make it a habit.
What if your commitment to change could happen automatically? What if it accomplishing your goal could be so automatic you didn’t have to think so hard about making the right choice – opening the fridge or going for a run? What if you could turn your resolution into a habit – a good, positive habit?
Turns out, our brains like to turn our behaviors into habits, or thought shortcuts, as a way to save effort, so it can divert its focus to other tasks. An efficient brain, says Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, “allows us to stop thinking constantly about basic behaviors, such as walking and choosing what to eat so we can devote mental energy to inventing spears, irrigation systems, and eventually, airplanes and video games.”
Setting simple, specific, realistic and measurable goals is the best way to keep our brains from feeling overwhelmed and confused. For example, “I will run 3 miles, 3 times a week, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday evenings at 6:00 p.m., first thing when I get home,” is a goal which meets those criteria. From there we can begin working towards creating a powerful habit.
The Habit Loop: Three Steps.
Duhigg points out, a habit is created through a three-step process in our brains, called the Habit Loop, and it functions like this:
First step: if you were to commit to exercising three days a week, you would need a cue, or a trigger to tell your brain something new is happening, perhaps you leave your running shoes lying on the rug so you see them when you walk through the door.
Second step: There would be the process of establishing the new routine. Now, instead of dropping your stuff and heading straight to the fridge, you are prompted by the placement of the running shoes, and change into your running clothes.
Third step: There is the reward. For the first few weeks or so, the reward simply may be the sense of accomplishment, which is why keeping a goal measureable is important. Being able to cross off the days you run on your calendar is necessary for establishing a sense of reward – at least until you get into the groove of running and start to crave the runner’s high.
Over time, this loop – cue, routine, reward; cue, routine, reward – becomes more automatic. Suddenly we find ourselves craving our evening run, not feeling complete until we’re back home, sweating and breathing hard.
The secret to maintaining our goals is the recognition of the fact our brains like to create habits – good or bad. If our brains like to go on auto pilot – why not have the Habit Loop work in service of making our lives easier or healthier – like running or cleaning our desks on Friday afternoon or going to be earlier.
Re-Commit. Start again.
This is where the power of re-commitment enters into the equation. The cue, routine, reward loop is not created overnight. Often, it takes a number of months for a new habit to be established and ingrained enough to overcome the urge to drop everything once you walk through the door and sit on the couch with a beer – which was perhaps a previous habit.
Instead of the all-or-nothing approach to accomplishing a goal, think of progress towards a goal as creating a new habit. This shift in perspective gives a little more room to fall off the wagon, and climb back on again. Allowing ourselves to commit and recommit to our goals is the key to success.
Go ahead. Commit. Re-commit, yet again. Make it a habit.