We at Fitness First- Rockville have been discussing some of the things our clients have shared with us over the last week, and we have been focused on the ideas of habits. Many of our members have shared how difficult sticking to a diet is. Others have mentioned the effort of finding time in their schedule for the gym. It occurs to us that this is because the diet and the gym have not become habits.
Ultimately, if the idea of exercising or watching your diet are thought of as chores or temporary things, you will always be scrambling for time, or searching for willpower. The only way to bypass this is to make each a priority, and then a lifestyle. The first step to each of course, is to make them both a habit.
Building a habit, no matter what anyone tells you, is much, much easier than you think. People tend to overthink it, making it into something more complex than it is. It’s not that difficult. Here is the simple truth of building a good habit.
You just have to do it once. And then do it once more. And then again. And again. And again. Eventually, it’ll become automatic. Research has shown that it takes an average of 21 days to build a habit. That is only three weeks, or 21 single, mindful actions. Make yourself take one action, once each day for three weeks, that is all.
That’s how you build a habit – all you have to do is do something once, then repeat it. But the key here is that you realize that you only really have to do that thing once. Once you do it once, all you have to do after that is do it again. And again.
You call a behavior a “habit” when you do it automatically. You can hack the habit-building paradigm by making yourself do it automatically, no matter what. As you do that thing over and over again, you’ll eventually fall into a pattern where you’ll do it without thinking.
The best way to hack habit-building? Give yourself a trigger for your habit. So lets talk a little about building a trigger.
Building A Trigger
As I said before, when you’re building a habit, what you actually want to do is to make yourself do the action that your new habit requires automatically, so you can be absolutely sure that you’ll repeat the action as many times as you’d like on a given day. The more you repeat the action, the faster you’ll make the action habitual.
The best way to make yourself “automatically” do it – by making yourself obliged to do it – is to give your habit what is called a ‘trigger’. A trigger is a signal or event that will make you do the thing that you want to do.
Say you want to build the habit of daily exercise. To make that happen, you can make your trigger 5:30 P.M. (a time). Then say to yourself something like, “As soon as 5:30 rolls around, I’m going to go to the gym. I am building the habit of exercising.” When the clock strikes 5:30, you’re obliged to go to the gym. If you practice that for three weeks, you’ll be hitting the gym at 5:30 every single day.
There are two things that you must double check when choosing a trigger.
- All you have to do is make your trigger happen once per day, and then you are set. Remember, you just have to do things once, then you’re done. Only worry about the moment at hand, and you’ll be fine.
- Make sure your trigger is a single event. The trigger must work like a starter pistol. Do not choose a deadline, or a drawn out event, or even a 30 second occurrence. It must be a singular event that you can recognize and respond to.
Don’t let the requisite two or three weeks of constant action intimidate you. Remember, for right now, you only have to take care of today. Do things once. Then once again. Then once again…
Imagine how much easier controlling your diet will be once you open a menu and you already look for the healthier choice. Now image how much easier getting to the gym is when you hear that beep from your phone that marks the “leaving for the gym now!” trigger. Then you can build the habit of getting into the gym, getting your workout started right away, and then getting home.
The possibilities don’t stop there, you can undoubtedly come up with some other habits you could form for yourself at home, at work, even at play. The message we really want to get across is, that forming a habit can get your mind, your schedule and your goals in sync. All it takes is a single action a day, for three weeks, and the next year will require half the effort you are already spending on the things you already WANT to do. Until next time, see you at the gym.