Have you ever wanted to really change a habit or adopt a new one? Have you ever wanted to start a new project or delve into something that was truly important and meaningful to you but could not find the time or energy to do so? If so, you are not alone. Many people start off the year with inspiring resolutions. They are intent on following through with their set goals, only to find themselves hitting a wall just a few weeks into their mission. Why does this happen? According to Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, authors of The Power of Full Engagement, people who want to change their lives for the better and adopt healthier, more energizing habits can only do so by creating positive rituals. In this case, Loehr and Schwartz point out two critical ingredients in adopting positive rituals: (1) they must be specific, and (2) they must be incremental (done in small steps).
Be Specific and Start Small
Being specific about what you want to change is key! Let’s say you want to start adopting a healthier lifestyle. This could mean many different goals: eating more fibre, exercising 4 times a week, starting a weight training program, drinking more water, etc. If you are trying to go from being a couch potato to the next Harley Pasternak, you may want to take it down a notch. Taking specific, small steps makes the entire process more manageable.
Now, let’s keep the same goal of adopting a healthier lifestyle and add those two key elements; in other words, let’s break it down. The first step is to focus on what you specifically wish to tackle. Is it your diet? Exercise? For this example, let’s stick with exercise. How exactly will you create a positive ritual around exercise? Well, let’s get even more specific. Decide what form of exercise you will do; in this case, let’s choose walking. To create a positive ritual around walking, you need to take out your daily calendar and mark down a (specific) time when you plan to walk! Here, you need to be honest with yourself and schedule something that you know will work for you and your biological clock. What’s the use of scheduling in an exercise session at 10 p.m. if you know you will be exhausted from your day and already be in bed? Be realistic; if you don’t, you will be setting yourself up for discouragement and failure. Next, keep that appointment—treat it as though it is as important as a meeting with your boss.
Lastly (and this is extremely important), start small! If you are starting from zero, then your walking routine might be as short as 10 minutes, which is totally OKAY! This is where people often miss the point; they think they need to go big from the beginning and set audacious goals. Wrong! The point of this exercise is to start the ritual (or habit). You need to physically go through the motions of this new ritual, no matter how long or short it is. Gradually, as you get the hang of it, momentum will naturally build and you will feel an upward spiral pulling you and challenging you to take it up a notch. It’s truly incredible!
I must, however, caution you. It is important to be gentle with yourself if you miss your routine here and there. Life happens, after all, and sometimes it’s not possible to get to our routine. Avoid getting discouraged and instead get back on track the next day, or better yet, find a creative way to compensate. For example, if you miss your morning walk on the treadmill due to a family emergency, make a point (or a game of it if you want) to climb extra stairs at work, or to go see people in person instead of sending out emails. Remember, we all get a fresh set of 24 hours to reset and retry! So, go for it!
What are your thoughts?
Do you have daily positive rituals in your life? If so, what are are they and how are they helping you live a happier, more productive life?
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