Habits: making and breaking them + willpower

So. You found your passion and now what?

I don’t know about you, but I never really understood that to be successful at something you actually have to change your lifestyle – woah Natalie, hold up, that kind of sounds like rocket science.

It’s crazy, it seems so simple (secret: it kind of is, but it kind of isn’t) but I never really considered it. I thought I could just work hard at one particular aspect of my dream (whatever that may be) and ta-daa. Hard work = success, right?

Afraid not. You have to change your lifestyle to some extent. This only really occurred to me when I decided to start exercising again. Even when I decided writing was my passion and that I wanted to study to eventually have my own business, I didn’t realise I was going to have to change certain things about my lifestyle. And now! Now that I’ve started exercising again and I’m changing my lifestyle to benefit my fitness, it’s helping me to incorporate changes that’ll help my business goals as well. Anyway, getting ahead of myself.

So, back to my very recent, personal example of changing my lifestyle. I decided to start exercising again, and I wanted to try out yoga. Just going to the gym and working out hasn’t really suited me in the past so I wanted to try something different here (side note: keep trying things until you find something you love. You won’t stick at it if you don’t enjoy it. It shouldn’t feel like a chore). I started going to a body balance class at the gym and looooooved it. So, I slowly started incorporating that into my week (first one class, and then two classes a week). After I discovered I loved yoga, I decided I’d try weight training again. This time, it stuck!

What I did here was create a habit. A good habit. To change your lifestyle you have to change your habits. Bad habits are really hard to break, but good habits are easy to make. So start there. And start small. Don’t try and introduce five new habits all in one week. For me, I learnt that being fit and healthy is a lifestyle choice – it’s forever. It’s eating healthy, thinking positively and being in a good mental state, it’s living an active and healthy lifestyle. To start my journey into having a better lifestyle, I started a habit of going to the gym every day as soon as I got home from work and I also started a habit of making a healthy smoothie every morning before work for breakfast. Now, I knew I could introduce new habits into my current lifestyle because I did it with getting up early in the mornings. About a month ago, I started getting up at 5 instead of 6/6:30 every morning during the week and I’m still doing that – in fact, it throws my whole day out of whack if I even consider sleeping later than that. Now, let me tell you girl, this was not an easy habit for me to create. I used to have a healthy relationship with the snooze button on my alarm. But I started small and pushed myself. So I knew from past experience that it only takes me a week of doing something constantly for it to become a habit. Experiment with habits and find out how long it takes you to form a habit. The same with breaking a bad habit; start small and work on one habit at a time.

Now, you can’t change your habits without willpower. So many people say “oh, I just don’t have any willpower”. You need to look at willpower like a muscle. Start slowly and build its strength. If you’re doing a course and find you’re not studying enough but you’d like to, start small and incorporate a habit of coming home from work or wherever and studying for 10 minutes or 15 minutes. Wait until that’s a habit and then increase how long you study each day or night. The key is to be specific with the habit. If you’re going to spend 15 minutes each night studying, do it at the same time each night. Your willpower will grow stronger each time you make your brain do something that it doesn’t want to do. Once the habit is strong, then you be a bit more flexible with it.

The most important thing to remember when deciding to break or make a habit: just start!

Nat xx

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