Why You Can’t Make That Habit Stick (Part Two)

Why You Can’t Make That Habit Stick (Part Two)

12.07.2018 Off By Lambert Patterson

Last week we started talking about why habits are hard to change and focused on how much we really prefer the payoffs of out bad habits (a painful truth, but the truth nonetheless). If you haven’t read the post yet, go back and read it first so you can understand how “doing the math” is your ticket out.

Today we’re going to talk about another reason you have so much trouble breaking bad habits and establishing better ones, and it’s an equally painful truth. But once you understand it, you can move past it. Let’s dive in.

Painful Truth #2: If you think “good intentions” are enough to create change, you’re sunk.

A lot of times when we try to break a habit we say to ourselves, “I’m really going to do it this time,” only to find ourselves faltering far too soon. Maybe we have a few good days and then get off track, never to return. Or maybe we never get on track in the first place, and we’re stuck in “I’ll get to it soon” mode.

Either way, no long-term results. We feel the sting of failure and decide there’s something terribly wrong with us.

But I’m willing to bet that most of the time the problem isn’t “us” – it’s the fact we’re using wishful thinking instead of a real strategy to overcome the habit.

This is something that we tend to do very easily – we get excited about doing something new and we convince ourselves that our excitement and enthusiasm will be enough to carry the day. And it may carry us, but only for a very short time. Then our good intentions get overridden by the sticking power of our long-established habits.

How To Make Yourself 50 Times More Likely To Follow Through

While I’m all for getting yourself excited to make a change (without falling into the positive thinking trap or depending upon the “Law” of Attraction), there’s a critical step you have to take after the infatuation-with-change phase.

And that step is called Making A Plan. An actual plan for how you are going to make this habit change – one that has enough detail to actually get you there.

“I’ll start eating better and going to the gym” is not a plan. It’s wishful thinking because it doesn’t allow you to schedule things in and handle the resistance to change you’ll be feeling when you try to rewrite your patterns of behavior.

A plan looks more like this:

  • I’m scheduling in going to the gym at lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and even if I don’t feel like working out, I’m going to show up anyway just to establish the habit.
  • I’m hiring a nutritionist to help me create a meal plan that I can live with and actually follow, and I’m going to check in with her once a week.
  • I’m hiring a personal trainer to create a workout plan that will help me reach my goals. (And if you’re tight on cash, drop by stronglifts.com, get a free plan, and get a buddy to keep you accountable).
  • I’m going to write down all the reasons I want to make this change – and everything it will cost me if I don’t make the change – and I’m going to review it at breakfast every day of the week.
  • I’m going to write down every single thing I eat during the day for the next 30 days to keep me accountable for making good decisions – and I’ll show it to my nutritionist weekly.
  • I’m going to forgive myself if I get off track and review my reasons again so I can get back on track.
  • So … what do you think’s more likely to create a real habit change? “Hoping?” or planning and scheduling?

Goals Aren’t Real Until They’re Scheduled In And Planned

No, I’m the farthest thing in the world from a rigid, regimented person. I’m not going to tell you there’s one right way to keep track of your goals, or do your schedule, or manage your workday.

But I will tell you this: If you don’t have a way to manage it, it’s not going to happen on it’s own. And I can guarantee you that daily urgencies will distract you and create a tension strong enough to make you unwilling to use your mental energy to reinforce habit changes. Instead, you’ll fall into comfortable patterns because you’ll crave some comfort in the midst of your stress.

To change a habit, you need a plan. And it doesn’t have to be a perfect plan. It just has to be something to get you started and get it in the calendar.

For example, a beginner plan for losing weight could look like this:

  • I’m scheduling in going to the gym at lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and even if I don’t feel like working out, I’m going to show up anyway just to establish the habit.
  • On Wednesday at lunch I’ll spend 30 minutes figuring out how to add to / improve my plan.
  • That’s all you need to do. Have a plan (or the beginnings of one) in place. Don’t focus on what you want without figuring out what you’re actually going to do in order to accomplish it.

Wishful thinking doesn’t get you anywhere. Planning and working the plan does.

Now Here’s The Part Where I Tell You To Do Stuff

Here’s what I want you to do right now while this is all fresh on your mind:

  • Think of one habit change that’s been in “wishful thinking” mode and decide you’re going to move into “making it real” mode.
  • Schedule 30 minutes sometime in the next 7 days to start creating your basic, just-get-started plan of attack.
  • Leave a comment and tell us what you’re doing and when your planning time is scheduled. Leaving a comment will make you accountable for getting honest and the process will be a relief. If you don’t want to put your real name, just put “Ass Kicker” in the name field.