HOW DO YOU CREATE DURABLE, LIFE CHANGING HABITS?
With the arrival of a new year, your resolutions inevitably surface. You are motivated, you are pumped, ready to start a new activity, but how do you start and CONTINUE doing that activity for the long-term? Good question, dude. Here’s my answer!
SAHY-FI’S 30 DAYS TO SUCCESS
Recently I embarked on a 30-day challenge, where I committed to getting up early in the morning and taking a short 25-30 minute run. Why on earth would I do this to myself? That’s a great question. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. One of my weaknesses, or perhaps you might call it a preference, is staying in bed really late into the morning. We are talking something like 10-11AM. Since I left the 9-5 world and started working for myself, my mornings have become a bit, for lack of a better word, LAZY. One day I wondered if I was capable of being more efficient with my morning hours. The 30-day challenge began to take shape. Next step was figuring out what I could do to jumpstart my morning, to get me out of bed and energized. I decided to run. Now, my running game has been stagnant for a few years, ever since I suffered a foot injury that revealed a deformity in my foot (turns out I have an extra piece of vestigial cartilage in there, aka I’m a monkey). The injury awakened a dormant condition of constant inflammation during specific movements. Running became painful, so I had to stop running what I considered to be longish-distances, har har (I had been doing 6-8 mile runs somewhat regularly at that time). In the last two years, my foot has become less sensitive, so I am now able to run short distances without a problem. Having not run very much, though, I found myself a little apprehensive to start again. Because it is HARD. I have always somewhat loved running, though, sprinting especially, so I decided to target both of these weaknesses at once.
HOW LONG: 30 DAYS
WHAT TIME: 7:30AM
HOW LONG: 25-30 Minutes Daily*
*Note: My intention was not a hardcore running training, instead, I focused on completing an “energizing jaunt” every day, sprinting/walking or steady-state, topped off with a stair-climb to my 11th floor apartment.
Make sure your parameters are clearly defined. Write them down!
WHY 30 DAYS?
I chose to limit my challenge to 30 days because:
- It is not a huge commitment. One month goes by quickly, so I felt it would be manageable.
- It is a long enough period to reveal noticeable positive or negative changes, however incremental.
- It is long enough to promote the behavioral adaptations necessary to create a new habit.
GOAL SETTING GUIDELINES
- Ask yourself, what good habit do I want to create? Or, what bad habit do I want to get rid of? This does not have to be fitness related. This can apply to literally every facet of your life. Maybe you want to start eating more vegetables? Maybe you want to stop smoking or drinking? Or maybe you want to start a new exercise program? There are so many challenges just waiting to be conquered!
- Choose a goal that you can envision completing. If it is mythical in proportion, you will give up and you will fail. That does mean that it should be easy, but you should be somewhat confident that you can achieve what you set out to do, without enormous strain.
- Elicit support from your friends and family. Here are a few different strategies you can use. You should target using at least ONE (I used all three):
- Ask one person you are close to and preferably living with, to hold you accountable. My partner gets up early to go to work, so he made sure to wake me up (thanks, man) for my run. Having somebody who is willing to glare at you or berate you for missing a day is a priceless asset.
- Create tangible proof that you have completed your challenge for the day. I did this in the form of photos. I snapped one every day of myself during my run. You can send this photo to your parents, siblings or a helpful friend who will follow up with you in the event that they don’t receive anything from you that day.
- Commit to this challenge publicly by making a post on a social media site (FB/Insta/Twitter/YouTube) and providing constant updates on your progress. It would also help to enlist a few friends to stay on top of you
- Any combination of the above.
- Make a commitment to complete 30 consecutive days of this activity.*
*Note: I missed one day due to having to get up at 5:30AM and bike for 40 minutes to go to an ekiden race (take a look a video about it here), but I made it up at the end.
KEEP IN MIND
The major sticking point in starting any new activity on a daily basis is generating momentum and not quitting. Looking ahead, all you see is a giant mountain to climb. Those first steps, the first two weeks, are going to be the hardest. At this point, you will have completed almost half of your challenge. This activity becomes your new routine and you begin to adapt. By the end of your 30-days, continuing the activity becomes automatic, and you might consider continuing the activity for another set period, or for good. Whether you continue or not, you will have a new accomplishment under your belt, which is a serious confidence booster! You will feel GREAT.
HOW DID MY CHALLENGE GO?
I was very reluctant to get out of bed the first day, but I had someone incessantly jabbing me with their foot, so I was obliged to shake off my slumber and get dressed. The first week went by creakily, with my first waking thought every day being “WHY???”. By the second week, I was able to grit my teeth and inch out of bed unassisted, usually still wearing the blanket because it was so damn cold in the morning. By the third week, the echoes of “WHY???” had faded into the distance as I rolled off the bed and got dressed. And, finally, by the fourth week, I was jumping out of bed and outside in record time.
- Running became a lot easier. I started feeling really good. I think my running technique improved substantially during this challenge. By the end of the 30 days, I felt very bouncy and light on the pavement.
- Getting out of bed became a necessity. If I even contemplated not doing it, I felt guilty and lazy. I also got addicted to the feeling of accomplishment that would come over me following the completion of another day. Having a calendar to physically check off is also really satisfying!
- My mornings became more efficient. Although some days I would end up back in bed for a nap at some point after I ran, showered, breakfasted and got some work done, I still woke up by roughly the same time as I used to (11am) – and I had already done all those other things!
- Bonus: I looked a little leaner and meaner.
AND! BIG SHOCK –> After the I completed the challenge, I decided to keep going, with a few small modifications.
- I am committed to running 5 days per week, with a rest on the weekends.
- If I happen to miss one day, I don’t stress. But I should not miss more than one day per week (unless I am on vacation or some other abnormal circumstance comes up).
The cool thing about 30-day challenges is that there are so many you can do! Once you finish one, think about starting another. Keep a revisable list of things that you want to accomplish or improve. I have another one coming down the pipeline soon: a 30-day water drinking challenge where I have to drink one glass of water per hour. I spend a lot of time on the computer these days, and time just flies by. Sometimes I forget to drink water!
Some other ideas:
- Go vegan/vegetarian or commit to 1 or 2 vegan/vegetarian meals per day
- Stop drinking/smoking or cutting down on intake to a certain amount
- Read a book(s) for a given amount of time per day
- Study (a language, for instance) for a given amount of time per day
- Do 100 Squats or Pushups per day
- Remove non-fruit sugar, soda, snacks etc. from your diet
FINAL ADVICE AND KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER
Do not allow yourself to make excuses. Like a house of cards, they pile up. And also like a house of cards, once they fall, you are back to square one. This challenge can really change your behavior if you commit to it 100%.
Key Point #1: MOTIVATION GOES AWAY BUT ROUTINES STAY
Key Point #2: A SMALL STEP EVERYDAY WILL GET YOU TO THE MOON ONE DAY
Start planning your 30-day challenge NOW! Keep me posted on what you decide to do down in the comments. I am here for you guys!
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