Almost a year ago, I decided to start a habit building experiment where I tried a habit for thirty days over the course of twelve months. From drinking more water, to taking cold showers and quitting sugar. Each of them tapped into a different area of self development that I was curious about. What I hadn’t anticipated when I started was just how difficult that process would be and how much it would teach me about building habits.
What I can say I have learnt is that waking up early isn’t my cup of tea. I made an entire blog post detailing my process, where I messed up and what worked for me. I’d link it here for interested viewers.
There are some days when I’m just not in the mood. My brain will come up with all these excuses why I should just relax and take some time off. So usually, I want to do the hardest thing first, which at the moment for me is working out. Guys I can’t even begin to tell you how pained I am waking up in the morning to workout. Forget about all that ‘it releases endorphins’ and ‘it is easier with time stuff’. Working out on its own is a difficult bridge to cross but losing sleep for it, I can’t put my pain into words.
So in my last blog post concerning my habit development journey, I talked about some of the general lessons I learnt from that experience. In this blog post however I want to get more tactical, and give you actionable advice on how to get your personal habits to stick.
I first got interested in self development back in my first year of high school. Specifically the second semester. What really started as me just trying to get clarity and definition in my thoughts and articulation led me to change literally every aspect of my life. I started being more intentional about the books I read and the content I consumed. I learnt everything I could about mental health, affiliate marketing, digital marketing, entrepreneurship and SEO marketing.
So while it might be easy to look at my life now and think that I’ve always had my act together, I truly haven’t. As a matter of fact I struggled terribly during the process that I gave up one too many times. But I did have one thing going for me and it was this deep desire to want to improve myself and as I look back now, I realise that that desire was paramount to getting started. One thing you should know is that your past does not define your future and it certainly isn’t supposed to define the path you trek to your destination. So if you let go of that baggage, you can begin to make the necessary changes in the right direction. When I first got into self development back in high school, I read dozens of books, listened to podcasts, and watched videos that truly had a positive impact on my life. But if there’s one thing that you can take away from this blog post, it’s that reading or listening to this blog post isn’t enough. Until you take action, you’re standing still. And that was a lesson that I really learnt last year as I started to get into these 30 day habit experiments. For instance, I decided to quit sugar. I’m not sure why I decided to do that to myself but I remember reading a Mens’ Health tabloid in the waiting room of a clinic and I stumbled across an article elaborating how sugar destroys your gains (Currently, I can’t attest to the veracity of that information). Early into this experiment, I learnt an important lesson about habit change; you need to control your environment, not yourself. Now I could easily say no to sweets like cookies, ice cream, candy, gummy bears etc but I have the self control of a four year old when it comes to chocolate. Chocolate? Forget it. So I knew that if I wanted to quit sugar, I would have to go the extra mile to avoid chocolate. Perhaps, you like to indulge your sweet tooth a bit more than I do so you’d have more of a challenge with this habit.
So if you eat most of your meals at home like I do, the single most important thing you can do to change your diet and to change your eating habits is to simply not bring the junk into your house to begin with.
But apart from food there are other ways that you can change your environment to help make your habits sick. The one thing that really stood out to me was creating habit trackers. I put them in my journal and prominent places that I can’t ignore in my space. This way, everyday I feel compelled to continue these habits.
*My habit tracker templates are available for download for free on my shop with many other essentials. Click the link to visit my shop : https://clarksonsblog.com/shop/
There are a couple of other ways to create these kind of reminders. The night before a workout, you can prepare your workout clothes so it’s easier to dress yourself up when you’re still half asleep the next day (this I still do because at this point I need every one of my brain cells on board if I want to workout).
Also, I prepare my post workout smoothie the night before and leave it in the fridge as a subtle nudge to eat healthy each day.
Sometimes a reminder is all you need to keep the streak going.
As I’m sure you’re well aware of, building new year’s resolutions and habits is incredibly difficult. And often when we try, we fail. But looking back, another thing which I found really helped me was accountability.
By opening up about my dedication to my routine and the habits I have inculcated into my life on my blog, suddenly I felt accountable. Accountable to myself and to those who read my blog posts.
Candidly, you guys wouldn’t even notice if I quit along the line but after saying it publicly, I knew it was in the public forum. And I just felt so much more compelled to want to stick through with it. And then as I started to try these habits and update my readers on my blog, people reached out to me asking me what my next habit development would be and how my current habit is going for me. As the months went by my accountability to these habits grew. But you don’t need to have an audience of some sort to find that same kind of accountability in your life.
I told my mum about these habits and she was interested. She started asking questions about what I was currently working on but really what she was asking is what kind of agony was I currently going through. Was it cold showers, waking up at 4:00 am or quitting sugar? And I think what you’ll find is when you start to tell your family and friends about these things that you’re working on and trying to improve, you’ll find way more encouragement but of course they have to be people who genuinely want what’s best for you. Instead of criticising you or making mockery of you, you’ll find people that want you to win and want you to succeed. People who’d talk about it with you every time they see you and knowing that those conversations are going to happen are a powerful way to keep that habit going.
Or you can go micro and find one person to become your accountability partner. It could be a personal trainer or life coach. Or it could be a partner or a friend that has similar goals as you.
I resonate with this point because my brother has been that person to me. Whenever we both find ourselves at home we go to the gym together. The biggest benefit I found was that it reduced our ability to create excuses. And when we’re at the gym, I am most surprised by how suddenly my form improves and how I no longer skip my ab workout.
And those periods when distance becomes a barrier, with every conversation we have we catch up on how our days have looked like recently and whether or not we’re able to make time for the gym. He’d ask me my current weight and ask if I have a new squat or bench press PR. Basically he’s obsessed with me and I can’t even blame him.
But then again, he puts a lot of pressure on me to be the best version of myself.
I think it’s worth mentioning that having an accountability partner, that is someone to go to the gym with, can take away the social anxiety that could come with going to the gym. Especially for newbies.
I came across a podcast which highlighted an approach to make your habits stick. This is known as the two day rule. The two day rule has been found to be very effective especially for people who are now attempting to build habits. With the two day rule it’s very simple. You don’t allow yourself to take two days off in a row. You can take one day off or multiple days off in a week but you can’t take more than two days off consecutively. I know that it’s so much more likely to have three, four, five days off and then completely lose track of the habit.
The two day rule makes the entire process much easier, more enjoyable, and gives you guilt free breaks when you need it. By using the two day rule you can leverage these moments when you need time off but also make sure that you don’t break that momentum by skipping day after day after day. When you’re first building a habit you can kickstart behaviour change by consistently showing up each and every day for the first 30 days. Doing the habit every day can help you build momentum. You want to get to a place where you don’t even have to think about the habit, that’s when it truly forms. And while it might feel like it’s impossible, you will get to a point where it’s more difficult not to do the habit.
If there’s one thing that I’ve learnt over the past couple of years of building habits and my personal development journey; it is an unending process. There will always be a struggle and that’s okay. The sooner you learn that, the sooner you realise that you can start to show up and actually enjoy it. Enjoy those moments where you’re just not getting it. Get used to trying over and over and over again until you get it right. It’s completely okay to screw up.
Show up with a positive attitude every day, with the mentality of trying to do better because that’s really all you can ask of yourself.
If you found this blog post helpful please be sure to hit the like button and share it with others who need to hear this. Love you so much if you made it all the way here, enjoy your weekend!❤️