There’s a reason why it’s become cliché to talk about not meeting your New Year’s resolutions. Can I just raise my hand and admit that meeting goals is really hard? It’s also paralyzing to try to listen to all of the gurus out there to figure out the optimal methods for achieving your goals. Can I get an amen?! It always feels like there’s someone out there who has secrets you don’t yet know, and that’s why your life is still hard.
You don’t have to go listen to all the gurus, because I did it for you, and I’ve boiled it down to five mindset shifts that are not only the resounding consensus among habit experts but have also brought me real success in my life. These are the tried and true, and some of them might not be what you’re expecting…
Small Changes Add Up. Are you a “Go big or go home” kind of gal, like me? When I do something, I like to be all in. Going from couch potato to “I’m gonna exercise for an hour at the gym 5 times a week” just doesn’t work. Believe me, I’ve tried more than once. Let me pull back the curtain here and expose the real motivation: This kind of goal setting doesn’t come from the positive virtue of commitment. It comes from pride and impatience. I don’t want to be the girl at the gym who uses the 2 lb weights and exercises for 20 minutes. That’s embarrassing (pride). I want to work out really hard so I can get strong quickly and make up for all the times I haven’t gone (impatience). Small changes take humility because they aren’t impressive to us or anyone else. They take patience because they only give fruit with time and consistency. But they are how we actually make lasting change. Simply understanding this one thing and applying it to my habit formation has yielded the most change in my life. Period. Habit scientists call this the aggregation of marginal gains. What happens if you make just 1% improvement every day? The math says that after 1 year you will be 37x better than you were. But let’s say you don’t make improvements every day. What if you only make a 1% improvement 5 days a week, and 46 weeks per year; giving you 6 weeks off to have a vacation, sick days, and lazy days. What then? The math says you’d still end up being 10x better after 1 year. Pretty cool, huh?
Scrap Goals, Create Systems. I’ve been creating goals my entire life, and seen only minor success. What has created lasting change is creating systems. Morning routines, using a daily planner, creating workflows, and other rituals is powerful. As James Clear says in Atomic Habits, “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” For me, focusing on systems and habits within those systems has been truly life-altering.
Motivation Comes After Starting. This is such a helpful concept to understand. If you wait around to feel motivated to do something, you are only going to get that ideal situation rarely. But if you make a practice of just getting in and doing the thing, before you feel like it, you will find that your motivation comes naturally. That’s because just starting is the hardest part. I wasn’t feeling motivated to write this blog post this morning, but I told myself I’d spend just a few minutes working at it, even though I wasn’t feeling inspired. Within a few minutes, I was in my zone and the words flowed naturally. Just starting is the hardest part. Let’s ban the idea of “waiting until you feel motivated” from your brain.
Reframe How You Think and Talk About Your Habit. I used to think that going to the gym was something I had to do, an interruption in my day that I only did because I didn’t want to be fat and out of shape. Now, I’ve reframed how I think and talk about it as a form of self-care. I think about it as my “escape” from the rigors of mommyhood and being a housewife (both of which I love). I roll down the windows of my car and play a motivating podcast on the way there and back. It’s how I get my “me” time. I make it fun! Now that I think about it as a way to pamper myself, instead of a begrudging thing, I’m way more likely to be motivated to go. Reframing your disciplines as luxuries, pampering, or allowing you to enjoy your life more will become a powerful motivator! Find ways to make your disciplines enjoyable, instead of things you are reluctant to do.
Decide What Kind of Person You Want to Be. Instead of simply thinking about changing an action, think about changing your identity. If your goal is to exercise more frequently, change the way you think about yourself. For example: instead of thinking “I’m such a lazy person. I need to get to the gym more.” think, “I’m a person who goes regularly to the gym, and I’m going to make choices today that are in alignment with that.” The way we think about ourselves is more powerful than we imagine. As James Clear says in Atomic Habits, “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”
Are you feeling motivated? I hope these five powerful mindset shifts make all the difference for you! Remember, this knowledge will do you no good if you simply read it and move on with your life. These are things you will need to come back to again and again to slowly change your perspective. You may need to print them out, or put them in your planner or something similar to make sure they are accessible to you for mulling over. Stay tuned for next week’s article which will build on this one, bringing you five practical tips for building powerful habits!
Have you made any of these mindset shifts? Have they made a difference for you? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!