Change Any Habit

~ By Cate Reade ~

“Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.”– Mark Twain

The New Year is always a meaningful time to look at your life and see what needs to change. The most popular changes are usually health-related like losing weight or reducing stress. This year, toss out the resolutions because they don’t work. Resolutions fail because people set unattainable goals, become overwhelmed and ultimately quit. This failure experience leaves you feeling inadequate and unmotivated, yet again. Instead of planning for a desired goal or outcome, design for a desired behavior. By creating and focusing on one, small and easy change at a time, you can create better habits that fuel long-term health success. Here’s how.

First, the best place to jump start better health is to simply move more throughout the day because inactivity is a physical and mental depressant. So let’s focus on increasing activity as the number one behavior to change. Behavioral scientist, BJ Fogg outlines a systematic approach to create habits that can change your life forever.

In Fogg’s Ted Talk, he cites three elements that need to happen at the same time for behavior change. First thing you need is a certain level of motivation. Perhaps you want to have more strength and energy to play with your grandchildren or improve your golf game. Secondly, you need to have the ability to make the desired change. Can you walk out the door and back? Can you do two pushups? Three sit ups? You get the idea. Match your ability with the behavior and make it small and achievable. Thirdly, you need a call to action or a trigger that signals you to do this new behavior. This is easily done when you pair your new behavior with a current habit. For example, ‘After I brush my teeth, I will do two pushups.’ That’s it! Then celebrate each victory with a little dance and say out loud, “I am awesome!”

As you grow stronger and experience these small successes one at a time, you will feel better physically and mentally. Generally it takes about 30 days of practice for this new behavior to become easier and automatic, otherwise known as a habit!

With a bit of reflection and planning you will be on your way to enjoying life more with a new level of well-being. Simply start by matching your motivation and ability with a current habit to trigger action for a new behavior. To create the trigger, use BJ Fogg’s powerful one liner:
“After I __________________________ (existing habit),
I will ___________________________ (new tiny behavior).”

Hint: It’s easiest to align your new behavior with habits that occur in the morning or evening since the middle of the day can be more hectic.

You do have the ability to change any habit in your life. Just put on your thinking cap, pull out pen and paper and write down one, small, easy-to-do behavior that gets you to move more. This is the way to create a cycle of success and lifelong habits that can reach far beyond those first few pushups!

About Cate Reade
In addition to being an ACE-certified Senior Fitness Specialist, Cate Reade, MS, RD is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in Nutrition and Physical Fitness from NYU. She has been teaching, writing and prescribing healthy eating and exercise programs for over 25 years. She is delighted to be helping seniors regain strength and mobility as the CEO of Resistance Dynamics and inventor of the MoveMor™ Lower Body Trainer.