You already know the power of habit and routine. Habit is what causes you to brush your teeth every evening before you go to bed, no matter how drunk you are! Routines are what enable you to get the whole family out of the door in the morning, no matter how hectic and chaotic it seems. Habit and routine is what causes you to overeat foods you know aren't suiting your goals even when you think you're trying your hardest to avoid doing so.
Habit will always override motivation.
Motivation is a feeling and, just like sadness, happiness, excitement, fear, it peaks and wains. There are days when you just don't feel motivated - perhaps you've had a really long day at work and your child hasn't slept all night, the only feeling you're experiencing is fatigue - and it's on these days that best intentions can go by the wayside and you'll fall back on long established habits.
Habit will always override willpower.
If you think you can battle habit with willpower, you need to think again. I'll take you back to that long day at work, that's already on top of a long night up with the baby, and that long evening with your eldest learning phonics and that crazy dinner time where everyone wanted something different. Seriously, which do you think is winning by the time you reach 10pm - that habit of opening the biscuit packet or your willpower to leave them screaming at you from the kitchen cupboard?
If habit is always the winner in this game, then the sensible answer to this conundrum is surely to create new habits? Sounds simple? Not so fast! Remember, you've all those old established habits which are going to win out initially over any overhaul you try to make to your life. However, all is not lost; you just need to approach things in the right way.
Ever heard of Marginal Gains?
If you follow British cycling you will have. It's a concept developed by Dave Brailsford, whilst he was General Manager and Performance Director for Team Sky, and now well understood as a successful strategy in the world of sport. Simplified, the idea is that if you want to impact your chances of success, you don't need a complete overhaul of everything, you need to make a small change. You focus and work on this one small area until you see improvement in that area and it's embedded in your practice. Each small change, once embedded makes a 1% difference. It's this 1% that matters because 5 small changes - that seemed barely insignificant at the time - equal a 5% improvement. Over time, those 5 tiny, almost insignificant changes, become 50 and now you've a 50% improvement. Imagine if starting today you could make a 50% improvement to your life in just 5 months. That could be losing the weight you've been struggling to shift; it could be seeing that elusive improvement in your park run time; it could be having the ability to run around the park with your children next summer.
From small change, bit gains grow
Think about one small thing you could change that you will be able to focus on and won't involve a huge overhaul; it will very likely just be a small tweak to your current routine. For example, if you want to lose weight it might simply be changing your full fat pop to diet or the takeaway pizza on a Friday night to a supermarket version.
Notice this is a positive change - a 'do this' not a 'don't do this'. You're not vowing to give up the pizza or the pop completely, just to make a small change.
Now focus on this, just this, for about a month. Even if all is going well two weeks down the line, avoid the temptation to add another change. Focus simply on this one, small improvement. Then, once this change has been embedded, you can pick something else, similarly small to focus on and change.
Remember, keep it small, keep it focused and keep it positive. If you want some ideas of small changes to kickstart your progress, stop by my Facebook page this Advent where we'll count down with a new idea each day.