What is the biggest problem with starting a new habit?
I would say very simply, it’s that “You don’t feel like it.”
How many people when stopping smoking, trying to save money for the first time, stopping drinking or starting an exercise routine re-start their old habits exactly because they are “not natural” for them yet?
You have the smoker who REALLY wants a cigarette.
Or you have the person who wants only one more dress (or in my case, book), instead of saving the money.
The person that wants to cut down on drinking says, “I can’t go out and not drink”…although they’ve never tried.
Or the person who starts an exercise routine, but “feels tired” and says, “I’ll go tomorrow.”
That tomorrow never comes.
When changing any habit, it’s the draw of the old habits that confuse us. It’s those old habits and their allure of “ease and comfort” that allow us to justify the utter nonsense that we tell ourselves to NOT take on a new habit.
The funny thing is we tell ourselves “Change will be hard” (even though it really isn’t), yet expect to “not have to think about it.”
I love when people tell me that change is so much work when they’re starting a new habit. Like, “No Shit, it’s ‘work’.” This doesn’t mean it’s hard though.
Then again, if you consider “work” to be thinking about how to organize your life so that it’s different than what it used to be, then it might be hard. At this point, Henry Ford’s quote pops in my head, “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.”
The bottom line is that change by yourself is hard.
Why is it hard?
It’s hard because, we all go through the four stages of change, which are:
Most people get caught up with the Conscious Competent stage. It’s in this stage that you know what you should be doing and why.
The problem is that at the same time, even if you do have desire to change, you have to actually think about the changes you are making.
For example, you want to go to the gym 5 days a week, but don’t currently go. Therefore, every single day, until this habit becomes “natural” you actually have to think about the getting to the gym, and about the change in general. But if you’ve done it successfully once, you’ve officially made the change.
Therefore, the change itself is easy. It’s the maintenance of that change that’s a mother-f*@#$r.
This stage of competency is hardest for most people because they don’t like the “feeling of having to think about it all the time.” It’s “not natural” to them and they don’t like fighting their old habits (comfortable ways of acting).
This is like sending a telescope into deep space. Overall that telescope may travel a million miles if not more, but most of the effort will be the first 10 miles – the breaking of Earth’s atmosphere and gravitational pull. For most people, the principle is the same. For them to change, they need to put most of their efforts into moving past that “unnatural” feeling of change.
Sadly though, most people never get past the first 10 miles of their habits. They don’t pull out of their old orbits of habit and remain stuck in a rut. This is despite knowing what to do and “how to do it.”
They never give that habit enough time to stick.
Exercise is no different. Most people, even if they like exercise, may not “feel like it” because they’re tired. If they get to the gym though, they feel good that they’ve gone.
The problem is that they’ve never moved past they’re “feelings” and into “identification” of their habits. And why haven’t they? Because they have to “think about them.” They are not…Unconscious competent – Doing things that are good for you, where it comes about naturally.
So what’s a better way to change?
Next Monday I will finish this post with the answer to that question.