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How to commit to a health habit

At the start of the year, people generally make bold commitments to themselves that this year they will get fitter, eat better, sleep more... you get the picture. We’ve all been there. I know I have. You may even have told yourself something along these lines recently.

But the trick is how do you stay committed to your goal and actually get to experience the results? You can say that you are going to eat better, but unless you have a plan about how you are going to do that and support yourself in that goal, there’s a good chance it won’t happen. Or perhaps you want to exercise more regularly but then the excuses start… it’s too hot or too cold, you’re too tired, or something came up at work.

One thing I’ve come to realise over the years is that unless there is a plan and you commit to the plan, then things generally fall apart. I remember doing a 12-week online fitness challenge some years ago and the instructor talked about switching into ‘robot mode’ when you woke up. Meaning when you woke up, your fitness clothes were next to the bed, you put them on and then went out and did your workout. No thinking, just doing, as if you were a robot programmed to complete a task. To me, that concept makes sense because I know the more I start to think about something, the more chances there are for excuses to pop in.

So what is the secret to committing and maintaining a healthy habit?

Once you know what your goal is (e.g. eat better, exercise more), its imperative that you identify WHY you want to do it. If you want to be fit, what is the ultimate reason for achieving a certain level of fitness? Do you want to ensure that as you get older you stay strong and flexible, or do you want to be fit to be able to run a marathon? There could be any number of reasons, so what is your ‘why’? Be very clear about it, as this will determine the path you take. For example, the exercise you do to maintain your strength and flexibility for long-term health will be different to the exercise you do to be able to run a marathon.

Then, when you’ve identified the why behind your goal, you need to identify the HOW. How are you going to go about achieving it? Ideally, you want to be doing something every day towards it, and this involves planning. The planning is the small steps you need to take to achieve your bigger goal. For example, if your goal is to improve your eating habits to improve your cholesterol levels, then you need to know what you should and shouldn’t be eating to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and then shop for the right food and plan your meals accordingly. There is a good chance that the planning stage could actually be a bit overwhelming, which means you need to find out who can help you along the way.

Identifying WHO is going to help you achieve your goal is important so you can get the right support. This means finding someone who has expertise in relation to the goal you are working towards. It may be a friend who has had a similar experience and had positive results, or someone who is trained as a coach (like a personal trainer), or even a professional in a particular field. It’s important to find someone you can trust and who can help you identify the steps you need to take to achieve your goal. You may also want this person to be your accountability partner, i.e. someone you check in with regularly so you stay on track to achieving your goals. If not, then find another friend who will encourage you along the way – preferably someone who’s not going to allow you to make excuses, but instead will give you support and strength to continue when times are tough.

Next is working out WHEN you want to achieve your goal. This includes identifying the length of time needed to achieve the goal, and the time you need to devote on a regular basis to achieve the goal. If the goal is a lifelong goal, such as improving strength and flexibility to stay mobile as you grow older, or eating a healthy diet, then there really isn’t an end date of when this will be achieved, it’s ongoing, so will probably require daily effort for the rest of your life. But if your goal is to reach a certain level of fitness for a specific purpose (like the example I used earlier of running a marathon), then it would be wise to set a date to work towards.

So, to summarise, to commit to a healthy habit, you need to:

  • Define the goal

  • Identify WHY you want to achieve it

  • Plan HOW you are going to achieve it

  • Find people WHO can help you

  • Schedule WHEN you are going to put in the work to achieve it

And finally, follow through with your plan!

If there are times when you want to give up, go back to your WHY. This will help you stay focused and get you through the challenging times. You will soon realise that the more regular work you put in to achieving your goal, it will eventually become a healthy habit that brings joy and purpose to your life.

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