Self Improvement Thursday: Say g'day to good habits

Well where did that week go?  I hope yours has been a good one and that you've made a start on kicking some procrastination backside!

It is indeed Self Improvement Thursday again and my personal challenge today is to get some good habits happening.  In particular I'm trying to run.  Not marathons, just little trips at a slow jog around a couple of blocks in my neighbourhood.  My motivation for running is partly to improve my cardiovascular health, partly as an exercise in well-being (outdoors, meditation etc etc) and, if I'm honest, largely as a challenge to myself to see if I can do it.  I've never been a runner but I've committed to a 6km fun run in October and I'm challenging myself to be able to run the distance by that date without causing some internal organ to explode.

So far I'm doing ok, but not brilliantly.  I'm lagging behind on the program set up by our local YMCA who are supporting it.  I'm quite enjoying the running experience (although steadfastly avoiding hills of any kind) but I'm not really doing it that often. I suspect not nearly often enough. Sooo, it's time to set some good running habits. 

By far the biggest challenge when it comes to forming good habits is getting the motivation right.  If you are trying to establish a good habit, or break a bad one, and it's something that you feel you should be doing, not something you really want to do, you're going to be pushing rocks uphill.  Changing any kind of behaviour requires real, intrinsic motivation.  That means it has to come from deep within you.  Doing it because you think you should, or because someone else has suggested it is a recipe for getting, well, nowhere.

My tip for maximising motivation? Introspect a little.  Is this really something that you want to do or something that you feel you should do? If it's currently a 'should' but you still feel it's really important, like a health related goal, try maximising your motivation by listing the pros and cons or scrapbooking (Pinteresting?) pretty pictures that create a vision for you of the benefits that you will get from it.  Look at it often and feel the motivation grow.

There's another little trick to forming good habits and that's to start out small and simple.  Don't try to overhaul your life in one go.  Just pick one small, simple activity that you'd like to do more of and put it to the test.  My YMCA running plan had me walking for 30 seconds, then running for 30 seconds for a total of one kilometre.  Perfect.  Do-able in about seven minutes and not overly strenuous.  It builds up from there. If you want to improve your eating habits, replace the morning muffin with a piece of fruit and don't worry about what happens for the rest of the day. Start small and build one new habit at a time.

And the real kicker for good habit creation?  Triggers!  What??  Let me explain.  A habit is basically an automatic behaviour that we repeat regularly, like cleaning your teeth before bed. I'm guessing that you, like I, have a getting-ready-for-bed-routine that includes cleaning your teeth?  You don't think about why you're doing it or whether you really feel like doing it.  You just do it.  Every night.  And you probably do it as part of exactly the same routine.  Every night.

That night time routine is a series of triggers that set off other behaviour.  After I turn the computer/TV/living room light off I go to the bathroom, I go to the loo, I wash my face, I clean my teeth etc etc.  Each action triggers the next one.  

To create your new you-beaut habit you need to work out what your trigger is that will prompt the new behaviour.  As soon as I  walk in the door from school drop off  on Wednesdays and Fridays I will put down my bag, pick up my iPod and go for my run.  When I switch on the kettle to make my morning cuppa I will reach for a piece of fruit. Keep it simple and commit to it.  With repetition and success comes a new habit.

Does that make sense? I hope so but if not or you'd like to chat about your new habit, drop me a line here.  I'd love to help.

Here's a TEDx talk that might also interest you.  It's all about dental floss, peeing, push ups and tiny habits :-)


Onwards and upwards. 

Ellen x