We all would like to know why our new habits fail in spite of our resolve and determination. We have started and stopped them many times than we would care to mention. Especially at this time of year when most people engage in self assessment since the 1st of January
is just around the corner.
How far have we come? What needs to be kicked out of our lives? What must we give more urgency and focus to? Most of us look at ourselves more honestly at this time than at any other. We then make up our minds that we can and will do better. We want our habits to support our goals and ambitions.
Happily, we write down in our journals what we intend to accomplish in the coming months. It is time to say kwa heri to some things, habits and people. They have hung around for too long- adding nothing but grief to our time on this earth.
So off we start, all engines revving- we are going to be new people for the new year. We are going to leave behind the whining, unmotivated, exercise hating, junk food loving, chronically late to everything individuals that we were.
All goes well until human nature and boredom sets in. Two weeks in and there we are chomping on sunflower seeds in front of the TV. While we ignore the alarm that we set to remind us to start our bedtime routine. Or to remind us to go study or to go do something-anything else- more productive.
This happens to the best of us, no need to start calling yourself names.
Here is why I think our (new) habits fail in spite of all our good intentions:
Not knowing our WHY.
Sure you want to get up earlier and go walking/running. Yes, you want to watch less TV. Of course, whining and complaining are nasty habits you want to kick out. But you are not really sure why you want these things. Why, for example, do you want to stop smoking or get better grades?
Do you want to stop smoking because your children deserve a healthier father and not a wheezing coughing mess? Or is it because you can’t afford cigarettes anymore or to get your friends off your case?
You want better grades because that’s the kind of person you are- you give your best effort to everything you do. Your parents believe in you so you put in the extra effort. That is what motivates you towards getting As. Not because everyone in your girl group is getting them or because you feel everyone should be book smart.
Staying consistent with a new habit is a breeze once we know our WHY.
New habits fail when they are not your own but stem from other people’s expectations of you.
Too Much Too Soon
Changing everything about us and our lives all at once.
Your list of the changes you want to make is long. In your eagerness you want to tackle every single one of them. Wake up earlier. Start going to the gym. Read a book a week. Give up coffee. Complete recitation of the Qur’an every 3 days. Learn a new language and how to cook Indian food. Quit smoking. Pray on time
You take on too much and before long you are feeling overwhelmed, irritated and suffering terrible caffeine withdrawal systems.
Soon, out of exasperation, you are spitting out swear words I can’t write here.
You throw in the towel-you are done.
There is neither the strength nor the inclination left in you and…….. you are back to being your unmotivated self again. You new habits fail…..once again.
The key here is to choose just one thing, that you can change that will have an impact on the rest of the aspects of your life.
It could be praying on time, quitting smoking, waking up earlier- you know best which it is.
Then once that is under your belt, you can move on to the next habit you want to adopt.
Change Your Environment Change Your Results
Depending solely on our willpower instead of changing our environment.
If you wish to develop a new positive habit (or kick out a negative one) you need to change your environment.
If, for example, you have decided you will eat healthier then you need your environment to support you.
You need to make sure there are no junk foods in the house. Even if that means you will have to take a different route to avoid the places or people who sell those foods.
I personally know someone who does not keep sugar in his home because if it’s there he is going to eat it! That’s changing the environment for you.
If you want to get up earlier, you have to change the environment. You have to relocate your alarm clock somewhere you will not be able to snooze it. You have to adjust the temperature of the room if that is what is causing you to oversleep. Be willing to ask someone to wake you up. Whatever the reason is that frustrates your efforts- you have to change the environment that enables it. You cannot and should not trust your willpower -especially after a long and challenging day.
The Journey Is The Reward
We are fixated on the end result ignoring the process, and the small wins.
So you have been studying smarter after rearranging your schedule and optimizing on your time. You have been exercising every morning. You have been making a different dish for dinner everyday. But you still are not getting As; you still don’t have six pack abs and your food still isn’t 5 star worthy.
There is just hard work but no rewards, it seems!
But if you look closely, you will find that your studying and proper use of time has resulted you in understanding concepts much faster. You will notice that this is causing you less stress in exams.
You might not have the flat stomach yet but you might find you are not huffing after climbing stairs like you used to.
So you are not Master Chef material yet. But all the cooking you have done has had your family eating better and eating together. This is a step in the right direction! Give yourself a pat on the back!
“A little which is consistent is better and far more in quantity than a lot which suddenly stops.” Arab proverb.