Building a Habit

I have many good qualities.

(It’s okay for me to say this. There was a time I thought it wasn’t, but it actually is okay.

We’re given the message that liking ourselves is not okay. And so we don’t dare.

Well, now I dare. I dare to like myself. That sounds funny, and it’s a bit tongue in cheek, but how many years did I spend NOT liking myself before I started to change my mind? Many years. And I wasn’t alone. Even now, I know very few people who honestly like themselves as they are. Everyone is looking to change almost everything about themselves FIRST, before they’ll consider themselves worthy and acceptable.

“When I lose weight” … “when I make more money” … “when my skin clears up” … then I’ll be okay enough, and I won’t tell myself I’m ugly and I suck and I’m a loser.

Well, that’s all bullshit. You’re actually okay enough right now.)

Anyway, I have many good qualities. One of them is consistency.

I decided a while ago to stick with something a while to give it a chance to work. A good example is exercise – a lot of us struggle with making movement a daily habit. Trying to make all the changes you think you need to make all at once sets up a cycle of starting and quitting and self-hatred. Be kind: start small and build a habit.

When I added weightlifting to my life, I needed to build the habit.

I gave myself to a reasonable time frame. Instead of weightlifting 2 weeks and quitting because I hadn’t seen any difference in my lifts or in the aesthetics of my body, I gave it 6 months. Within 2 months, I could see physical changes – and I got stronger.

I gave myself a reasonable commitment. I said, “I can do this twice a week.” I looked at my schedule, my health, and my life, and I could see that I could make time for at least an hour twice a week. I went out to the gym twice a week, and worked with my coach for 45 minutes. Eventually, I commited more time – because I knew what I could handle.

I make one change at a time. When I want to add something in to my lifting program, I add one new thing and give it at least 4 sessions to see if I like the results. I don’t do a different workout every time – I do the same basic lifts, the same basic plan, and add in one new thing only.

Creating a basic plan, and only adding one new thing at a time, allows the one new thing to also become a habit.

I keep track of every small sign of progress. This allows me to take the long view. Rather than getting frustrated by what looks like a lack of progress in the short term (a month or two), I take notes to track small interim goals. Am I able to lift one more rep this week? Am I able to increase weight by 5 lbs? I celebrate those small signs of progress, because they are the reminders that the bigger, more dramatic changes are being built.

One new habit is much easier to manage than trying to create 14 new habits at once.

Small changes, over time, add up to big changes over the long-term.

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