I struggle when it comes to using a ton of will-power to make changes in my life. I might manage it for a day or two, but it’s not long before I simply give up – I’ve put so much effort in that I’m exhausted.
Do you ever feel the same? Perhaps you stick determinedly to your diet for a week, but then you just can’t resist that candy bar or slab of cake – especially when everyone else is tucking in. Or maybe you make it through the first three chapters of a business book – but then you get busy and you can’t seem to find the time to carry on.
I’ve noticed that, while I struggle to stick with things which take willpower, I don’t have any problem keeping up with the habits that I’ve established in my life. I imagine it’s the same for you. You’ll have all sorts of current habits like:
- Your morning routine
- What you do during your lunch hour
- What time you go to bed
… and so on. So much of what we do on a day to day basis is habitual. And you’ll notice that these habits don’t really take a lot of thought or energy: taking a shower in the morning isn’t a big struggle, for instance, and going to bed at 11pm might be so natural you never think twice about it.
So, whenever you’re looking to change something in your life, it’s worth finding habits which you can establish – with a little bit of up-front effort – to take you towards your goals.
Here are five simple ones to try:
1. Eating a Healthy Breakfast
Whether your diet is healthy or not, it’s part of your habits. You probably eat the same sorts of things for breakfast each day – perhaps cereal or toast. (Ditto with how much coffee you drink, what you have for lunch, and so on.)
I get bored eating the same for lunch or dinner too often, but I’m perfectly happy to have the exact same breakfast each day. So breakfast is a great meal to make into a healthy one.
You might get into the habit of oatmeal, fruit, whole-wheat toast, muesli or any other healthy option which appeals to you. And yes, if you’re used to a donut at 10am, this habit might take a little while to form – but it’s well worthwhile
2. Getting Some Exercise
Most days, I jump on the cross-trainer at around 4pm. I genuinely look forward to it: my body is ready to work off some excess energy, and my mind is in need of a break!
Rather than forcing yourself to exercise, look for an opportunity to slot exercise neatly into your day. That might mean going out for a walk in your lunch hour, instead of surfing the net – or walking to the local store instead of taking the car when you’re getting groceries.
Once you’re into the swing of exercise, it’s easy to keep the habit going. And you’ll probably end up enjoying it, too!
3. Reading More Books
Books are fantastic: cheap, neat packages of entertainment or information. So why do so many of us only really think about reading when we’re going on vacation?
Time is a big factor, of course; it’s hard to set aside half an hour to read quietly when life feels rushed and hectic (even when reading could provide a valuable escape, or useful advice to help us cope).
Just like with exercise, it’s good to find a way to make reading into a natural, enjoyable part of your day. That might mean getting into the habit of switching the television off at ten pm, so you can read for half an hour before bed. It could mean reading a book on the bus to work, instead of flicking through the newspaper.
Reading is a really powerful habit to establish – don’t keep putting this one off.
4. Saving Money for the Future
It’s fair to say that most of us would like to have more savings than we currently have – if, indeed, we have anything saved up at all.
If you’re struggling to save up for future goals, or regular events (like Christmas), then it’s really helpful to get into a simple habit. That might mean setting up an automated transfer from your checking account so that you don’t even have to think about your savings. It could also mean earmarking particular money – gifts, for instance, or bonuses – for your savings.
Yes, it might feel odd or difficult at first, but once you’re into the habit of saving little and often, it’s much easier to stick to it.
5. Taking Time Out for Yourself
This is a big one which a lot of us miss out on: taking the time we need for ourselves. Again, it’s something we might make grand resolutions about or keep promising to get round to … but it often doesn’t end up happening.
Just like the rest of life, this one’s a habit. You might set aside a specific time slot each day which is just for you – guilt free. Or you might pick a longer period of time each week – say, Sunday afternoons – where you can have time to do something just for you.
It’s unlikely that you’ll become miraculously “less busy” next week or next month. Even if you can only find half an hour once a week just for you, start getting into that habit now.
What habits are already working for you? And what might you add into your life next?