We have found our direction, our discovered our why, and changed our identity. Now it is time to plan your first move. When you turn on Google Maps before a road trip, how many of you actually listen to it as it tries to navigate you from your house to the interstate? This is a route you’ve done thousands of times, know the best shortcuts, and could probably do it with your eyes closed (although I do no not recommend this!).
Before you start out with a new habit change, it is crucial to define the first few steps toward the direction you want to go. Making changes requires a lot of mental energy and will zap your willpower quickly. Without a plan, each day requires a monumental effort to overcome old habits, employ new ones, and then try to remain steadfast when life happens. By automating how the first 2-3 weeks will look can help get you into a routine without having to think much about it.
Tips to Define the First Few Steps
Be extremely specific. Think through the ‘how, when, and what’ of your new habit change. Which gym are you going to? How are you going to get there? When are you going? What will you do once there? Write ALL of this down and block off your schedule specifically for this event.
- Make it permanent. Once you’ve put it in your calendar, do not change it for the first 2-3 weeks. If something comes up, schedule around this event or shorten the time somewhat.
- Reduce the effort. Get all of the supplies that you’ll need for this new habit ahead of time and organize it in a way that you don’t have to think about it. If you’re trying to eat a salad every day, buy all of your vegetables and prep them all ahead of time. You can even go ahead and pre-make all 7 individual salads.
- Tell someone. Accountability is hard but is often the strongest motivator.
By having a supportive partner alongside you in this habit change, you will have an external source of encouragement and willpower to keep you going. Go to the gym with a friend or tell your co-worker that you’re going to eat a salad every day at lunch with them. You’ll be less likely to leave your friend alone a the gym or eat pie with this co-worker now!
Once the first few steps are defined, the change becomes temporarily automated. During these first few weeks, you now can devote your attention to navigating around unforeseen obstacles, tweaking the process to work better for you, or even learning a new salad dressing recipe or workout routine.
If you’ve been following along, you have determined your direction, defined your why, changed your identity, and planned your path.
Now for the last and least practiced aspect of habit change: Be compassionately consistent.