Habits are a weird thing. We know we have them. We know we need some. We want to break some and we want to create some. But yet, we usually only talk about habits like they are a swear word. Habits aren’t sexy. Habits don’t seem fun.

This isn’t necessarily where we like to focus our attention. Goals. We love goals. We write them. Maybe we plan them. We talk about them. Books are written about goals. Ask any business guru if you should have goals. It’s always a resounding “YES”! Because we can’t arrive at a desired destination without a goal.

We typically create and set goals. We plan and strive. Yet, we don’t have a system or process to achieve the goals. This is why 80 percent of people who make New Year’s Resolutions will not follow through in the year, and most have quit by February.

It’s way more fun to write a list of 10 things to change in the new year and envision the new person we want to create. However, it’s not as fun to create new habits that surround those goals. Doing the actual work seems less inspiring and much more stressful than writing ideas in our pretty new journal or planner.

Let’s take saving money as an example because that is a top goal for New Year Resolutions. You might say that your goal is to save $1200 in the new year. That sounds reasonable, right? $100 saved every month for 12 months. Totally doable.

You create that goal and an extreme idea of what you will do to get there.

You pledge to stop impulse shopping on Amazon. You say you will bring your lunch to work.

You swear off eating out during the week. You say you will cancel your gym membership since it was 12 months ago since you stepped in the doors.

Needless to say, the daily deals on Amazon are hard to pass up. Maybe you stumbled into a store and the annual clearance just happened to be going on while you were there.

The canceled gym membership? You’re thinking about starting to go back. Every day, in fact.

What happened?

You became focused on a goal but you didn’t have the awareness of your current habits and patterns to change your system to get to your goal.

Why do we have bad habits?

According to James Clear and his best-selling book, Atomic Habits, “habits are just a series of automatic solutions that solve the problems and stresses you face regularly. If that is true, what created our “bad habits” or our series of automatic solutions?

Lack of awareness

Changing habits or creating new habits will be challenging because we aren’t focused on the “WHY” or the deeper reason for prompting change. We have to ask ourselves questions before we rattle off a list of things that we will never do again or all the new things we will begin to implement.

WHY do we need to change? WHO do we want to become?

These are questions rarely asked because we focus on what we want to achieve without considering who we need to become in order to achieve the “what”.

Becoming an Olympic swimmer is a great goal but swimming endless hours in a pool isn’t the only component. It is well known that Michael Phelps has a very regimented schedule that focuses on sleep, mindset, nutrition, weight training, and of course, swimming.

He understands that the “who” will lead to the “what”.

Instead of saying “I need to lose weight”, change it to “I am a woman who makes her health a priority”. Doesn’t that sound more freeing?

This shift in thinking will take you from outcome-based habits (the typical way we approach change) to identity-focused habits (the new, sustainable way).

Looking at circumstances and events instead of choices made.

This is an interesting thing because it means we must focus on the decisions we make each day that lend to the habits we currently have. Rather than allowing circumstances to dictate our feelings and actions, we become accountable to ourselves by realizing we choose to make certain choices that lead to our habits, good or bad.

I frequently hear clients tell me that a certain event or holiday was to blame for “falling off the track” and I go into mindset coach mode when I help them see that birthdays don’t have the power to make decisions. We make decisions based on thoughts and feelings about circumstances or situations.

The problem with that model is that our brains hate for us to feel uncomfortable. It doesn’t feel safe. And sometimes, it feels hard and we have no desire to experience difficult emotions. Therefore, we stick with the safe choice which is how we get stuck in familiar patterns (emotional eating, poor boundaries under stress, little sleep, etc.) It is incredibly important to acknowledge your part in making a choice, whether it’s a choice you make intentionally or out of habit, own it. You make those choices.

It’s much easier to blame a situation or somebody else than to take ownership and say “I made the choice”. Once you get into new thinking where you evaluate your emotions and the decisions you make based on those thoughts and feelings, it will be eye-opening!

Poor mindset (“this is too hard”) to change

Why does it feel so hard to stop spending? Why do changing habits feel so hard? Why does any change feel difficult?

It becomes very easy to get overwhelmed when you are facing changes that seem enormous or are an extreme difference from where you are today. Looking at the “mountain top” from the bottom of the hill can feel impossible. When looking at the end goal without a process or plan, we will typically choose the “easy” path that has, oftentimes, led us to the very spot we are in today.

Without a plan, it can feel like you are digging a tunnel with a teaspoon. We say to ourselves, “this is not working. It’s no use.” and then we revert back to what we know. We love familiar.

In order to break past that self-sabotage, we must take on a new mindset. A growth mindset.

We have to resolve that change is difficult, but not impossible. We must begin to BELIEVE that we can change and we are worthy of change.

Having processes in place to make change is also important. When I ran my half-marathon nine years ago, I didn’t decide that I would go from running 3 miles a few times a week to running 13.1 the next day. I set a gradual training plan that started right where I was and built up slowly from there. I paced myself to get to the goal of running 13.1 miles over a period of 6 weeks. To be honest, that probably was a bit ambitious because I ended up not walking upright for almost two weeks after the race!!!

However, it was my mindset that I kept having to shift because that little annoying voice would say, “why are you doing this?? This hurts!! STOP!!”.

It did hurt. I wanted to stop. But I also kept telling myself “just get to that pole” and then I would find another landmark to trick my brain. And kept going from there. Other runners encouraged each other.

At mile 12, I didn’t think I could run another step. As I walked another runner came up and shuffled next to me. What he said to me comes back to my mind whenever I need to push through something to find victory. “You didn’t just run 12 miles to quit one mile before the finish line, did you? C’mon! Anyone can do a mile! Let’s go!”

Slowly, my pace went from my feet barely lifting off the black pavement to a slow trot and I finished with a full out sprint!

It WAS hard! I don’t have any desire to do it again but at that moment, I had to resist the urge to quit. I had to change my mindset from “this is awful” to “just a little bit further until I have completed a half marathon!”.

Our urges are different. Maybe it’s eating the donuts in the break room. Maybe it’s skipping your daily walk. Maybe the TV is beckoning you away from work and tempting you with Netflix. We are programmed to just give in to the urge because the other thing we are avoiding is more difficult, according to our mindset.

Whatever, it is friend, the thing you are really trying to dig into-a healthier you, better work habits, a thriving business, healthier spending habits, will be hard…right now. Over time, it gets easy and you have to remind yourself that hard is ok. You can do it anyway.

Why do you want to change a habit or create a new habit?

As you consider creating new habits or breaking bad habits, ask yourself the following questions:

What type of person do I want to be? (What is the identity you desire? Ex. I don’t want to read a book, I want to become a reader)

What outcomes do I desire? (not just read 12 books in a year, but increase knowledge and intellect, improve life through wisdom)

Is there a legacy I am wanting to create? (how do I want to be remembered after I am gone?)

These questions will get you on the right path towards creating new, identity-based habits that are much more sustainable and impactful than wishful goals.

If you need guidance and support to become aware of the habits in your life, please submit a request for a 20-minute FREE consult call. I would love to help you on your journey.