It’s time to quit relying on willpower, because that can be fleeting. It’s time to quit forcing yourself into discipline or motivation. It also wanes. I just read a blog by another trainer in Australia who completely “fell off the wagon” even with the deepest of convictions. Trainers should know better!?!
Change is really hard. How then to accomplish it?
How about being able to do something without thinking!
I just listened to the most interesting TED talk by a woman named Christine Carter. She is a sociologist, and her job is coaching people on effective science-based habit formation. She decided that she wanted to get back into running, and spent a week devising a very elaborate plan, and set her goal at a half marathon.
She lasted a few weeks, and then gave up entirely.
“A spectacular failure” in her own words. Funnily enough, this is her job. She coaches people on habit formation.
Why did she fail, when she of all people should know better?
In other words: What makes things easy to do, or not so easy to do?
Her strategy to avoid this epic failure and resulting feelings of despair, rather than going for the gusto and have an equally epic failure, is this:
1. “The only requirement is: that you stop trying to be so good.”
2. “You’ll need to abandon your grand plans, at least temporarily, and consider doing something so minuscule that it would be better than not doing anything at all.”
3. “It depends on our willingness to be bad at our desired behavior….be willing to be bad!” Also please watch out for the word “SHOULD”. If you catch yourself using that word then in comes the internal negotiations, willpower, and need for motivation again. Careful!
4. “Ask yourself: how can you strip that thing that you have been meaning to do into something so easy you could do it every day with barely a thought?”
5. “This minimal effort always turns out to be way better than doing nothing at all….so for now, what could you do that is so ridiculously easy that you can do even when nothing is going as planned?”
Remember her half marathon goal? She decided to get back into outdoor running by getting up in the morning, brushing her teeth, and then stepping out the door to run for… get this….
EXACTLY ONE MINUTE.
One minute. That was it.
Does that seem do-able?
The “why” of this is the super interesting part to me.
She explains, “Once we hard wire a habit into our brains, we can do it without thinking, and therefore without needing much willpower or effort. A better-than-nothing habit turns out to be incredibly easy to repeat again and again until its on autopilot. This is because we can do it even if we aren’t motivated, even if we’re tired, even if we have no time whatsoever. And once we start acting on autopilot, that’s the golden moment that out habit can begin to expand organically.”
So, if you’d like to create a new habit, be willing to be bad at it. Be willing to make it so incredibly easy that you almost can’t do the new thing that you want to incorporate into your life. Water it down. Make it easy. Your goal is to go for eventual autopilot!
Here is the link to the full TED talk… it is only 11 minutes long and definitely worth the listen! Let me know in the comments below what your 1 minute strategy is going to be!