Foundations of habit building
What’s that old saying, ‘it takes 21 days to form a new habit’? I’ll go ahead and call it for you right here and now. The essential foundation you need to build a habit is consistency; repetition, performing that habit repeatedly until it becomes something you do on autopilot. There are a million and one things you do on autopilot you do every single day without even thinking twice about–brushing your teeth, eating, checking your email. I am sure you can think of several more in your own life. Now, some of these autopilot habits we have, overlap as humans, but based on our lifestyles, these can widely vary from person to person.
So how do you get from introducing a new habit to it being on autopilot? A habit being something you prioritize because it is meaningful to you. Something that is so ingrained in who you are. You have come to the right place because we are going to dive into exactly what you need in your habit-building toolbox to live & maintain that active lifestyle you desire!
Identifying your current & future self
By understanding what our future self looks like and where we want to be in life at specific points in time, will allow us to work backward and reverse engineer our goals to get there. Next, you want to step back and analyze where your life is now. What types of habits do you currently have and how do these (as is) impact where you are headed (your identified future self)? Let’s do an example together:
Future self: You want to be able to take your kids on a backpacking trip along the John Muir Trail because you were able to do this in your 20s and you want to give them that same experience without having to miss out because you’re ‘out of shape’ for the trek.
Current Self: You enjoy somewhat frequent hiking and outdoor activity, but you are limited on how long you can stay out for a hike or how far you can go before needing to turn back. Sometimes this can be challenging on your knees, causing you to cut your hikes shorter than you’d like.
Hold this thought & stay with me!
Outlining traits and habits of your future self
Next, we are going to jump back to our future self and identify habits or traits that our future self (super dad backpacker) already obtains. So to be your super dad backpacker self, there are likely a few traits that ‘future you’ possess. For one, super dad is likely already very active to keep himself healthy and mobile as he ages. Super dad likely has an exercise regimen that supports him in maintaining strength, endurance, balance & joint mobility to be able to hike on all terrain and sustain longer treks. Second, super dad likely takes care of his body from the inside out, ensuring he maintains a healthy, balanced nutritional routine to avoid health complications from poor dietary consumption. Super dad may have additional habits and traits that you’d love to see, but for now let’s stick with these.
Now understanding the habits and traits of super dad, you can work backward, starting from this vision, to where you are now. Currently, in our example, you are a somewhat frequent hiker, but you struggle with endurance, strength and joint pain. Perhaps you also aim to eat healthy, but you always try new diets and quickly lose interest. So to get to where super dad is, you can start instilling new habits into your daily and weekly routine to get you closer to where he is.
Are you still with me?
Building mini habits to start implementing right away
Next, you are going to start outlining what those new habits are that will get you closer to becoming super dad. Based on what we know about your lifestyle currently and what we know about super dad’s lifestyle, there are few changes you can make.
For one, focusing on an exercise regimen that will support mobility, endurance and strength. You could pick a few different practices such as weight or resistance training, walking or short hikes, as well as mobility exercises you can do a few times a week. Start small and pick one area of training to focus on daily. Perhaps you hire a personal trainer to support you in building a holistic program that will challenge you & while accommodating your current lifestyle.
Second, you can zoom in on your nutrition and ask yourself what this looks like on a weekly basis? How much are you eating out vs. cooking homemade meals? Are you aware of the foods you’re eating & what their ingredients are? These questions will get you closer in this funnel process to narrow down what your specific, what I call, ‘mini habits‘ will be, to start implementing.
The key is to get as granular as possible on these ‘mini habits’. The smaller these are, the more achievable they will be. This is a key to building and sustaining a new habit by making it easy to accomplish.
We are almost there, hang in there with me! A fun bonus at the end will make this all worth your while!
Anticipate challenges and obstacles ahead of time.
A good plan will only be effective with anticipating the challenges and obstacles that lie ahead. There will be hurdles. There will be times when you don’t make it happen. You are human and these are inevitable. However, if you can anticipate what these challenges or excuses may be, before they happen, you are much more likely to overcome these when they do arise. Rather than falling victim to that ‘you could have seen happening’, work picking up, & life events taking over, take a few moments before you start implementing a new habit to get clear on how to overcome these feats.
Here is the home stretch. Are you ready?
Create an accountability loop.
This is your ticket. Until that habit becomes one we do on autopilot, having the accountability to make sure it happens will support you in remaining consistent – the foundation of habit building. So, establish an accountability loop. What does this look like?
Picture a circle with two breaks in it. At the start of one line around the curve is you. You’re on your way to get in your workout after a long day at work. But, the workday was so exhausting that all you feel like doing is going home and crashing on the couch in front of the fire with a cold beer in hand. Boom, you have hit that break in the circle. It would be so easy to follow through on that ‘skip your workout’ plan and stay in your comfort zone.
Cue your accountability loop. Perhaps this is your wife sending you a text as soon as you get off work that says, “have a great workout today, babe!”. Just like that, having your wife send you that text when you get off work, ignites this feeling that you can’t let her or yourself down–you have to get in your workout now. This is your accountability loop. You’re back on the cycle and in your groove…until the next break in the circle: the next hard day at work, life event that gets in the way, etc. You can see how this can easily repeat itself in your life.
You can set this up however best it works for you:
- A reminder on your phone
- Scheduling in your habit at a specific time in the day so you see this in your calendar
- Having a friend or family member be your accountability-buddy
- Changing into your exercise clothes before you leave work so you are already in the zone
Understand what will work best for you. I recommend picking at least 3 accountability methods in case one fails; you have a back up.
Wrapping it all together
At first, building a new habit can seem daunting and all you do is dream of living that active lifestyle for years to come. When you break it down, get really small, really clear on these mini, achievable habits you can implement, you will be & feel much closer to your future, super dad self. Maintain your mini habits with a habit loop that works for you and you’ll be backpacking the JMT with your kids in no time– living what you thought would only be a dream!
So I did say there would be a surprise at the end & I wasn’t lying! For a simple, organized way to follow this steep by step process, grab my Mindset & Habit Development Workbook HERE! In the workbook, we will break down these steps into actionable questions and prompts to get you closer, more confident & able to sustain habits to live that active lifestyle you desire!
For more easy tips on mindset, exercise & nutrition, follow Milsner Fitness on Instagram and stay connected through my weekly newsletter- subscribe here!
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