Picture by Nasrul Ekram
Did you ever fail to change your habits? Of course, you did. Everyone has failed at some point! If you’ve ever tried to attract a new habit into your life, you know that it doesn’t come easy. It’s time to prevent yourself forever from making the 5 common mistakes in changing habits.
Acquiring a new habit or changing a bad habit can be quite frustrating. You’re guaranteed to run into roadblocks that prevent you from getting where you want to go.
This can be emotionally challenging, which in turn can increase the chances of giving up on your goal.
Therefore, it’s smart to understand what sort of roadblocks you can run into and how to avoid them.
The roadblocks that you can run into, vary from goal to goal.
Maybe you want to get into the habit of eating less. Others want to get into the habit of practicing their emotional intelligence.
Whatever it is, you must identify beforehand what those roadblocks are. This is beneficial because you can build a response before it actually happens.
With this response, you can act immediately because you’ve already thought about the situation. This is a great way to reduce the chance that you fail to change your habits.
- Not taking it serious
- Forgetting about the long-term
- Experiencing discomfort
- Not having clear why you’re doing it
- Focussing too much on the outcome
- Trying to change too many things at once
- Experiencing temptation
- Not knowing how to deal with difficulties
This is a general list of things that you can run into. Of course, there are many smaller traps that are more goal specific.
For example, if you want to eat less, you might feel hungry to a point where you can’t keep yourself from eating.
Of course, you don’t eat a little bit but you eat the whole cupboard.
The result of this is that you feel bad and the new habit seems hopeless. You can decrease these risks if you plan beforehand. But first…
1. You Haven’t Made The Decision
If you want to change a habit, you better be serious about it. Notice how you’re talking to yourself. Do you say things such as:
- I should quit
- I should start
- It’s easy for me to stop
- I will stop next week
- I would do that but …
- If only …
Doesn’t sound empowering at all, does it?
This is where most of us already fail to change our habits. You’re setting yourself up for failure by not making a clear decision.
The underlying message is it would be nice but it’s not 100% necessary.
No wonder you won’t stick to the new habit. The problem is that if you make such weak decisions, you’ll give up. And what happens when you give up?
You tell yourself things like: I’m such a failure… I’m hopeless… Why can’t I…
These kinds of disempowering decisions add up to your feeling of, what Tony Robbins calls, learned helplessness. And that’s a very disempowering feeling to experience.
If you really want to change, you’ve to make an empowering decision.
How do you do this?
By telling yourself that there’s no other solution. Burn the bridge and make changing a must.
You Must Change
Make the powerful decision that you must change.
Make sure you back this up with references. Ask yourself some powerful question to affirm the reason why you must change.
- What happens to you if don’t change?
- What happens with your relationship if you don’t change?
- What happens with your wealth if you don’t change?
- What happens with your occupation if you don’t change?
- What happens with your health if you don’t change?
- How would you feel about yourself if you wouldn’t change?
- Then, ask the same questions if you would change.
Don’t you’ve enough reasons to understand that you must change?
This is the first reason why you fail to change your habits
2. You Change Too Much (At Once)
The second reason why you fail to change your habits is that you realize you need to change a couple of things in your life.
You know you’ve to change your health. You want to start exercising and eating more nutritious foods. You also want to work on your spiritual side and want to start meditating.
You’ve also noticed that you must learn new things to get your promotion at work. You decide to read books and take courses. However, you’ve also got kids and you already have got no time for one change.
Yet, you try it.
You’ve finally taken control over your life. It’s going great and you feel empowered.
The first week is like a walk in the park and you stick to your commitment.
But in the second week, you’ve got a little slip-up. You’re not quite able to stick with the courses and fall behind on your goals.
You feel the pressure building up and guess what? In the third week, your one of your kids gets sick. It feels like everything seems to happen all at once in the worst moment.
You fail to reach the deadline for the promotion and now feel horrible. You decide that it’s all for nothing. You feel defeated and frustrated.
How could you’ve prevented this?
You’ve built a list of new habits you want to include in your life. And although you feel motivated right now, motivation tends to fade away.
Especially when life throws a curveball.
Instead, prioritize what you want to implement. What change can you start today that has the greatest impact on your life?
Maybe you want to have your health sorted before you focus more on work. Or you want to get the promotion because you know that this is going to motivate you with the other challenges.
You must prioritize what’s most important for you at this moment.
When you’ve figured out what’s the most important thing, you’ve to focus on this. Your focus is going to give you the best results and increases the chances of sticking through.
If you try to do too many things at once, you’re setting yourself up for some very difficult times.
Unless you believe that you’ve got superhuman powers, you don’t want to make this more difficult than it already is.
If you focus on one thing and you succeed, can you imagine how much momentum you build up for yourself?
With such momentum, it becomes easier for you to implement the other habits.
In fact, you succeed much faster by focusing on one single habit and work down the list, than trying to change them all at once.
You’re now ready to …
3. You Fell Into The Willpower Trap
As you’ve seen earlier, willpower is not an infinite resource. If you use it, it depletes itself. This is not very helpful if you want to implement new habits into your life and is one of the major reasons why you fail to change your habits.
But there are a few tricks that you can use to defeat the willpower trap.
I’m a big fan of a powerful morning routine. The reason for this is because in the morning you’ve got your willpower meter filled up. Use this to your advantage.
Instead of getting up to work and deplete your willpower there, use some of this willpower for yourself. You’re worth at least a bit of your own willpower!
Whatever the habit is that you want to get into your life, practice it first thing in the morning.
The willpower trap is the 3rd reason why you fail to change your habits.
4. You Didn’t Plan Strategically
Not all habits are simple habits that you can practice in the morning. For example, if you want to eat healthier or if you want to improve your relationship.
Even though you can do some things in the morning, you’ll also need a plan to survive the day. There are many different ways to do this and it depends on what habit you want to create.
The important part is that you must plan in advance.
You don’t want to run into temptations when you’re at your weakest point. You certainly don’t want to rely on willpower in these moments.
You need a plan to succeed. Let’s go through these 4 steps to build a powerful strategic plan.
1. Identify Your Barriers
It’s important to identify some of the difficult times you could run into. Start by examining when you can possibly going to run into problems.
- What could prevent you from reaching your goal?
- What moments during the day are you more likely to give up?
- What have you already tried and why did you fail?
- What are some excuses you could come up with?
In this article about creating powerful habits, you can read how certain cues trigger habits. Use this to identify potential roadblocks.
2. Minimize Risks
With these barricades, you’ve to sit for a moment and determine how you can avoid it completely. Maybe you can come up with some ways to eliminate it completely.
Although this is often possible if you’re being creative, there are some things that you can’t cut out completely.
Then ask yourself: Is there something you can do to minimize the risk?
You can share your challenges with other people so that they can help you. The accountability alone can give you a little boost to reduce chances of failure.
There’s no right or wrong way. Find what works for you and adjust along the way. Let’s have a look at some ideas, to get you thinking the right way.
Let’s say you want to start working out. You know that you work for the whole day and that you feel tired at the end of the day. This means that sometimes you won’t work out because of that.
How can you avoid this? You can avoid this by working out before you go to work. Make working out a part of your morning.
Another example, if you want to eat healthier, you know it’s going to be difficult because you’ll feel hungry. What happens when you feel hungry? You grab anything that’s within your reach.
How can you avoid this?
Not having anything within reach. Don’t buy things you don’t need. But that brings you to a new problem: you always accidentally buy those things.
But why do you accidentally buy those things?
Probably because you go shopping when you feel hungry, right? That’s another barricade.
The solution? Shop after you’ve had dinner.
What if you want to learn to meditate, but it’s never quiet in the house.
What can you do?
You can see if there are some different times on which you can meditate. Or you can meditate in your lunch break at work or outside in the park.
There are plenty of solutions that you can think of beforehand if you take your time to think about it. Some of them may not be the most convenient for you, but hey, didn’t you decide that changing is a must?
5. You Adopted The Wrong Mindset
You sat down beforehand and you wrote a strategic plan. You eliminated all the unnecessary temptations and decreased the chances of failure.
Nothing can go wrong. Everything is going to happen in a straight line without problems.
That’s the wrong mindset to have. Because guess what? You’ll fail at some point.
Really, it does. You’re never going to be 100% prepared for new challenges. The problem isn’t that you make a misstep, the problem is how you respond to it. You fail to change your habits because you’ve adopted the wrong mindset.
Often we tend to judge ourselves and say terrible things. I told myself I couldn’t do it. I’m such a miserable person. I knew I was going to fail!
From there it starts to spiral out of control. You’re giving yourself too much credit for your failures.
Don’t Judge Yourself
Don’t ever judge yourself.
It’s good that you’ve set goals and that you’re hard on yourself in trying to get there. But if you’ve got the unrealistic expectation that there is never going to be a bump in the road, that’s a problem.
Instead, take this up as a barricade like discussed earlier. You now know that in spite of your preparation, you can still make mistakes.
And that’s okay.
See if you can learn something from the situation. What could you do differently in the future so it won’t happen again?
Let it go and keep working on it because you’re doing it for the …
Changing a habit isn’t going to come easy and it’s definitely not going to come overnight. You’ve to deliberately put in the work to reduce the chance that you fail to change your habits.
And if you slip up, so what?
You’re not trying to win a sprint here. You’re in it for the full marathon. Maybe you didn’t run quite as fast for the last 5 minutes but you’ve got another hour to go.
When I was trying to eat more nutritious foods, it was very difficult in the beginning. The fact that I didn’t know how to use spices, definitely wasn’t helping me.
I ate my food quite tastelessly and although I don’t mind that, sometimes you get cravings.
Often, I grabbed a bag of chips or cookies and ate the whole bunch (I sometimes still do)!
You bet do I feel terrible when that happens!
After such an event, emotions become more intense and I feel miserable. Sometimes, I feel like it’s all for nothing.
But then I get myself together because I know I’m in it for the whole marathon.
Don’t let some short-term event ruin your long-term goals.
Realize that the process is more important than the goal, especially when you hit…
In the beginning, you often see big results in your habits. For example, when you start out running or fitness in general. The beginning is tough but you see most of the progression.
What if you don’t see the same progression anymore?
You need to understand that progression comes over time. And it never comes in a straight line. Progression more looks like this.
What this means is that the habit itself is way more important than seeing immediate results. Trust in the process because it will take care of you if you’re willing to keep working on it.
In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.
– Eleanor Roosevelt
When you try to achieve a new habit, you often run into different roadblocks along the way. Maybe you’re not taking it seriously or you’re feeling tempted. We’ve discussed the 5 reasons why you fail to change your habits.
The first reason that you fail to change your habits is that you haven’t made the decision yet. You’ve got to make the decision first that you must change. Knowing that you should change isn’t enough to make the change happen.
The second reason you fail to change your habits is that you’ve got too many things you want to change at the same time. Instead, focus on only the most important habit for now. Work on applying this single habit until it becomes automatic.
The third reason you fail to change your habits is that you fall into the willpower trap. Try to practice new habits in the morning when you still have all your willpower. Do it before you go to work. You’ll benefit from doing this and build up some strong momentum.
The fourth reason you fail to change your habits is that you failed to set up a strategic plan. Create a strategic plan first and figure out what possible barricades could be and think about a solution. This way you respond automatically in some situations.
The last reason you fail to change your habits is that you’ve adopted the wrong mindset. Remember that something always goes wrong and that’s okay. Accept the missteps and try to learn something from the situation. Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint.
Share Your Most Common Roadblock
The power of groups is having different perspectives. You’ll definitely understand that when you read what I’ve learned from the Aboriginal culture.
So, what is the roadblock that you face most of the time? Why do think you fail to change your habits? Let us know and I’m sure we can find a solution together.