We’re told over and over about the importance of creating healthy habits — you don’t need us to remind you yet again.
You know intuitively, deep down, what you need to do to feel your best, even if it’s taken you some time to be more present with yourself and understand what it is that makes you feel good and what doesn’t. When you start to tune in to your habits, you’ll notice what sets your day up for success, and what makes you feel lethargic within hours — or minutes — of waking up. You might notice what you do over the weekend that makes you feel revitalized and ready to work hard during the week ahead, or what makes you feel anxious, tired, and dreading the upcoming week.
Finding Your Habits
When we think of habits, we often jump to personal ones, like drinking enough water, getting in physical activity, and limiting social media. But there are also plenty of habits we can start in the workplace, like making a certain number of phone calls to generate leads or committing to one meeting-free day per week (that’s Thursdays here at PF).
Once you’ve determined what habits you want to cultivate, you’ll next want to look at how you can keep those habits going. Habit streaking is when you’re able to keep your habit going to the point that it just becomes a natural part of your life. By doing it over and over and over, you’ve committed to this routine in your life.
Ingraining Your Habits with Habit Streaks
For me, meditating and getting in a walk daily are two personal, doable habits that have become ingrained into my life. Something like reading before bed rather than scrolling social media is a habit I’m currently working on, but I’m far from having that as a habit streak in my life.
I’ve written numerous times about my love of meditation, about my year-long streak and how meditation is now fully integrated into a daily habit.
My husband and I have a dog, Ellie, who is the primary impetus for our daily walks. Pre-pandemic, it was just Ellie’s and my time together, where I usually chatted on the phone or listened to a podcast while I let him sniff all the foliage he wanted. These days, with my husband working from home more often, we take him on a walk together most days of the week. Sure, my husband and I hang out together quite a bit, but these walks are a different time to connect, get some fresh air (rain or shine), and let the conversation flow.
Just like with my meditation practice, I’d feel off if I didn’t get my walk in, even if it’s just 10 minutes. It’s an anchor in my day, a kind of intermission between morning and afternoon. I almost always feel renewed and refreshed to take on different types of projects than what I was working on earlier (another thing I’ve noticed by being in tune with my patterns, energy levels, and habits).
These are two examples of habits that I know will make me feel good — sometimes completely resetting a day that’s going south — which is why they are so important to me. Plus, the benefits of the habits compound the more I do them. Because I’ve done these habits so often, I know how they’ll make me feel (after I’ve done them), and that is what drives me to do them on the days that I’m not feeling it.
By creating these habit streaks, I’ve cemented the idea that these habits are no longer just an activity, errand, or nuisance I “need” or “should” fit into my life — they just are my life. (Tweet this.)
And while it’s so much easier said than done, there are a few things to keep in mind to help you get your habits in place and get the streak going so that habits become a lifestyle.
You Have to Start
You can’t start a habit if you don’t try. It sounds so simple, but we all have had times when this was the hardest part. If you want to work out, you just have to press play on the video you’re wanting to do. If you want to write a blog post, you have to open up your computer. These are the things that can feel so daunting that it paralyzes us from starting in the first place. But if you don’t start cultivating the habits that you know will take you to greater places, then you’ll just stay where you are, wondering what the future could hold.
Something to remember is that it is important that you start, and also that you set yourself up with realistic goals. For example, if you pressed play on a 30-minute workout, tell yourself that you can always just do the warm-up. If you want to write every single day, start by writing 4x a week for two weeks in a row. What’s most important is that you stay in the habit.
Compete with Your Future Self
I think about this all the time; what would future Jess want? When it comes to work stuff — let’s say, writing — I know that future Jess doesn’t want to be rushed and stressed. She doesn’t want to have to slog through a blog post that’s difficult to write or have last-minute, unexpected projects come up that delay anything. She wants to be calm, in control, and prepared.
A lot of people want to get in the habit of working out, running, practicing yoga, or doing some sort of movement every day, and I’m no exception. I use this same type of thinking with movement. When it’s 7:30 a.m. and I’m struggling to find the motivation to workout, I’ll look at the clock and think: how do I want to feel at 8:30 a.m.? Do I want to be sweating, out of breath, and feeling proud? Yes, I do. So, I’ll just press play, do my thing, and future Jess will thank past Jess for her decision.
Motivation vs. Momentum
Let’s get real: the name of the game of habit streaking is having the motivation to do the things you want to do. And since we don’t always have the motivation, we need to rely on other emotions, other triggers.
The idea of habit streaking, though, is that we don’t rely on motivation to keep our habits going, because we already have the momentum that keeps them going. We have our streak of doing the habit 10 days, 30 days, 100 days, 500 days in a row. That momentum becomes the motivation that keeps us going.
However, try as we might, we are sure to fall out of the habits we so desperately want to cultivate. Isn’t being human annoying?
So instead of asking ourselves how do we get re-motivated, a better question is how do we regain momentum?
The loss of momentum is the reason we’re not progressing on our goals, not the lack of our internal motivation, which is fleeting most of the time anyway. The truth is, most people who are successful aren’t actually always motivated all of the time.
So the solution to feeling unmotivated isn’t to wait for some special spark that may not come. The solution is to take action because one action turns into another, and then all of a sudden you’re doing what you set out to do and you have found your “motivation” again. But you need to take the action first.
By keeping in mind that you – yes, you! – can design your very best life, it is possible to start healthy habits and keep them going. Planning your day and purposely scheduling in these habits are a great place to start.
And remember: what does Future You want?