Creating micro-habits helps you create a series of small wins leading to big results.
Have you made plans to make big changes in the new year for big results? This is often the approach most people naturally take…’If I want to achieve big things, I’ll need to make big changes, right?’
Do you often end up feeling slightly disappointed in the progress (or lack of) you’ve made on your new year fitness resolutions? If you’ve felt disappointed with a lack of progress during previous years or have given up entirely, you’re not alone. According to research data from YouGov, only 26% of those who make a fitness resolution in January will keep it. So first of all, give yourself a break and go easier on yourself.
Why is that 74% of people fail to keep their new year resolutions? The answer is often simple. We try to make too many big changes too soon!
So what IS the magic formula for sticking to your well-intended fitness plans? The answer is smaller than you think. Micro-habits.
what are micro-habits?
Micro-habits are very small, daily habits that lead you towards bigger changes and therefore, big results. Because they’re small and don’t take up much time, they’re easy to incorporate into your life. Micro-habits aren’t meant to be daunting. They’re quick, easy and achievable wins to help you stay motivated.
Creating small changes can help to break bad habits and make it a lot easier to implement new, productive habits. It’s all about taking baby steps.
how can micro-habits help you achieve big fitness goals?
Changing habits is about changing the way you do things permanently. Once something becomes a habit, you don’t even think about doing it. You just do. In order to make changes that stick for the long-term, it’s far more manageable to make small changes incrementally, than big changes at one time. Smaller adjustments feel more natural over time. So much so that they become a normal part of your routine
For instance, if you haven’t been to workout in a gym for four years, is it fair to yourself to set a promise that “from next week I’m going to the gym to workout for 90 minutes four times a week”? Laying this pressure on yourself to make such a big change in your lifestyle so quickly can be a recipe for disaster. Even if you workout seven times in 12 days, it’s likely you’ll be upset with yourself if you miss the fourth workout in the second week. This often leads to a feeling of failure. Even though you’ve succeeded in making a positive, impactful change. You then feel disappointed and de-motivated and feel like giving up because “once again you’ve failed on a resolution”.
Instead, it could be more productive to set a promise to yourself to workout twice a week for 30 minutes. This would be a smaller adjustment to the way you normally live and a lot less time consuming. Making the goal easier to manage, makes it easier to achieve. You’ll then feel more motivated when you’re able to stick to it. When you stick to it, you begin to see and feel the benefits. This then encourages you to do it even more.
HOW TO CREATE MICRO-HABITS
1. keep it simple
The key is to make the habit easy to repeat. Repetition is the key to entrenching your activity into a habit.
Here’s an example of how to simplify an activity to make it repeatable.
‘I will workout every day’. If you are just starting to workout, this is a tall order to begin with. It’s quite likely that life will get in the way, and you won’t be able to keep it up.
‘I will workout every Saturday morning for the next 4 weeks at 10:00am.’ While your intention may be to workout more often, by starting with a simple task that you know you can repeat every week, you’re completing an action that you can build momentum with.
The great thing about starting simple is the momentum you build through a series of small wins. While you may be starting with a simple activity, the positive knock-on effect on your lifestyle is that you’ll want to continue that positive feeling, which will lead you to further positive actions.
2. Be specific with a daily time parameter
A goal without a plan is just a wish – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The first step in developing micro-habits involves clarifying the desired action with a time and date. By giving yourself a time and location to complete the action, you’re more likely to follow through.
Compare these two examples and decide which one you’ll more likely follow:
- I will walk more often, vs.
- I will walk for 5 minutes every morning from my house to the park gate and back .
The enemy of any goal is being vague. If we don’t establish specific parameters to what we want to do, they will remain nothing more than aspirations as opposed to concrete steps to be taken.
3. ADJUST your environment in your favour
One of the most common self-criticisms I hear from people is ‘I just don’t have enough willpower’.
I’ll let you in on a little secret…
No one does…
Willpower is like any other muscle in our bodies. If you use it too much it will eventually become exhausted.
Instead of relying on willpower, cheat. Adjust your environment in your favour. This way, there will be no need to rely on willpower.
An example of this is healthy snacking. We all know the value of eating healthy foods, and we also know that those sugary biscuits we have at 4pm every day aren’t doing us any favours.
We don’t intend to harm ourselves by eating food that’s bad for us. We eat it because it’s there.
You may have the willpower of a superhero. But if you’re craving something sweet and all that’s at arm’s length is a donut, no amount of willpower will stop you from knocking that donut back. Nothing.
So instead, if you take the naughty choices out of your environment and replace them with even moderately healthier ones, you’ll be in a better position to make healthier choices when you crave something.
I’m not saying replace all the sweet things with broccoli and kelp smoothies. What I am suggesting is that by choosing slightly healthier options to have around, you’ll be more inclined to choose them because that’s what you have available. More importantly, you won’t be relying on willpower to make better choices more often.
In order to make the changes you want to make, start with micro-habits.
- Keep it simple: the easily-repeatable tasks are the ones that will stick.
- Be specific: defining parameters will help you stay focused on the task you want to complete. The appointment you make with yourself will keep you accountable.
- Stack your environment: don’t trust your willpower. Instead, manage your environment so what’s available to you is consistent with the habit you want to build.
The Fit to Last Framework is our 12-month nutrition and lifestyle coaching programme based on a series of micro-habits. If you’d like guidance, support and accountability in creating small wins leading to big changes, get in touch.
ABOUT JAMES STARING
James Staring is a personal trainer based in Clapham, London. His methods have featured in publications such as Your Fitness, Hello, Healthy, Daily Mail, Closer, and many more. After giving up smoking and entering the fitness industry in 2009, James has focused on his passion to help others transform their health and fitness. However, James is convinced most people struggle so much more than they need to in an effort to improve their fitness. Through his company, Fit to Last, James has helped hundreds of men and women make small adjustments in their daily habits to transform their fitness and to love how they look and feel.