Getting in the Habit – Guest Post by Gene Monterastelli

 Gene Goals

According to the British newspaper The Daily Mail most people give up on their New Year’s Resolutions by Jan. 10th each year.  This is because until something becomes a habit we are depending on our willpower to make new choices.

Willpower is really good for short-term choices like deciding to get out of the way of a speeding car when you are standing in the middle of the street.  It is much less powerful when it comes to making the same choice over and over again – though I’m sure you’d do it for the speeding car every time.

Here are six things to keep in mind when you are trying to create a new habit.  These tips will work for any habit you trying to create, be it a diet change, adding exercise to your day, or transforming your prayer life.

Don’t Make Too Many Changes At Once

Often times when we are adding a new habit, it is because we are doing an overhaul in our life.  We realize there are a lot of things that we want to change.  We have decided that we want to spend more time with loved ones, exercise more, get back to that creative project that has sat untouched in the basement for months, eat healthier, and get back in the swing of daily prayer.

As admirable as it is to want to make this many changes in our life,  it is too much all at once.  Because we are trying to make so many changes, it is unlikely to work.  When we fail at some of the changes, it will feel like we have failed at all the changes and nothing will stick.

Make a list of the changes you want to make and implement one a week for a number of weeks.  Once you have the hang of the first change, it will be easier to add the second.

Measurable Goal

When we are making a change, it is important know exactly what change we are making in a measurable way.  This will provide guidance for our choices and help us to know the progress we are making.

Unhelpful Goal: Eat better

Helpful Goal: Eat 6 servings of fruits and vegetables every day

Unhelpful Goal: Improve my prayer life

Helpful Goal: Spend 10 minutes in prayer each morning before the kids get up.

When we know exactly what we are trying to achieve, it is going to provide direct guidance which will assist us in adding it to our day.

Name The “Why” Of Your Goal

Often times the goals we choose are really a gateway to a larger change we want.  For example, we can say our goal is to lose 15 pounds, but in reality what we want is to be healthy, have energy, and feel comfortable in our body.  Saying we want to lose 15 pounds is just a measurable goal to make it easy to shoot for.

The problem that ultimately comes with these types of goals, is that it is very easy to become disconnected from the emotion and reason for the goal.  To combat this and to stay motivated it is important to stay in touch with the “why” of the goal, not just what the goal is.

I am going to to pray for 10 minutes each morning to help me to stay connected to God throughout my day.

I am going to eat two healthy portions of fruits and vegetables with each meal to help me have energy to have a productive and enjoyable day.

When we stay connected to the “why” of the goal it is easier to stay motivated because we can see each small choice in the big picture of what we are trying to change.

Start Small

One of the fastest ways to fail at a new habit is trying to make too big of a change all at once.  It is great to think that you are going to add 45 minutes of exercise 3 times a week.  I don’t know you personally, but I know you are already over-scheduled.  You probably do not have an extra 2 hours and 15 minutes in your week that you are looking to fill with exercise.

It is important – when we are making a change –  to make it small at first so that we can be successful and build momentum.  When this happens it becomes easier to grow into a habit.

For example, it is better to start with taking a 10 minute brisk walk 3 days a week to get your heart rate up during lunch.  Once you get the momentum of that, you can expand how much you work out.

Create An Accountability Structure

It is amazing how easy it is to let something slide when we are doing it for ourselves and how much easier it is to do something when we are doing it for someone else.  We can use this to our advantage when we are trying to change.

When you decide you are going to make a change, tell a few people in your life.  Let them know you are going to give them regular updates, and give them permission to check in with your from time to time to see how you are doing.

It is amazing the things we can accomplish when we know that someone else is going to checking in with us.

Give Yourself A Reward

My middle school Spanish teacher would give us a piece of candy if we raised our hand in class and answered a question right.  He said, “It is amazing what kids will learn for a two cent piece of candy!”

The same is true for us as adults.  Rewards can be a powerful motivator.  Create rewards for yourself when you are successful at your goals.  Treat yourself to a nice dinner out with your spouse, get that novel you have been wanting to read, or send the kids to your in-laws house for the weekend and sleep in on Saturday.

The reward doesn’t have to be huge, but it will motivate you much more than scolding yourself for not doing what you committed to.

Closing Thoughts

The most important thing to keep in mind when creating a new habit is to be easy with yourself.  It is going to take a little time, but once you are in the groove and make a new healthy behavior a habit, it will be much easier to maintain.

 Gene Photo

Since 1996 Gene Monterastelli has been 52% of APeX Ministries which combines juggle, sketch comedy, and personal testimony sharing with the young church and the young at heart.  Gene lives in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY (AKA the hipster capital of the east coast.) Despite the peer pressure of the neighborhood, he hasn’t given in to grow a beard and/or waxed mustache. Someday Gene hopes compete in solo synchronized swimming in the olympics.