How To Form Lasting Healthy Habits | Dr. Marguerite Weston

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By Dr. Marguerite Weston |

Habits: We Are What We Do 

How to form long term health habits

We all have heard the stats about New Years’ Resolutions. In fact, 43% of us expect to fail before February. Almost one in four quit the FIRST WEEK! Only 9% keep them all year.   

How Can We Improve Our Chances Of Keeping Our Resolutions?

First of all, we need to understand that setting a resolution does not change behavior. Habits change behaviors. Over 40% of what we do each day is a reflection of habits – not our decisions. Many people share the same goals (improve business growth, win a championship, retain a healthy marriage) but few reach the goal because the goal is not the important part.  

So then the next question is how can we form lasting habits? 

Dr. Weston In The Kitchen

Many People Focus On The “DO.”  I Challenge You To Focus On The “WHO.”

Who do you want to be? 

  • Do you want to be a healthy eater?
  • Do you want to be a person who exercises? 
  • Do you want to be a nonsmoker again? 
  • Do you want to be a present parent? 
  • Do you want to be a focused person? 
  • Do you want to be a positive person? 

Try not to think of a question and say, “No that is impossible; I’m not a morning person and never will be.” As humans, we are very capable of change! Our brain pathways CAN be changed! 

According To James Clear, Every Action Is A Vote About Who We Are

Every time we choose to eat a salad, that is a vote for becoming a healthier person. Every time we see the positive in a situation, we cast a vote that we are a positive person. 

“Oftentimes our own negative self-perceptions sabotage our success. An unhealthy identity creates unwise habits and then those unwise habits reinforce the unhealthy identity. But the opposite is also true!  It can be hard to start with improving our self perceptions.”

Dr. Marguerite Weston

Those views of ourselves are deeply rooted and best to work on with a therapist, but if you can create the habits/actions then slowly your self-perceptions will change!

Dr. Weston Public Speaking

If I think I Am A Poor Public Speaker, I May Never Give A Public Talk

BUT if I create a goal of “Becoming a great public speaker,” I can change that observation of myself. First, I’ll need to identify what a good speaker does:

  1. A good speaker will research their topic. 
  2. I may watch speakers I enjoy to learn from them. 
  3. I will practice (maybe even with a coach if I want). 
  4. Then I will step out of my comfort zone and begin giving talks.    

With every public-facing talk I give, I am casting a vote that I am a good public speaker.  My identity will change with time. 

Further Habit-Forming Tips (adapted from Craig Groschel) : 

Make it small. 

An object in motion stays in motion. The hardest part is starting, so start small! It will naturally grow with time. One small habit will snowball without even thinking about it. One new habit over a decade equals 10 new lifelong habits!

Make it obvious. 

Making it obvious will be the difference between good intentions and great results. For example, if I do not put my running clothes out at night, I am less likely to run in the morning.   

Make it automatic. 

If given the opportunity, we tend to drift towards what is easy – not necessarily what is healthy. Having a specific goal helps make it automatic. For instance, after dinner, I will walk for 20 minutes. I will think of what I am grateful for while brushing my teeth every morning. I will write my top three To Do’s for the day as soon as I get to the office. I will put my phone away from dinner until the kids’ bedtime.     

You can see those goals are much different than “I will exercise more,” “I will be grateful,” or “I will be present.”  

The Common Pitfalls We Face: 

  1. We (wrongly) conclude that the small, wise decisions do not matter. We also (wrongly) conclude that the small, unwise decisions do not matter. But our life is the sum total of all of our small decisions!
  1. All too often, we plan to fail. We mentally create an “out.” Instead, we should create a plan to address these potential failures. This allows us to plan where we will struggle and fix the issue before it arises. If I want to run in the mornings and I’m worried I will not, I can find an accountability partner. If I often snooze my alarm and I want to become a morning person, I may put the phone on the other side of the room and upon waking I make the bed (or at least throw the comforter up) so I am less likely to get back in it. (Not impossible but less likely!) 

The Action Statement: We Have To Be Intentional When Creating Habits!

And that path toward intentional betterment often begins by writing out our intentions and a physical action statement. When forming a new healthy habit, I like to ask myself the following questions:

  • What is the type of person I want to be?
  • What does that type of person do?
  • Why do I want to make this change?
  • The Specifics: After I _______, I will ______. Or I will do _______ at this specific time ___________.
  • What can I make easy? Or how can I make this current bad habit harder?

Remember: It is easier to create a good habit in order to push out a bad habit versus trying to stop a bad habit.  

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