“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt
As a health coach, my job is to help people actually do what they want to do. We all have aspirations. We may want to eat more vegetables, get in some movement every day, practice yoga, or cut back on sugar or alcohol. But actually doing that – and making it a habit – can be difficult.
We sometimes set out after an “ideal” goal – say to start every day with prayer or meditation, a 30 minute run, and a smoothie. But that may not be practical – at least not at first. And it takes a good deal of motivation to embark on such a routine if these are new habits for us. Then we have a tendency to let the perfect be the enemy of the good and throw in the towel. After all, if we hit snooze one time too many and lose 10 minutes, we can’t hit our ideal morning, so why even try?
I’ve seen with my clients that often the best way to create new habits is to start small in order to ensure that we’re able to feel effective.
It may feel silly to set a goal to just lay out your yoga mat every day after you brush your teeth or to put on your walking shoes after dinner. After all, these tiny steps alone won’t actually make a difference in your health, right? However, small, repeated actions begin to wire the new habit into our minds and routines – making it feel natural and helping us to work through obstacles. Then suddenly we realize that we’re actually doing yoga regularly or taking that refreshing walk after dinner most nights.
An important question to ask yourself is: How can I start small enough so that I have the ability to hit my goal EVERY time?
The key to setting up new habits is to start where you are and only compare you with you. When considering your morning routine, instead of seeking that time in prayer, a run, and a smoothie at first, you might instead consider what your routine was like yesterday. How could you make a tiny tweak – a 1% improvement on THAT? That’s a good goal for you. We might decide to pray or meditate for 1 minute when our feet hit the floor, or after brushing our teeth, or after pouring a cup of coffee. Then let that habit settle and build consistency.
That 1 minute may not feel like much, but is helping us to install a habit. Even when motivation flags, and even when you have a super busy morning, you can still take that 1 minute! You can feel effective in your new habit. Some days you might spend more than a minute on your new habit and that’s great. But just 1 minute is what you’re asking yourself to do.
Compare you with you.
Especially in the midst of the holidays, it’s important to focus on your own goals and habits, not someone else’s. When we compare our habits to those of last month or last year, what do we see? Are we making progress? Are we changing small things over time?
If we could start where we are and think of a small improvement. That we can do. That we’re willing to do. That’s a great place to start.
Why Wait Until January to Become a Person Who (insert your aspiration here)?
As you think about the holiday festivities, food, and hectic schedule, ask yourself how you can make a tiny step toward your health goals. You might just be surprised at how this changes your mindset. How can you start to shift your identity into someone who (moves your body daily, prays or meditates every day, practices yoga, eats vegetables at lunch, practices a creative hobby, learns new skills, fill in the blank with yours!).
There is no need to wait until January to become that person! You can start tiny and start today.
Are you interested in learning more about habit change? Two great books on the topic are Atomic Habits by James Clear and Tiny Habits by B.J. Fogg. Both are great reads and provide motivation to take your healthy habits to the next level.
Of course, if you need more help in setting goals and installing healthy habits, that’s what health coaching is all about! Learn more about health coaching and how it can help you achieve your goals here on our website!
Since 2010, Richmond Integrative and Functional Medicine has been helping people to restore their health and hope with an integrative approach to conventional and alternative medicine that’s entirely science-backed. We at RIFM believe everyone is made for health. We offer a comprehensive, in-person patient membership program to ensure you get access to the care you need to thrive.
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