The first step in establishing a new habit is making a commitment; the second: keeping it. Whether your new habit is to start exercising or to stop smoking, the key ingredient—the one that will determine your success—lies in your commitment to your goal and to yourself. Making the initial commitment requires energy and focus; keeping that commitment requires discipline and determination.
Once you have identified an area of your life in which you would like to create change, you must commit to that change. A good place to begin is in writing out explicitly what that change will look like:
• How will you feel once the change is achieved?
• What will creating that change mean for your life? How will your life be impacted? List all the positive results that will come with that change.
• How will your life be affected if you do not create that change? List the downside to not achieving your desired change.
Reinforce your commitment to change with the answers to these questions and reflect on how important this new habit will be to you. Act on that commitment by creating a “contract” with yourself or someone else that outlines what you are committing to and that provides specific details of the actions you will take in making and keeping your new commitment. For example:
I, ________________________ commit to making a change in my life. Today I begin anew. Today I begin my journey to a healthier, happier self. I, ________________________, commit to being physically active 3 times each week, eating a fruit or vegetable with each meal, and taking at least 5 minutes each day to breathe, stretch and relax.
Notice that the commitment specifies times and actions—it’s not enough to say, “I’ll exercise,” or “I’ll eat better.” These phrases are too vague—making a commitment means knowing exactly what is expected of you – what explicit habits you will form and the results they will create.
The greater challenge often lies in keeping the commitment. Obstacles arise. Challenges occur. Roadblocks emerge that can derail your finest efforts. Here’s how to overcome:
Plan ahead. Know in your mind that these situations are more than just likely to happen, but will DEFINITELY occur; plan ahead to reduce their impact. Develop alternatives and options for your new habit.
Give yourself a break. If you get sidetracked or start heading in the opposite direction of your goals or commitment, don’t give in—simply make a “u-turn,” and head right back in the direction of the path you set forth.
Maintain your focus, energy, discipline, and determination towards the change you want in your life and constantly remind yourself of why that change is important to you. Write it out and look at it every day – whether in a planner, a note next to your mirror or a note card you carry in your pocket each day. The more you practice and work at your commitment, the easier it will be to maintain it and take on new challenges in your life.
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