How to up-level your commitment to make habit changes
Quick. Name something you want to desperately have to achieve. This could be weight loss, wanting a new job, changing your food habits or quitting smoking. Got it in your head?
Ok, now on a scale of 1-10 where is your level of desire to achieve this goal with 1 being “no desire” and 10 being “strong desire.”
Next, ask yourself where your commitment level is right now is in order to achieve the result or change you are looking for. Meaning, you’re willing to research, act upon and integrate steps to achieve the desired goal.
1 represents “no commitment” and 10 represents “strong commitment.”
Now, put these numbers side by side of each other and what do you notice? If you’re like many people I work with your desire for said outcome is through the roof but the commitment might not be as strong. This is normal and common. Why? Because as human beings we want to conserve energy and accomplish things with the least amount of effort as possible! This is a survival technique.
This disproportionate ratio does not work well when it comes to behavioral change and can leave us feeling stymied, confused and frustrated as to how to actually get what we want.
It begs the question….what can we do about this?
My goal when working with clients is to simply move the ratio so it’s closer together. It doesn’t have to be completely aligned in order to achieve results and make changes, it just has to be closer together.
So, go back to the original thing you thought of when I asked about something you wanted to change, have or achieve. Is it in your head? Good. Here are some additional questions to ask yourself when you wonder why you are not moving the action forward:
1. Are you truly on board with the “why” and the importance of achieving, having, changing this? Are you clear on how your life will be different and what you hope to feel?
2. Are you truly willing to do what it takes to achieve, have, change this? Are you ready to get out of your comfort zone or is it just something you fantasize about? (it’s ok not to be ready and to not be totally willing to do it! But it’s important to be honest about it.)
3. Are there logistical, time issues to sort out? Do you just need to plan, prioritize and draw out a roadmap for making it happen?
4. Are you self-sabotaging? Are you taking steps that run counter to your long term goals because you’re afraid of owning it, or because of what it means to actually get what you think you want? Are you afraid to fail? If so, you may be doing subtle yet creative things to prevent you from making meaningful change. Delve into this and see if this is what is happening.
Ok, now back to the original goal. Have you asked yourself these 4 questions? Which rings the most true for you? The more we can be aware of and confront what holds us back from having our commitment be in complete alignment with our desires the better because then we can get laser focused and take action on the exact thing that is holding us back. Or it offers us a chance to change or reframe our goals to one that makes more sense.
Watch this quick tutorial and then use this interactive tool to help you determine your ratio of desire vs. commitment
Sustainable behavioral change does not have to be out of your reach. You have to understand the psychology of what holds us back plus the powerful ways our brain chemistry, desire for equilibrium and stability keeps us back as well.
For instance, many of the comfortable daily habits you have adopted in your life are stored in a base part of our brains, near the brainstem. In order to effectively create new behaviors to replace older ones that no longer serve us, we need to understand how habit formation works.
Habits consist of 3 parts:
In order to begin making new neural pathways that are important for behavioral change, you must tackle one or more of these parts. The easiest is to change the routine or the reward.
Let’s say you want to start having smoothies in the morning instead of a bagel with cream cheese. Lets assume your morning routine is to get up, brush teeth, make some coffee and toast your bagel. These particular behaviors are completely practiced and ingrained in your routine and they will happen almost without thought. The cue possibly is making your coffee because it’s also when you cut the bagel and put it in the toaster. The routine is what I just outlined and the reward is a relaxing breakfast with the paper and a coffee and bagel
If you want to now replace that bagel with a smoothie, you have to change the routine that is sparked from the cue.
This is when anchoring and linking come into play.
My suggestion is to link the newer behavior (making the smoothie) with a behavior that is anchored (making the coffee). You’re literally dragging the newer behavior into the mix on the coattails of something that is a no brainer for you. Make sense? So when you grab your filter and put the coffee in, that is your “cue” to set up your blender and smoothie ingredients. With time, and practice you can effectively make this change sustainable and the new normal.
Remember and accept that when you hit a snag in life – an illness, a vacation, time constraints, you will sometimes revert back to the older, stored behavior just simply because when we’re taxed in other ways, we go to back to comfort zone, simplicity and stored, deeply ingrained behaviors. Recognize when it’s happening and go right back to your newer anchored and linked routine as soon as you can. Do not fret when this happens or throw up your hands in failure. If you assume that this will happen, you can let it go, lose the negative thought bubbles and go back to business.
Also remember, we work on one behavior at a time. This one step, in this instance, the smoothie making, also moves you one step closer on your 1-10 spectrum of commitment to said goal (in this case, changing eating behaviors)
Pick one behavior you’d like to add, adjust, replace or remove from your life.
Sample the anchor technique by learning what the “cue” is and linking the newer behavior to that more ingrained behavior.
Let me know in the comments how you do. And for more information about how to make heart-centered habit shifts, watch my free masterclass on the power of habits here.