Louise Thompson 's Opinion

Inspirational advice to rock your life with energy, passion, happiness and balance.

Louise Thompson: Start small to build a habit that lasts

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What unhealthy habits do you want to break? Photo / Thinkstock
What unhealthy habits do you want to break? Photo / Thinkstock

Here's a question for you: What healthy habit do you wish you had taken up, and kept up, three years ago? What do you wish you had started three years ago that was an integral health habit in your life today? What do you wish you had stopped doing? And why? Why is establishing that habit important to you?

Is it one computer/digital free night a week? A weekly pilates session? Drinking more water? Drinking less coffee? Leaving work on time three times a week? Joining the running club? Putting the morning tea down? Picking the green smoothies up?

• In terms of eating I wish I had started ______ three years ago

• In terms of eating I wish I had stopped ______ three years ago

• In terms of exercise I wish I had started ______ three years ago

• In terms of exercise I wish I had stopped ______ three years ago

• In terms of reducing mental/emotional stress in my life I wish I had started ______ three years ago

• In terms of reducing mental/emotional stress in my life I wish I had stopped ______ three years ago

• In terms of my connection with others I wish I had started ______ three years ago

• In terms of my connection with others I wish I had stopped ______ three years ago

The reason most habits fail to establish is that we set too many goals at once, and we set the bar too high. It's the goal of an hour and a half in the gym, 5 times a week without fail, and never eating carbs again. Ever. The high benchmark leaves no space for life-stuff to happen, and so on a day when the cat needs to go to the vet, one of the kids is sick and work has a huge project on, the habit is the first thing to fall off the To Do list.

If you have struggled to establish healthy habits in the past then you can see that the strategy of high goals + sheer willpower isn't working for you. Einstein's definition of insanity was "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".

So turn it around. Instead of starting high with force and falling off the wagon, start low and small and often, and let the momentum of progress create a foundation you can actually build on. Imagine yourself three years from now. What age will you be? What does that future version of you wish you had started this very day? That you had put the paper down and thought "Right! That's it. I'm going to make ______ a happening thing for me. I'm going to start small, and in three years this will just be an effortless part of my life"

Pick one of the above, just one. Find a really small way to establish a goal around it just for the next week. Go for a walk at lunchtime, just 15 minutes daily, for the next week. Commit to one wine-free night a week. Buy a green smoothie rather than making one just to get you started with the habit. Whatever feels easy, do that. Start to experience the benefits of just this small change. Then gradually start to increase the intensity as the habit starts to establish. It's establishing a habit by stealth rather than force. It's much more powerful. With force the willpower reserves run out on a stressful day. With stealth it can be an easy, effortless pleasure. Establishing a habit with easy + small + regular = foundation habit established that we are much more likely to stick with long-term whatever life throws at us.


Action step

If you struggle to stay on track with healthy habits change the way you go about it. Start small, start today: just START!


Louise Thompson is a life coach, yoga teacher and corporate escapee. For more from Louise, visit positivebalance.co.nz or connect on Facebook.

- NZ Herald

Louise Thompson

Inspirational advice to rock your life with energy, passion, happiness and balance.

Louise is a corporate escapee turned wellbeing pro. After 17 successful years on the commercial side of media a serious health crisis led to a complete lifestyle overhall and a brand new direction. As a life coach, and the first Martha Beck accredited coach in New Zealand, she loves nothing better than to help her clients get inspired, get happy and make their own rules for a connected, passion-fueled life. Her first book, The Busy Woman’s Guide to High Energy Happiness, aims to motivate people with practical solutions to step up and live their best lives. A qualified yoga teacher she also runs her own yoga studio and leads corporate wellness seminars. Louise loves to run, cook and dance, and is an incurable travel junkie.

Read more by Louise Thompson

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