How Incremental Improvements Help in Developing Habits and Achieving Goals

Vicky was watching a thriller on TV and was awestruck with the way the hero had maintained himself so well, although in his 50’s, anyone could easily pass him off as a 30 year old.  His eyes then focused on his own paunch, prompting feelings of self-pity and misery.  Just in his late 20’s, he has begun to look like someone in his 40’s. 
Immediately realizing he need to do something about it, he decided to commence his exercise from the next day onwards.  Browsing through fashion apps, he bought new sports shoes, shorts and t-shirts for a regular run.  It was a same day delivery and by evening, his order was delivered to him.  He thought of running 3 kilometers everyday followed by some light exercises and 10 minutes of meditation.  He searched for all the relevant things online to get as much information as possible, while also downloading a fitness app to ensure he do all the exercises properly. 
The day and time was set and the next day, he woke up before the alarm, put on his new gear and went for the run.  The first few meters were easy, but as he stretched further, it was getting difficult.  He nevertheless pushed himself to run for at least 2 KM and instead of completing all the sets of exercise post running, he decided to do half of it.  By the time, he was back; the tiredness and lack of time forced him to abandon his idea of practicing meditation.  He though promised himself to continue with his new routine the next day as well.
However, the next day, unable to wake up on time he decided to run after returning from office.  His body was aching and he found it difficult to even walk properly, but a promise was made to continue the run in the evening.  He however got late and could not hold on to that promise.  He then promised himself to continue it the next day.  The next day, though, never saw the light of day as he forgot about it in a weeks’ time.  He though still gloats over the shapely bodies of people engaged in regular exercise wondering how they manage to take out time and do all this.
This is not the story of Vicky alone.  Lots of us like Vicky begin a routine only to discontinue it in a few days’ time. The enthusiasm with which we start fades away and so does the motivation and will power, which diminishes in strength, incapacitating us to carry on and results in broken promises and despair.
So, what is it that is wrong with starting a new routine or habit.  There are few things; we should keep in mind while we try to build a new habit;
–          Start small.  If you are not engaged in regular exercise currently, the idea of doing a 3KM run is fraught with failure.  It is a better idea to instead focus on doing something, which takes minimal effort like getting into a running attire and walking for 5 minutes.
–          Avoid an activity with the possibility of maximum resistance.  When you tell yourself to wake and go for a 3KM run, your conscious may agree to it, but your unconscious part still have not given a go ahead and it is the one to come up with all the excuses on why you shouldn’t do it in the morning.  Asking it to do something as small as a walk for 5 minutes will kill that resistance putting you on the right track.
–          Use an existing habit to build a new one.  If you read a newspaper daily, tell yourself you will do something before reading it.  It can be as small as a one-minute meditation or time alone with yourself even if it is for just 2-3 minutes before your morning newspaper ritual.
–          Keep adding incrementally to the existing routine to achieve your goal.  If you get into the routine of a 5 minutes’ walk, make it, walk followed by just 1 minute of run and then keep adding to it gradually.
–          Keep faith in yourself.  Habits take time to build, and if you are trying to build long-term habits, you need patience.  Results will follow the process.  Focusing on sticking to one routine and developing it further by adding smaller routines will take you slowly and gradually to the long cherished goal of yours.
A lot of thing are easier said than done.  However, understanding the anatomy of habits can be of great help in manipulating them to work to our advantage.  Following the above-mentioned ideas can be the starting point, to lead you to where you want to be and not end up like Vicky.

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