By Izabelle Azevedo
“Changing habits takes time.” I bet you’re tired of hearing this. Well, unfortunately, it does. But you know what really takes time? Sticking to those habits. As I’m writing this post, I’m not proud to say that with the holidays, and all the things happening in my life at the same time, I started cheating on my diet (a little bit). The one that began almost two years ago and that was finally going well for the past six months. But as the title of this post says: changing habits happens one day at a time.
Since 2016 I’ve been embracing lots of changes to my lifestyle. Exercising still hasn’t stuck but now I floss *almost* every night. I went from reading one book in 2017 to reading 12 last year – and I can tell you that my mindset has improved about 40% (which is a huge accomplishment!) My relationship with food (trying to avoid gluten, dairy, processed sugar) is also way better.
But changing or building habits is a process. When I say “one day at a time” it’s because you need to see it as something that you’re working toward on a daily basis. And if you slip or skip today, you need to keep going tomorrow as if today didn’t exist. Because you’ll inevitably cheat on your diet, skip the gym or have negative thoughts. But that doesn’t mean you’re done trying. You go on with the process, one day at a time.
I also noticed I was trying to change too much at once. So I went back to my “whys” and decided what habit I was going to prioritize. My diet was a priority since it was affecting my life personally and professionally. Then I directed my focus to that, got even more clear on the reason I needed to do it, what would happen if I didn’t, and the specific outcomes I was aiming for (in my case, it definitely wasn’t losing weight!)
When I realized and incorporated that into my strategy, my life changed. I went to parties and said “no” to sweets with no problem. I started reading more, even if I wasn’t reading every single day as I wanted to. I set my goals based on honesty more than expectations, and I started forgiving myself for the “oops” along the way.
So if you’re going through this process (always call it a process, because it is) of changing or building habits, remember this: They say a new habit takes about 28 days to stick. There is research showing that it actually takes three to six months. I believe it all depends. So don’t compare your journey with someone else’s – we’re all different, amazing individuals and we all work at different speeds. We also do things for different reasons. Don’t get yourself trapped in comparisons because that will kill your goal!
Have a clear “why”. By that, I don’t mean “because I want to lose weight” or “because I want to be a better person.” These reasons won’t stick. Dig deeper. What’s this change going to provide to you personally and/or professionally? What impact will it have on your quality of life? Your relationships? Take notes and read that every single time you think about cheating or giving up. Don’t assume you reached it. I’m glad I’m writing this post this week, because I can give you one more piece of advice based on my own experience: get ready for the psychological traps.
I didn’t cheat that often (I mean, once a month maybe I would eat a slice of cheese, maybe a tiny piece of chocolate), and complained way less (I remember crying at the supermarket twice when it all started). I was so proud of myself. But November and December brought a lot of anxiety with lots of things going on. I wasn’t ready for that…so I ate cheese (a lot of it) and sugar. I paid for it. Still paying, actually. So don’t assume you reached your goal, and put yourself at risk. If you’re feeling more anxiety or sadness, be aware of the self-sabotage that will come with it and come up with tactics to fight it.
Avoid downward spirals. Don’t let one day you skipped the gym become a month without going. Same with your diet, journaling, studying or anything else. Don’t let one “oops” be the reason you start getting sloppy about your goal. Forgive yourself today and go on to tomorrow.
Focus on one day at a time – I think this is the most important. Tomorrow is another day, yesterday is already in the past. You only have today to make it count. And if didn’t work, well, go on. Always go on. This is how I’ve been changing my own habits, and frankly, my life. I hope my approach gives you some inspiration and motivation to keep going, start a new habit or change your lifestyle. Happy 2019!
Izabelle Azevedo is a Life Changer, Planner & Strategist, and founder of The Lifestyle Manifesto where she helps women live by choice, create and build the life of their dreams. Follow her on @itsmissizabelle and @thelifestylemanifesto.