When we’re trying to break habits and build routines that reflect our long term goals, sometimes we have to cheat.
I recall seeing three people running together while I was walking one day. They weren’t running particularly fast; in fact, they were able to hold a conversation. I remember initially feeling that they were being lazy. But then I thought, well they’re out running aren’t they? So they’ve managed the hardest lift of all and they’ve lifted their butts off the sofa! For them to get out for a run, they might need the slow pace and the companionship of friends, but they’re out there running, right?
Personally, I’ve used this when trying to cycle more. I would promise myself that if I got out for a ride at 6am, that I could cycle to Maison Blanc in Oxford and have an almond pan au chocolat. That got me out in the morning. Once I’d built the habit of getting out early for a ride, sometimes I would stop and buy one; other times I wouldn’t, or I wouldn’t go into Oxford at all.
So if you need to make a change, cheat.
Take drastic action.
How drastic the measures will depend on how much you really want to change the habit.
Do stuff that your friends will think you’re crazy for.
Want to watch less TV? Sell it. Cover it with a sheet. Hide the plug.
Can’t stop looking at Facebook? Delete the app. Erase your account.
Want to do drive less? Sell the car. Give the keys to a friend for a week. Take the battery out.
Want to start exercising? Find a friend. Pay a friend. Promise yourself biscuits when you get back from the gym. Relax in the bath once you’ve finished your run.
The aim is to raise the barrier to things we want to do less of, and lower the barrier to things that want to do more of.
Once these things are a habit, you can then think about the cheats you put in to get into your habit, whether or not you still need them. Maybe get your car keys back knowing you now have the habit of cycling more. Perhaps stop buying the biscuits now you’re regularly doing your workouts and biscuits aren’t the motivation anymore.
We are all at different stages in our journey. I try not to judge anyone anymore, especially not those that are just starting. Because usually they are the ones trying the hardest.