Starting new things can be so many things. Exhilarating, exciting, motivating, hard, draining, boring, and almost impossible at times. When it comes to creating new habits, patterns, and actions in our lives, we all have different ways of approaching, tackling and mastering to get across the finish line to that glorious other side. Or not. Sometimes some of us just don’t seem to stick with it to get over the inevitable hump.
Sometimes it’s not just us, or our lack of willpower. Sometimes it is our brains who keep us from moving over the hump. If we can recognize that and just stick with it, we can make it. The going will get tough. The moving forward will be hard. You will get bored. It may not feel good physically. You will likely hit a wall. Creating new habits, patterns and thoughts is not an easy path. Undoing years of old is no easy feat.
Think about a new path you are taking. Whether it is a new exercise regimen, a fresh healthy eating program, a new business venture, a work goal, home project, whatever it is, creating new ways takes a great amount of thought, intention, and diligence. Are you giving something up like, smoking, or adding something in, like daily exercise? How can we make sure this time it sticks? How do we ensure that this time will be different? How can we honestly reach the finish line?
At some point our brains are wired to talk us out of our new “thing”. That old saying, “when the going gets tough the tough get going” is not always the case. Since I can generally link everything to exercise, let’s think about it like this. Say you want to start working out after a long period on the couch. We’ve all done that, right?
Day one is awesome. You are excited, pumped up and ready for it! You feel awesome after this first workout and ready for the next day.
Day two is just as good. You know how good those endorphins will feel so you are ready to work up a sweat.
Day three you roll out of bed a little tired and sore. You go through the motions of your new workout without the same gusto. But you finish it.
Day four you are totally dreading the thought of putting on your gym clothes. Your body hurts. It hurts to sit on the potty. You feel like you’ve been hit by a truck. You make it but cut it short.
Day five just doesn’t happen. There is absolutely no way you are wrangling yourself into those workout clothes. It’s just too hard.
And that’s it. You got to the hump and didn’t make it over. You want the good stuff that you know will come from your new healthy habit but it’s just too hard. You feel the resistance and end up stuck, or bored or too afraid to get out of your comfort zone to make the change stick.
I see this all too often in the health and fitness field. I know others see it in other areas of life. Maybe you are a world class procrastinator. You try and try to begin getting organized and things start creeping up and you feel yourself shifting back to the old habits. Perhaps your goas is to begin to get up earlier in the morning. You begin getting up with the sun full of vigor and excitement. After a couple of weeks you tell yourself you’ll hit the snooze button just this once. This once turns into three mornings a week. Before you know it you are back where you started.
Why is that? What is it about the resistance that we can’t seem to break through? What can we do to get over the hump?
Practical Steps to Get Over the Hump
- Have a very specific goal in mind.
You need to know exactly and specifically just what you are trying to accomplish. The minute you rely on a general, not clear, goal you set yourself up for failure. For example, you can’t just say you want to “get in shape”. That is WAY too broad. A better way to state it would be to set a goal to walk 10,000 steps each day. That is a clear and specific goal that you are trying to accomplish. Another example would be to say you want to “have a new career”. What in the world is that? That could be any or everything. That is too overreaching and overwhelming. If you want to make that change then have a specific goal in mind. Maybe a specific career path so you can whittle down the steps to get there. Perhaps the goal is to take a class in that area. Take someone in that field to lunch. Send out 10 resumes in that particular are. Set a very specific goal that you can reach toward.
2. Make micro jumps
Make some small or micro movements to push you toward your new habit. These can be as easy as putting on your workout clothes first thing in the morning. If you are dressed and ready to go you chances are already much better that you will get in your new workout. If you want to eat healthier meals at home, then make it easy on yourself by taking time to go to the grocery store and fill your fridge with fresh produce, lean meats and wholesome foods that are ready for you. If you are trying to get in those 10,000 steps, make sure you have an extra pair of walking shoes under your desk so you can get in your walk during your lunch break. Think about what small steps you can take that will push you toward that goal each and every day. These small changes will give you the jump ahead you need to be successful and make it easier to get past the resistance.
3. Make your goals measurable
This one dovetails with making sure your goal is specific. It also helps to make sure it is something measurable so that you can actually SEE the improvement or change. When you can see the improvement which brings on the momentum, it will be far less likely that you’ll give up when it gets hard. The momentum will help push you over the sticking point. This can be really simple. Is your goal to drink more water daily? Simply mark off in your daily journal each time you have 8 oz of water. You can see that number and get the satisfaction of marking off each time. Is your goal to run a 5k? Then work to improve your distance by walking or running one extra lap around the track each day or each week. Is completing a work project your goal? Then decide each day to dedicate an extra 30 minutes to it. Are you learning a new skill? Then set a specific time each day to work on the skill and add an extra 10 minutes each day. Are you wanting to master a full pull up? Set a number of reps to complete in a specific amount of days. You get the picture. It is much harder to give up on a new habit when you are seeing these measurable improvements.
4. Prepare for the distractions
I don’t care how good you are, how much will-power you have or how dedicated you are to creating this new habit and reaching your goal. You will face detractors. You will have distractions. You will experience setbacks and downright failures. That is simply how life rolls. It is up to us to decide how we are going to roll when that happens. As always, I think it is best to be prepared. When you are planning on getting in some steps during your lunch break and a co-worker asks you to join them for lunch, what are you going to say? How will you respond? You need to have a plan. If you are on a new eating plan and focusing on healthy foods, what do you do if you have to travel for work? Or have a vacation planned? What steps do you need in place to handle those type of distractions to your goal? How about flat out rejection? Say you have sent out all those resumes for a new job opportunity only to be rejected by those prospects. How do you handle that? How does that distract you from your goal?
Having set responses and plans of action in place will keep these from actually being distractions. In fact, they might not even be detours for you. And, if they are, then that’s okay, too. Just learn from them and move on again toward your goal. You can get over the hump. You can get through the resistance and out of the mud. That part might not feel good and might be difficult, but you know how good you will feel on the other side.
5. Celebrate everything!
You don’t have to wait until you are actually over the hump and all satisfied and successful to celebrate. There are tons of tiny steps and wins along the way that should be celebrated and fist pumped. Each time you make it through the gym doors is cause for celebration! Each day you reach 10,000 steps is a win. Each time you reached out to a new client? That’s huge! Did you decline Aunt Flora’s second helping of banana pudding? Score! Don’t miss out on all of these victories waiting until you reach the finish line. You absolutely will not ever cross over the finish line without the smaller successes. These wins are the foundation to creating your new habit or reaching that goal. Don’t dare downplay them or think of ignoring them.
I have clients and folks in classes that I know with all my being struggled mightily to get to my class. They herded through one distraction after another. They were almost beat down by the resistance. I know that and I am always SO very proud of them for showing up. They made it. They got there and that is cause for celebration. It may seem like a small thing, but I know how very huge that can be. If their goal is exercise oriented then I know that getting to class brought them one day closer. And I am so proud of that success.
Our brains are wired for the resistance of change. There are ways to fight through and get over the hump. Let’s make this time different. Try any or all of these practical steps and see what a difference it can make.
These are the steps I have used and suggested for my clients. However, if you want more on the mental challenges of making changes check out Todd Herman. He is the man on the subject!
Enjoy Your Day!