Change A Habit With This Super Simple Tool

June 27, 2013

Last week I had several posts about changing habits (not as easy as it sounds, huh?) and they ended with my 6 Step Process For Doing BETTER. These easy to follow steps walk you through making tough changes after you’ve tuned into the reminder, routine and reward (known as the habit loop) of the habit you’d like to change. In my 6 Step Process there are several tools that I will blog about individually over the coming weeks.  Today: if-then planning. This little trick is amazing, and so simple.  Your brain loves this sentence structure: If it’s _____ then I do _____.  Your mind love efficiency, loves to keep it simple, loves to make it all line up so it looks for opportunities to fill in those blanks – with very little effort on your part. Does this mean you can’t still make a bad choice? Or course not. Once you’re in the present moment after using this tactic, you still have to choose but what this does is allow you to get into the present moment. So often we’re on auto-pilot, doing the same thing we’ve always done because it’s habit. We drift back to what we know because again, it’s easy and our mind loves that.  As your brain tries to conserve energy and just do what it knows, you have to find ways to jolt yourself into the here and now so you can start making changes to get your WANT.  This tool is a good one for just that. Here’s how it works: Pick something you’d like to incorporate or start doing and then just plug it into the If-Then format above.  Here’s several examples: If it’s morning, then the first thing I do is drink a large glass of water with lemon. If it’s Monday, Wednesday or Friday then I strength train/lift weights. If I’m in a restaurant, then I order a large salad and lean protein. If I’m in a restaurant, then I skip the bread basket. If I’m at Happy Hour, then I order one drink and 2 glasses of water. If it’s 10PM then I go to bed. Here’s one I used recently: If Joe doesn’t have to leave for work before 8am, then I go for a 45 minute fasted walk.  It felt like Joe was “always leaving at 5AM” but in reality 2-4 times per week he wasn’t and I could get my fasted walk in.  This If-Then plan has more than doubled my walks.  I was doing it once a week if I was lucky, now it’s 3-4 at least per week. And the best part? It feels effortless.  Because it’s pre-framed in my mind, there’s less struggle and angst.  Less debate. Less should I or shouldn’t I get up and go for a walk. Less hemming and hawing about how tired I am or how I just want to lay in bed a bit longer. I have found I don’t think about it much, I just do it. And of course, I’m reaping the benefits of these walks mentally and physically. I love this time by myself to set my mental tone for the day and low intensity, fasted cardio works great for me when it comes to fat loss. That’s a win all around! Try it. If-Then Planning. So simple and surprisingly effective.  It’s a great way to add some structure to your new habits and increase the chance that you’ll be reminded to employ them.  This strategy creates a contingency plan that actually pulls you to the present moment (making you more mindful) so you can make a conscious choice rather than be on auto-pilot. Remember, doing what you’ve always done will give you what you’ve always gotten. Change is not comfortable, but it is possible with a few tricks like this in your pocket.

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