If Mike had started his original plan (and let’s be honest, there really wasn’t a “plan”) his goal would have been quickly abandoned. Frustration and pain would have set in because he was making it up on the fly. I wanted him to succeed on this, and I had always wanted to start running anyway, so I quickly began orchestrating our next challenge as a couple. We would take up running together! He was excited that I was going to join him and as we talked over the next day we made a key decision: This was going to go beyond a short-term goal and instead become a life change. It would be a lifetime habit we would sustain for as long as our bodies would cooperate.
When people try to break a bad habit, or establish a good one, most encounter failure rather than success. Our human nature is to go too fast, expect too much, get frustrated when the results are slow or don’t meet our expectations, become bored, and abandon the goal. I knew we needed to be successful and, as an expert in human behavior and how our thought processes work, I began us on our journey with an organized plan. The first step toward success was determining what changes we can make and sustain for the rest of our lives that will form into a habit. This is not a goal to be reached and then stop, much like most people when they diet. They focus on how much weight they want to lose and then change their behavior – or not – only until their scale displays a more satisfactory number instead of approaching the solution as, “What healthy changes in my food and exercise choices will I make that I can sustain for the rest of my life?”
A good place to start when changing dietary habits is adding nutrition to a diet, such as more fruits and vegetables and antioxidant rich foods. Research is showing that behavioral restriction promotes failure, whereas adding simple, healthy changes to a daily routine is sustainable. When the mindset is focused on the rest of your life, the permanence of the change starts to become a part of your identity. It starts to become who you are instead of this is something you are going to try for a short time and then abort. Mike & I began to think of ourselves as people who are going to run (and eventually we became runners). It is now how we are so it is something we do.
People try to create good habits simply by eliminating the not-so-good from their lives, without a strategy or even understanding that the “not-so-good” might itself be an ingrained habit. They are doomed to fail. That’s why so many New Year’s Resolutions end up on the scrap heap of good intentions before January even draws to a close. Good habits can be developed, however, and the bad eliminated. You just need a plan for permanence.