I’m sure you’ve experienced this as well: Being super determined and decisive about starting a new habit like working out or meditating every day, and then sticking to it for three days until something happens like “not being in the mood for a workout today“ or “not having the time to meditate — but for sure doing it tomorrow!“ and then ending up not doing it again until the next time you are making a decision like “okay now I’m REALLY going to do this!“. I can’t tell how often I had this exact story happening in my life. But last year, I took a decision like that (it was to not drink alcohol for minimum one year), and believe it or not, I made it to really stick to it! So what was different this time?? I thought about that a lot and identified three main things that helped me so much with keeping the promise that I had made to myself, and I want to share these things with you in the following. They can be applied to any kind of change you want to make in your life, or any new habit you want to establish.
1. Having a strong and clear WHY
When I made the decision to stop drinking alcohol, it wasn’t like I had a problem with drinking in any kind of addictive way, I just felt that the occasions where I was drinking really summed up, and the negative effects that I got from it afterwards just started to become so aware and annoying to me. I would not only feel hungover and physically bad, but also mentally, feeling super drowned and unmotivated and just really down. I realized that I am quite sensitive to alcohol, because these effects came already from having like two or three glasses of wine. The next day or sometimes even days were useless for me, because I wouldn’t really get anything done.
This gave me a really strong WHY I wanted to make a change, and I always kept that in the forefront of my mind. Whenever I found myself in situations where I was tempted to drink (and there were so so many, I had just moved to Cape Town and basically visited one vineyard after the other 🙈), I reminded myself of why I didn’t want to drink: I want to feel good and fresh tomorrow and I want to treat my body well. This helped me tremendously to say no, every time. It works just as well when for example deciding to start practicing yoga at least once a week. Finding the WHY, and not only focusing on the intangible reasons, like becoming more flexible, which is something you can’t feel immediately, but also the more tangible ones, like for example the feeling you have directly after attending a class. And whenever you come to a point where you’re like okay I just had such a long day today and I really don’t feel like going to the yoga studio right now (so basically coming up with excuses), think about your why and I promise it will help! If it doesn’t, you need to become aware that the goal you set for yourself seems to actually not be that important to you, so you can just leave it. But you need to be aware that you then put yourself in a place where you’re not allowed to complain, because you actually COULD act differently, even if it might be hard, but you consciously decide not to. I think this is a really nice thought pattern as well to get yourself motivated even if you don’t feel like doing it. „Don’t give up on something you want now, for something you want most in life“ (LOVE this quote!!!).
2. Going all in or nothing
My second tip refers to this drastic decision of not drinking AT ALL anymore. And that might be something that is different for everyone, but for me I just discovered that when I commit to something completely and without exception, it works best. There is this saying that you should do something or a 100%, or not at all, because doing something 99% will always put you in the situation of deciding when to make an exception. But when you’re clear about doing something always or never, it gets sooo much easier instead of always deciding when to do something or when not to do something. You don’t need any extra willpower, because another option is just not given. Of course there is also this saying: everything in measures and you shouldn’t do things too extreme, but in my opinion you just need to see what kind of person you are, because for me being like 100% in is what works best.
If you want to attend a yoga class at least once a week, then plan it so it’s possible to stick to that a 100%, like for example schedule it for a time you can attend for sure, and then make it your number one priority (if your friends ask whether you want to join for dinner, say yes but I have a yoga class at 6, I’ll join later). It really is all about prioritizing.
3. Tracking your goal
The third thing I recommend is to set a specific goal and being able to track it. That is also something you can apply in general to anything you like to achieve. So when I made the decision of not drinking anymore, I set myself the specific goal of not drinking for one whole year. That just helped me in my mind to have a specific goal that I will be able to achieve, because if I say I just won’t drink anymore, I will never have a moment where I’m like, „Yes, I made it, I haven’t been drinking in forever!!”, but instead I can say now „Wow so nice, I really haven’t been drinking for one whole year!“ And I made it able to track, so when I was half a year through, I was like, „Juhu, I’m almost half way!!“
And the same again with yoga, setting yourself a specific goal on how many classes you want to attend in which period of time, writing them into the calendar and crossing them off every time you went. The super nice thing when you really do something regularly is that it starts to become a habit and you will get to a point where you actually NEED to do it in order to feel good.
I really hope that these tips inspired you to make some changes that are long lasting! :-)
Let me know what it is that helps you to stick to goals, and come see my podcast for more content on health, mindfulness, and yoga. You can find it on Spotify, Apple Podcast, and all oder Podcast platforms.