The One Question You Need to Answer to Create New Habits

“I will only have ONE cookie. “

5 minutes later: “Ok, maybe just one more.”

About a month ago I discovered Gretchen Rubin’s new Podcast Happier. Every episode she asks a question that will help you know yourself better. During one episode she asks us to consider whether we are “abstainers” or “moderators.” The question boils down to either resisting the temptation to have another cookie or mustering the self-control to moderate yourself and have only ONE cookie. I realized having an answer to this question is a simple way of improving the likelihood that you will achieve your goals.

Self-discipline is a muscle, but, for some, exercising that muscle just a little bit means losing grip on the situation altogether.

For abstainer, like me, having one cookie will most likely mean having 5 more because my willpower muscle has weakened from that first bite of cookie. It feels much easier to avoid cookies altogether than it would be to say no the second or third or fourth cookie.

If you are a moderator, like Gretchen, you find it easier to just say yes to one bite or one cookie than to stop thinking about the sweet deliciousness you are missing out on.

So, are you a moderator or an abstainer? How does this help you achieve your goals?

Half the battle to achieve your goal is having a game plan when things go wrong

If you’re a moderator:

  1. Write down activities that you would like to still enjoy in moderation but that are currently holding you back from achieving you goal. These should be activities that, if you avoided them completely, you would think about them constantly.
  2. Find a day of the week to loosen your grip on your willpower temporarily: having ONE dessert every Friday will allow you to get sugar out of your head for the rest of the week.
  3. Know your limits and hold yourself accountable: Set a limit on how many hours of TV you want to watch and schedule it in your calendar

If you’re an abstainer:

  1. For each habit you want to create or goal you want to achieve, make a list of all the activities you recognize may contribute to your downfall
  2. For every goal-preventing activity write down another activity that could substitute it while allowing you to feel satisfied:
Goal Negative Activity Alternative
Lose 10 pounds by June 10th Finishing every meal with some form of dessert Having one small fruit after each meal
  1. Keep a calendar so you can mark off each day you abstain from the negative activity. This allows you to see your progress and keeps you motivated. Every day should get easier!
  2. Most importantly: out of sight, out of mind. Keep temptation at bay by not having a tv in your bedroom, cookies in the pantry, leaving your cellphone in your purse during dinner or by installing a procrastination-prevention app on your computer!

These tips can help you redefine your goals and how you achieve them. Remember that often it takes small steps, small moderations or a few abstentions, to achieve your goals.

Please let me know if any of these tips work for you and how you are able to abstain or moderate in your life!

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I don’t! Therefore, I can’t.

“Argue for your limitations and they’re yours.” –Richard Bach

The words we speak and think have a profound impact on our bodies and what we achieve and create in our lives, just ask Seth Godin. So, what is the story you tell others about yourself? Is telling people you don’t have a good memory helping you overcome that problem or is it a means of giving yourself permission to be forgetful? By telling our mind and body what our limitations are we are turning those limitations into reality.

HELP! The Storytellers Recovery Plan:

  1. Think about who you say you are. Write down a list of all the stories you have told others about who you are and those that you tell yourself in private about your own limitations and characteristics.
  1. Stop it. Seriously, stop it. Catch yourself in the process of creating a limiting mentality.
  1. Turn Can’ts into Don’ts. Example: “I don’t eat carbs after 8pm” is a strong statement that ties your goals to who you are by creating a new story about what this new version of (insert name here) does and doesn’t do.
  1. Turn “I’m bad at…” into “Everyday I’m getting better at…” Example: “I’m working hard at improving my memory and I’m getting a little better each day.” This statement tells your subconscious mind that you’ve got this! This isn’t a flaw! This is just one area of your life you are working to improve.
  1. Now write a list of statements about WHO YOU WANT TO BE that includes all the don’ts and dos and I’m working on’s. This list should that take into consideration the person you most desire to be.
  1. Believe it! Affirm it in the mornings while looking at yourself in the mirror. It sounds silly doesn’t it? But seeing yourself say “I am a great public speaker” or “Everyday my memory is improving”

Practical tip: Use a dry-erase marker to write your affirmations on your bathroom mirror so you can repeat them every morning and every night!

This article has a list of affirmations you can use to get you started: 35 Affirmations That Will Change Your Life via The Huffington Post

Look out for my next post on how to write affirmations in 6 easy steps! 

Failure Defined

When did we forget how to fail? Was it around the time we start getting grades and fearing that giant red F? How easily we forget the struggle to walk, to write, to read, to pronounce words, to ride a bike, to draw inside the lines, to feed ourselves, to drink out of a cup, to tie our shoes… Why is failure so traumatic if it is such a fundamental part of the human experience? Anyone who finds success on his or her own terms learns that failure is not real unless you let it define you. The only way we truly fail is by calling it a failure, by attributing negative emotions to the learning process and making excuses for why we can’t overcome the obstacles in our way. I suppose it has to do with never seeing the struggles people endure to arrive at success. Even if we read or hear about someone’s struggle, it is still a foreign emotion to our own experience, so it doesn’t touch us in quite the same way. Our struggles will always feel more real, but if we remember that failure is only a word that we alone can give a definition to, we can set ourselves free.