When life decides to teach us a lesson, it sends difficult times. We all have experienced such things. It’s tough to cope when you feel like all the world is against you.
When I decided to leave a lot of things behind, I started to feel anxious. Especially about money.
I had gone into debt because of my past decisions, I had very little income, and I still had to deal with a lot of personal issues.
The easiest thing to do would have been to let my healthy habits go into the back burner and avoid them until I could find some stability in life. But I had tried that before, with abysmal results.
It’s so easy to stop exercising or meditating because “we don’t have time” or “there are more important things to do.” But is that the best we can do?
I asked myself: What if I kept improving my routine while the storm was raging?
My monkey mind was going completely batshit crazy at the very question, filling my mind with more doomsday scenarios.
I decided to simply do the least amount of things possible to keep my healthy habits:
- I would journal every morning: Just for a few minutes, without any limits or restrictions to what I should write. This practice would help me tame the monkey mind.
- I would exercise every morning: I tried some weight lifting, but I would end up completely tired and unable to press forward, so I switched to yoga. It was challenging but empowering.
- I would cook a healthy breakfast six days a week: The best healthy meal I could afford without breaking the bank.
- I would meditate every night: Just 5 minutes before bed, nothing special. I used Insight Timer to track it.
- I would record every session: Just jotting down in my notebook that I completed the task. This practice turned out to be the most important step.
I would love to say that I completed all my goals without fail. But, to be honest, I missed a ton of workouts, there are massive gaps on my journal, and of course, I fell asleep a bunch of times during my meditation.
Failures aside, I started noticing a pattern. If I were able to complete most of them, the next day my monkey mind would be a bit more relaxed. The monkey was just chilling in his tree, allowing me to work freely.
After a couple of weeks, I noticed the small pleasure of adding a check mark each day I completed something. My mood improved and I was feeling more productive.
The key is that after a little while, those actions became habits. And habits do not require willpower to achieve. They are completely automated!
Building my routine gave me more willpower. I was ready to tackle the challenges in front of me.
And that’s the real power of a routine. It trains your willpower muscle, which in turn makes you more resilient to the difficult times in your life.
If I had to do it again from the beginning, I would change my approach to a more sustainable one. If you are new to habit building I would suggest following these steps:
- Add only one new habit at a time: It wasn’t smart to try to change all those things at the same time. Now, I just add one new thing, right now I’m reading every morning for 15 minutes.
- Track everything with pen and paper: I love tech, but no app was effective for me. Instead, a simple notebook with little squares I could fill was good enough and made me feel better.
- Accept that you will miss some days: And it’s entirely ok. Nobody is perfect, just plan for those days in advance. My rule was that I could fail one day but not the next, this skyrocketed my habit building.
- Create If/then decisions: Decisions are hard, they take a lot of willpower. Instead, create an if/then decision and the whole thing becomes easy and natural. For example, if I feel tired in the morning, then I will do a relaxing yoga session.
- Lower your expectations: Don’t set crazy goals at the beginning. I didn’t set a full hour long yoga session every morning. I just went for 10 minutes. Once you form the habit, you can expand it in small increments.
These simple guidelines will help you set habits and keep them. Remember that your willpower muscle may be as atrophied as mine, and you will need to start slowly.
This process is helping me achieve my goals and set up my own habits as a freelancer. I feel productive, and overall I have more energy to tackle my day.
It’s time to take action. Define your own goals, the habits that will get you there, and start right now. Every day counts. Don’t waste them!