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Building New Habits

In almost every self-improvement book, they say morning rituals are important. They say that the most successful and productive people on the planet have a very regimented early morning routine that they respect & do every, single, day. 

I always LIKED the idea of it, and wished that I was one of those who could naturally wake up early and be super productive right away. However, I told myself that “It’s just not me”, “I’m a snoozer” or “I slept late last night, so I need an extra 30 mins”. 

As it turns out, I was wrong. Those excuses do not define me whatsoever, and were really excuses that I used to build fictional ideas about myself and my habits to justify the laziness. And that’s just it – they're HABITS. Some of you may have heard or read about Dr. Maxwell Maltz’s 21/90 rule from the 1950s. Although it has a nice catch (like the 80/20 rule), it’s not completely factual. Depending on the habit you are either trying to change or build, it can vary from as short as 2 months to a whole year. James Clear’s Atomic Habits is a great reference to get you started on how to build habits and keep them going. 

It can be a long journey (most meaningful ones tend to be) but I’m finally starting to take control of mine, starting with waking in up in the morning at the time I planned to (I used to snooze up to an hour!) and to take the day on with intention. Yoga helps a lot in the later. 

Below, I broke down the steps I took over time bit by bit and committing to a routine that works for me. 

Step 1: Stop kidding yourself

First step in ANY detox/ rehab program is to be true and honest to yourself. Stop making the excuses, stop telling yourself it’s just the way you are or it’s out of your control. They’re all wrong. YOU are in complete control of what you can or cannot do. Once you’ve come to this realization, you have to forgive yourself. Just like everyone else, you’re only human and so long as you’re growing and evolving forward there’s no reason to shame or guilt yourself. 

Step 2: Set a goal

Think of what kind of person you want to be, not the specific goal you want to achieve. There’s a delicate difference between the two, but it will impact greatly how meaningful and committed you will be to make the change. I wanted to be someone who lived every day of my life with intention. Once I determined that, I then had to set goals for myself to become that person. The specific goal at the time was to have meditation & yoga practices daily in the morning as part of my routine.

“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

― Steve Jobs

Step 3: Start small

Once I laid out my big picture, I had to take a deeper dive and look into what are the micro steps I would need to take to get to where I want to be. There’s no way that I start a morning mediation ritual if I’m snoozing my alarm for 60 mins straight! So, that’s where I started. 

I used to make excuses here too “I snooze because we slept late”, “it’s tough to get out of bed when it’s so warm and cozy”, “I have no problem getting up when my partner’s not here, but when he is – it's tougher”. That last one was a real doozy. His presence should have NOTHING to do with my ability of getting up in the morning. We often tend to cast blame on someone else so that we can avoid reflecting inwards and be honest with ourselves. Why? Because it hurts our egos. Once we learn to put that aside, it becomes a lot easier to realize what you have to change, and what are really out of your control.

Step 4: Celebrate the small wins

Celebrate the small victories. This will encourage and motivate you to keep going. When I say celebrate, I don’t mean reward. The act of doing it is a reward in itself. Celebrate means to congratulate yourself and also to let yourself know that it’s ok if you fall back on your routine when you really do need to take a step back. Sometimes that helps us to redefine our perspective. It’s possible that your original goal was overzealous. 

Step 5: Commit to continuing, even on the days that are tough. 

Keep going. No matter what. You might rebound one day, two...maybe even three. As long as you’re able to get back on track, it’s all ok. We often create fictional boundaries to ourselves that have no rhyme or reason. They just sound good. “I’ll lose 20 lbs in 2 mths!”, “I will wake up at 5am every day”, “I will eat healthy every single meal” ...most of the time when we set ultimatums to ourselves, they don’t work. Be flexible with both your body and your mind and it will become a lot easier to make changes in your life.

Step 6. Revisit your goal

Whether you’ve achieved your initial goal or not, it’s important to revisit it to make sure it still makes sense for you. Things in your life may have changed. What you’ve learned about yourself in the journey might have evolved. What you desire for yourself now may no longer be the same as it was a few weeks, months or years ago. That’s ok. 

It might also be that you’re struggling to keep up with the initial goal. Perhaps you have to start even smaller, maybe you don’t genuinely want to make that change – it may be someone else’s influence on you. Always revisit your initial goal, and adjust. The change in direction is PART of making the change. 

Step 7. Just keep doing it. You’re in it for the long haul. 

Once you’ve got a good momentum going, don’t stop. It’s ok to take a break here and there but consistency is key. Think about what makes you – YOU! If it’s part of who you are or who you want to be, then it should be a prominent part of your daily life. If you’re not satisfied, then make the adjustment.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

― Oscar Wilde

Once you've achieved your goal, set out a new one, and then another. As children, we were often taught that once you reached a certain level (i.e. post-secondary education), life will start and then you can relax. Fortunately, that's far from reality. Real life changes ALL the time. Imagine how dull it would be if you hit a certain milestone...and that was it. What makes life to invigorating is that it constantly keeps us on our toes, just don't let it get the best of you and keep evolving!

I hope this has helped some of you to start building new habits. The key is not to BREAK bad habits, but rather to create new ones that you want to associate to your new Self. What are some habits that you’ve wanted to change or what are some NEW habits you’ve taken on that have helped you reshape your life?

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