"You don’t want it bad enough."
"If you would just buckle down and work a little harder."
"Maybe your priorities need to be reassessed."
"It’s all about willpower, you just need more willpower."
Any of this sound familiar? I would wager that as we read those statements, all of us are hearing a voice or two in our heads telling us that we need to just do more and try harder in some area or another. The end of the year brings reflection on what did or didn’t come to fruition and the start of a new year the hope of more, new, better, and stronger. All of which can feel heavy, carrying with it the need to add more to our mental and physical schedules in order to succeed. But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if, in fact, we could change or strengthen any habit without adding, but instead subtracting?
James Clear, in Atomic Habits, speaks about reducing friction. “Before you try to increase your willpower, try to decrease the friction in your environment.” It’s not a new concept, but it is one easily dismissed in the hustle and bustle of our busy lives. It almost seems impossible to take something off the ever-growing list and constricting schedule. What if we didn’t have to do either? What if ease in accomplishing what we desire was just a matter of eliminating or adding steps that simply make it easier to accomplish? aka: Reducing friction.
Want to work out first thing in the morning because your afternoons are full? How many steps are there before you are out the door? Eliminate a few. What if your clothes were out on the dresser, shoes by the door, water and iPod already set? ALL of these things can be done during tasks you are already doing in the evening as you are settling your home for the night. I had a friend years ago who would sleep in her running clothes so all she had to do was stumble into her shoes! Simplifying introduces the idea of effortlessness to a new habit and I think we can all agree that is a much more motivating mindset to initiate change.
How about dietary habits? Have something you want to eat less of? Chips and salsa, for instance, and for no particular personal reason. Add steps. While you are at the store, don’t buy them. Not because you can’t have them. You can have them any time you want. You will just need to go get them when the urge arises. You will need to put on shoes, find keys, get in the car, drive through several lights of traffic, walk around the store, stand in line, walk back out to the car, back through the lights and traffic, and back into the house. How often do you think the craving would pass while you were in the process of putting on your shoes? Studies have shown over and over that food cravings only last 3-5 minutes. Adding steps gives your mind time to let the craving pass. Making the decision NOT to have a trough of the magical blend of salty corn chips and cool medium-spice tomato goodness far less difficult to make.
Picture, if you will, a pinball machine. The little shiny ball lined up and ready to go. The road ahead is straight and clear, yet as it rounds the top and begins its journey to the designated target, all bouncy, colorful, bell-ringing hell breaks loose. Suddenly the ball is ricoched off of any number of colorful pegs or routed through mis-directional little mazes. All shifting its direction leaving no way of knowing if it will reach the destination until finally, it breaks into a free fall and may or may not land in its intended spot. However… it does always manage to find its way back to the start shoot to go through the whole chaotic mess all over again.
What if we imagined that reducing friction to energize or weaken habits was the same as using a screwdriver to remove the pegs or add directional guards to the playing field that would guide that shiny little ball right where it needed to go with as little interruption as possible? How great would it be to be able to control the route the proverbial ball would take to the finishline?
Oh. Wait. That’s the point of this little trip to the arcade. YOU CAN. And it is not all about willpower and buckling down. It is about evaluating steps. How can you reduce the effort and buckling needed to get where you want to go? Look at the habits you want and do not want and set up the course accordingly. While you are grocery shopping, decide to only purchase true staples (Chips are not staples, contrary to what my brain tries to tell me.) and get the more indulgent and snack items as you are willing to make the effort to do so. You are already cleaning up and closing down for the night. Just don’t put the newly washed shorts away. Leave them out for the morning.
One more thing. Grace. Grace. Grace. Always, ALWAYS, remember to treat yourself with grace. It takes time to create lasting change and to better our health and environment. Every single step gets you closer and needs to be celebrated! YOU are something to celebrate and are in the perfect spot to make the first move to master any habit or change you choose.
So get out the screwdriver and get to setting those pins, guards, bells, and whistles to launch your beautiful perfect self right where you want to go.
This article was published in the Winter edition of Focus On Fabulous magazine.
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This blog is a personal collection of my thoughts, wins, losses, memories, and crossroad moments. Almost all of which were hashed out around my kitchen counter and in my journals. If any of it resonates with you and you are ready to empower your inner badass and move into your Next with confidence, I can help. It’s time… Click the link and Let’s chat.