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Filed in Kim's Corner — September 12, 2016

As seen in the August 2012 issue of Warrenton Lifestyle Magazine

It’s natural to set goals for one’s self, to aspire to make positive changes that will enhance one’s health and well-being. Whether the goals are lofty or simple, they are the “outcome” of a process. If you think about it, it is a process that involves developing good habits, which over the years pave the way for you to achieve your personal goals. These good habits empower you to be successful, productive, and confident. And amazingly, most of the time you are performing these habits on autopilot. I call it “habitual autopilot,” and it’s a very good thing. Let me explain….

Think back to when you first started living independently. It took time and effort to learn how to manage life outside the comforts of home with mom and dad. You had to work hard to develop the good habits needed to be successful living on your own. But as time went on, the behaviors that felt like hard work became habits, and you eventually incorporated them into your daily routine.

When you stop and think about it, getting ready for your busy day is quite a process. Amazingly, most of the time you are not thinking about all the planning and preparing it takes to make your day run smoothly. It means you’ve incorporated a whole host helpful habits that come naturally, and help to ensure your day is a success.

As you’ve added new responsibilities and activities to your life, each has required incorporating more new habits. Developing new and helpful habits is never easy in the beginning. No doubt, you’ve made mistakes, and made adjustments, but eventually new behaviors have become good habits. Slowly but surely, what once felt new and awkward, is now done on habitual autopilot. You just do it, and you do it really well!

Do you ever wonder why it is we sometimes can make huge changes to meet our health and fitness goals, and other times we get stuck? Ever wonder why sometimes we get bogged down in the process struggling to establish the good habits needed to achieve our goals? And we all struggle to break from the not-so-productive habits that interfere with meeting our health and fitness goals. So how do we make the shift to good habits, and to the habitual autopilot that helps us meet our goals?

First things first…identify your motivation. Make sure you have a compelling reason to achieve your goal. Make it personal for YOU, and strong enough to support you through the process. Once you identify your motivation for change, the second part of the process is two simple steps toward achieving habitual autopilot:

The new habit has to be easy enough to embrace, and
The habit has to advance your goal/outcome

Here are a couple of specific suggestions:

Tweak your environment-this is about making the right behaviors easier and the wrong behaviors a little bit harder.
Example: Stock your kitchen with foods that are aligned with your goal. Remember your kitchen makeover in Step One to a Lean Body?
Preload your decisions-make your decisions in advance and prep for success.
Example: Instead of committing to “going to they gym” four times per week, it might be easier to preload this outcome by packing your gym clothes in your car the night before (you are setting yourself up for success) or offering to pick up a co-worker or friend on the way (now you have not only made a commitment to yourself but to someone else as well!)
Be prepared to fail. Just as mentioned above, habits are developed over time and tweaked along the way through our failures. It is critical to understand that failure is a natural part of the change process. Change is rarely a straight line from beginning to end. When you embark on a new process, you start out with great hope and optimism. As you start to implement your process, your plan will likely get detoured a bit and you will likely feel discouraged. Remember it can be hard to develop new habits.
Stay the course, build momentum, believe in yourself and build the confidence you need to leave behind the old and not-so-good habits.

Before you know it, you will have built many new good habits as you work toward your health and fitness goals. And you’ll find yourself doing them on habitual autopilot!

Reference: Chip Heath and Dan Heath: Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard (2010)

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