New, Better Habits Require Commitment

Why is it so easy to identify changes we want to make yet so hard to actually make the changes? One answer may be learning the difference between a good idea and a commitment.

A good idea is something that we may read about in a magazine or online or see on television. We see slim, fit, attractive people on television using home fitness equipment, and we think “Hey! I ought to buy one of those so I can look like that.” It seems like a good idea yet we don’t actually put the idea into action and do it.

A good idea is quite different from a commitment. A commitment, as the word implies, requires dedication to the development of a habit that will help us achieve a personal goal or positive life change.

When a friend of mine was diagnosed with osteopenia, she immediately signed up at a fitness center and began weight training to strengthen her bones and has consistently done so for eight years. Though fear can be a powerful motivator in building a new habit or stopping an old, undesirable one such as smoking, the desire for something better — a better marriage, a better job — can be equally motivating.

Here are four steps to developing new habits:

  • Commit to something important to you. Stay focused on the end result that you really want. Go public and tell others about your commitment.
  • Monitor your progress. Keep a chart, make tick marks, write on the calendar, report to someone daily, design some type of system to track what you’re doing and how often. Make yourself accountable.
  • Practice, practice, practice. But don’t beat yourself up if you don’t do exactly what you promised yourself you’d do. Pick up where you left off, and start practicing your new habit again until it becomes second nature.
  • Celebrate your successes, no matter how small. Acknowledge the small milestones, and encourage yourself to keep going!

Source: Falling Awake, Creating the Life of Your Dreams by Dave Ellis

*Originally published  3/6/06 in The Kansas City Star “FYI Solutions” Section, “An Authentic Life” Column as a series of articles contributed by Kansas City life coach Lorrie Crystal Eigles. Eigles provided monthly insights, tactics, and encouragement to help readers realize their potential and lead more rewarding lives.