Try something new. What do you have to lose?
Ugh! Many of us have great difficulty getting out of our old, unhealthy habits. Most of us truly want to take better care of ourselves – getting active, eating better, and getting some regular exercise. We may have even started a new gym last year, only to find that we didn’t use it like we thought we would. So why even try? Why do we keep trying – with the greatest of intent – to start a healthy habit, and it doesn’t seem to work?
For starters, it has to do with understanding how habits form. The pop-culture answer is that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. This is true – if the habit you are trying to create is extremely simple (eg. add a glass of water with lunch every day). However, research shows that complex habits (like going to the gym and exercising) take 66 days or more, on average. Thus, if you really want to add a new habit to your lifestyle, your commitment needs to be for a longer period to try to get it to “stick”.
Second, in a culture where winning is everything, our understanding of failure is flawed. So you tried to start a gym, and for whatever reason didn’t keep going, so what? It gives you the experience to try it differently next time. The same goes for smoking, or eating habits. Too often, we say to ourselves “I tried that, and failed.” Nonsense! The great football Hall-of-Famer Fran Tarkenton once said “The key to success? Increase your failure rate.” So often we give up after we fail once or twice, when in actuality, it is the “giving up” part that causes us to fail. So here is the new definition of failure – you can only fail if you quit trying – so keep trying and keep taking action.
Finally, one definition of insanity is – doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result each time. So, when you do take action to form a new habit, what do you try differently? This time, really try something new; go to a step class, try a fitness boot camp, take dancing lessons, take a martial arts class, start swimming, or join a joggers group. When you start to think outside the fitness box, you realize that your fitness activities can be exciting and fun. And starting a habit that you truly enjoy will make it easier to continue. And If you don’t like it? You then have the experience to try the next thing. And the next. Remember; you cannot fail if you keep trying. So, start your New Year’s resolution with enthusiasm this year.
Todd Alan Roberts M.D. is a physician and the owner of Aceso Total Healthcare, a preventative medicine practice in Lincoln, Nebraska. Dr. Roberts strive to educate, and inspire his clients to a new way of healthy living.
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