Habits. So hard to create, yet so easy to break. Why is that?!
Black to White Change
As I have been reading about habits from Leo Babauta, James Clear, and Matt Frazier, the thing that sticks out the most to me is that we get over-excited when thinking about making a change, and change too much at one time. We try to become the end product in one day, vs the actual longer time we need to make these changes. I like to think of this as Black to White Changes.
For some people, black to white change is helpful and lasting, but to others it is not. I am finding out that I am one of those “others”. I think the pattern of habit change goes like this:
- Gets extremely excited and ready to change, thus changing everything at once
- Lots of change at once = lots of work, willpower, adjustment = tired!
- If you can’t follow your change 100%, you revert back to what you do know- which is before the change- which is back to black- no in between.
See, the problem is that when we get tired and feel like we can’t keep up, we just go back to what we were doing before. For example, if you made a change to wake up early, workout, drink a liter of water and then meditate for 20 minutes, that is a lot of changes at once! One morning if you feel like you can’t workout you are probably more likely to sleep in and not wake up early, enjoy your water, and meditate regardless of working out or not. If you had built each one of those habits at it’s own time, you would definitely still wake up and have your early morning, you might just for-go the workout for the day.
The trick to making lasting habits is to focus on one easy change at a time so that it is easier to stick with. For example, if you made a habit to wake up 30 minutes earlier, it seems a lot more easy and doable in the morning when all you have to do is think about waking up and getting out of bed, not going for a workout, drinking water, and meditating as well. When you’re tired, all of those changes can be extremely discouraging and difficult.
Slow Changes = Lasting Progress
I have been a black to white habit changer for most of my life and I have often found myself looking back thinking “gosh, I wish I would have stuck with that”.
After reading a lot about habits I have re-considered the black to white habit change process. Or maybe it is that I am getting older and just don’t have the space or time for large changes at once! As I have taken on the new perspective of changing one small thing at a time, I have actually found myself sticking with more habits! To know that you can constantly work towards consistent, positive changes is a great thing.
Creating Habits that Stick
I have recently gained a habit of drinking 1/2 liter of water every morning. I have tried many times to drink water in the mornings and always skipped straight to coffee. As I was pregnant, I knew I really wanted to stay hydrated. Plus, I have found that getting hydrated in the morning does more for my energy and digestive system than even drinking coffee!
So how have I implemented this habit and made it stick for the past 6 months?!
- It’s a small habit- I did not change my whole morning routine at once so it was easy to stick with
- I used the “trigger, action, reward” system- see below
- I prepared the night before
Trigger, Action, Reward
Trigger- When first implementing a new habit, it works best to have a trigger. A trigger is anything that happens right before your habit. For example, my trigger was waking up. Originally, I would wake up and immediately think, coffee. Now, I wake up and have to drink my water. Other examples of triggers include:
- Getting home
- Getting into or out of the shower
- Eating lunch
A trigger works best if it is something you do every day (if your habit you are trying to build is a daily habit).
Action- Your action would be you acting on your habit. For example, my action for drinking 1/2 liter of water each morning is: drinking 1/2 liter of water!
Reward- To me, the reward made the biggest difference in making the habit stick. Perhaps it was because my reward was my morning cup of coffee. I could not have my morning cup of coffee without finishing my 1/2 liter of water. This began as extremely not fun, but it was so easy that I couldn’t “give up” on it. I eventually found that the time it takes me to drink my water actually helps me wake up and starts my digestive system without even the help of coffee! Other examples of rewards:
- Glass of wine
- Watching your favorite tv show
- Relaxing and doing nothing for 10 minutes
Of course, the ultimate reward is the creation of a new (hopefully healthy) habit. But rewarding ourselves as soon as the action is over helps our brains rewire to where this habit we are working on will eventually become part of our daily routine which we won’t need to work on!
Habit Change Leads to Great Things
I have thoroughly enjoyed this process of habit change. Even though it was a small change, I have since created so many different types of fruit infused waters and herbal teas that I really look forward to now! It has helped my digestive system and overall hydration. Since I make our waters in a one liter mason jar, I always drink half, and put the rest in the fridge. Then, when I am done with my daily workout, I come in and immediately fill the mason jar up with ice and have a cold, refreshing & hydrating fruit-infused water or herbal tea to rehydrate after a workout! It is literally my motivation for long walks in this summer heat!
Not only has this small change benefitted my health, it has increased my belief that change actually is possible. Starting and stopping so many new habits can be discouraging and really make us doubt ourselves! I have found that changing one small thing at a time leads to consistent & lasting change. This helps us continue to move forward with our goals and before we know it, we will have made many lasting changes!
I’m curious of your thoughts on this. What is your opinion on black to white change vs. changing one small thing at a time? What habits are you currently working on, excited about, or discouraged with? What have you found most helpful? Lets connect and comment below!