Before I get into my encouragement post for today, I want to draw your attention to two of my favourite recent posts here on Fit is a Feminist Issue. I enjoy everyone’s work here at the blog, of course, but these two posts really get into the same territory I like to cover so they were especially resonant today. If you want a great overview on how to set yourself up for success with new habits, check out Martha’s post – New year, new you, who dis? If you, like me, have trouble convincing yourself to start small, check out Tracy’s post – The two minute rule: start really really small.
Okay, so today I’m inviting you to think about why it can be so tricky to start new habits (Martha’s post also covers this quite nicely but I am adding some different layers.)
Most of my posts so far have been about taking things slowly, building step by step, making adjustments, and about being kind to yourself, and all of those things are important and useful when building habits.
However, if you find yourself needing to make adjustments to your plans EVERY day or if you have to work hard to talk yourself into your habit-related planning or tasks EVERY time, you may have to approach things differently.
I still want you to be kind to yourself, of course, but the nature of that kindness might go a bit beyond ‘letting yourself off the hook’ from time to time.
You *may* have to be kind to yourself by changing your systems or your goals to match your capacity.
We all get things done through systems – they may not be effective systems, they might even be chaotic systems, bur we have systems for everything. And when we decide to change or add a habit, we are introducing something new into those systems – something that that system was not designed to handle.
That’s going to create a challenge for us.
And, we might have even gone so far as to create a new system for this new habit that works on paper but that is hard to integrate into our lives and difficult to connect to our existing systems.
So, in these sorts of situations, we will keep running into the same frustrations over and over.
We’ll be attempting to add a new task, a new habit, or a new plan and, over and over, we will find that we don’t have the time or we don’t have the energy to work on it.
THIS IS NOT A FAILURE ON OUR PART.
This lack of time and energy is not a lack of willpower, it’s not a lack of discipline, it is definitely not about us ‘not wanting it enough’, and it is NOT about not working hard.
It’s about our capacity and about our systems.
As annoying as it is to accept, we all have limited capacity. That capacity changes from day to day (sometimes from hour to hour) and it changes in relation to our life circumstances and the external pressures we face.
We can’t beat ourselves out and beat ourselves up trying to follow a system for its own sake.
Instead, we need to look at the plans/goals/habits we are trying to integrate into our lives and we need to look closely at our systems and see where the friction is, see what is getting in our way.
The problem is not YOU.
The problem is that your current systems don’t match your current capacity.
To address the problem, you may need to identify and adjust your systems, you may need to change your plans/goals/habits, you may need to work on recognizing and accepting your capacity, and you’ll need to make changes in your expectations of yourself.
You will DEFINITELY need to be kind to yourself during the whole process.
So, if you are struggling with these habit-related tasks, day after day, and your struggle goes beyond feelings of resistance and reluctance, please don’t blame yourself.
Instead, I invite you to consider this as a systems/capacity issue and start the problem-solving process there.
Once you have removed ‘I’m the problem’ from the equation, what other solutions start to present themselves?
If you recognize the limits of your capacity, how does that change the scale of the habits and the tasks that you want to try to include in your life?
And with that information in hand, how can you apply the information from Tracy’s and Martha’s posts to help reshape your plans for your next steps?
Please remember that changing your plans or making different choices based on new information is NOT failure, even if part of your brain tries to tell you that it is.
Changing plans based on new information is actually the only logical way to proceed.
After all, why would you stick with a plan that isn’t going to get you where you want to go? That would be like trying to stick with the route that your GPS has set out even though you can see that the bridge it is telling you to cross is washed out. You wouldn’t stubbornly plunge your car into the river just because the bridge *should* be there, you’d back up, turn around and then get the GPS (aka – the system) to recalibrate.
Note: Speaking of the value of systems, have a look at this post from James Clear (author of Atomic Habits) – Forget About Setting Goals. Focus On This Instead. He’s talking about systems you deliberately create to work on something that is important to you, and I have been talking about noticing your existing systems in relation to your capacity, but the two are connected, of course.
Here are your gold stars for your efforts today – there are a lot of bits and pieces in this post and in the work related to it so I thought it would be good to have lots of gold stars on hand to reward your efforts.