By Myriah Shimatsu
From the Winter 2021 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association
It is that time of year where you reflect, refocus and set resolutions for the new year. After such a strange 2020, taking time to reflect on what went well and where you want to create a change through goal setting is strongly encouraged. Refocus your energy inward, listen to what your mind, body and heart need to renew, and allow for a strong reset. Choose goals that have meaning to you and your “why.” The more the goal has a deep meaning and desire to you, the more likely you are to act toward making your goal a reality.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de-Saint Exupery
Accomplishing a new goal really requires you to focus on changing habits. Breaking old habits and creating new systems and habits is hard work. When you don’t succeed at reaching your goals it is not because you didn’t try hard, but rather you fell to the level of your old systems and habits. Learn the process of habit change and take ownership of where you want to be.
There are four stages of habit change:
Understanding these four stages allows you to set practical framework that you can use to design good habits and eliminate bad ones. These principals are based off the New York Times Bestseller book, “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones,” by James Clear. I highly suggest reading or listening to this book if you are ready to create lasting change.
The Habit Loop consists of two phases. Phase 1 is the problem phase where you recognize something needs to change. This includes the “cue” and “craving” of the four stages of a habit. The cue triggers your brain to initiate a behavior. The craving is the motivational force behind every habit. The craving is your “why,” the reason you will want to act and create a new habit. For example, you wake up and want to feel energized. Your cue is waking up and your craving is wanting to feel energized. So now, what are you going to do about that?
Phase 2 is the solution phase. This includes the “response” and “reward” of the four stages of a habit. The response is the actual habit you perform and it can be in the form of thought or action. The reward is the end goal of every habit. In our example, you wake up and want to feel energized, you have several options that could be your response. You could choose to workout, drink coffee, meditate, or anything else that gives you energy—this is the response. Let’s say you choose to workout and that gives you energy. Energy is the reward you are looking for. After repeating this over and over, you learn to satisfy your craving of wanting to feel energized in the morning by waking up and working out. Your new habit becomes waking up and working out.
Although this process seems to be rather simple it takes time, consistency and the desire to stick with it. There will be times you break your new habit or goal that you are working on. You can choose to allow this to derail you or refocus on your “why” and get right back on track. The bigger your “why,” the more likely you are to succeed at making your goal a new habit.
“The most important part of a new habit is getting started—not just the first time but each time.” – James Clear
Understanding the habit loop is a big step to being successful in achieving new goals. However, here are six major points that can also help you achieve a goal:
- Develop the right goal
- Establish time to spend on the goal or plan
- Keep a record or journal
- Set small steps or goals to reach large goals
- Take action
Myriah Shimatsu is the co-owner of Movement 1st Wellness and has been certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) for over 12 years. She holds her bachelor’s degree in adult exercise science with a minor in nutrition. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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