Six Steps for Creating Good Habits
Hello everyone. My name is Marissa and I am the Community Manager here at Complete Performance Coaching. I have my master’s in sports psychology from the University of Florida. On top of helping out with projects and the social media aspects of Complete Performance Coaching, I also work with athletes. I help train their performance skills, motivation, and confidence. I can also help with academic skills as well.
I know times are a little bit crazy right now. You’re probably at home, doing schoolwork online maybe for the first time ever, so if you have any questions about time management, scheduling, organizing, taking classes online or things of that nature, please let me know. I would love to help in whatever way that I can.
What we’re going to be talking about today is if you are someone that is struggling with motivation right now, maybe it’s something you’ve struggled with for a while, or maybe this just kind of happened given the circumstances of the world that we’re in. One thing that can really help with this is creating good habits. When you create good habits it can help with motivation, help you stay focused, and these are going to be skills that you can use now and whenever it’s time for sport or return to your daily activities that you have.
Parents, you might be working from home. Athletes, you’re at home, there’s no school, there’s no gym, you can’t hang out with friends and family like you normally would. Because of all of this, motivation and structure are probably lack lacking.
Setting Goals to Stay Motivated
Now, I will be the first one to say that I am a huge advocate of relaxation, spending quality time with family, and taking time for yourself. I think that is going to be super important during a time like this, but I also think that it’s important for us to set goals for ourselves and to try to stay motivated. To do that, we’re going to focus on creating habits today.
A quote that I love and that I try to live by says:
“Making small changes every day and focusing on getting 1% better, that’s what adds up to success over time.”
So what we’re going to focus on is just getting that 1% better every single day, and you do that by making good choices and following your beliefs and your values of what you think is important. It’s important to remind yourself that nothing happens overnight. The professionals and Olympians, they didn’t just all of a sudden wake up and become professional. They worked every single day and they got 1% better every single day.
If you think back to something you wanted to get better at, maybe a skill within your sport or something with school, five, six months ago, it might’ve been a little bit different. If you practiced every single day and you built up your ladder of confidence and things like that, look at where you are now. So that’s important to remind yourself of when you’re trying to learn a new skill or maybe you’re trying to focus on your motivation and create a new routine. It’s not going to happen overnight, but the more that you practice and the more that you focus on what you want to get at, the better it’s going to be.
Figuring Out Your ‘Why’
The first thing I want to talk about with motivation is figuring out your why. If you don’t know why you’re doing something, then it’s going to be really hard to follow through and continue to do it. So why do you want to stay motivated? Why do you want to keep practicing? Why do you want to do well in your sport in school? I challenge you to come up with a reason that’s different than, “Well, because my mom told me I needed to,” or, “Well, my coach told me I needed to get this skill so that’s why I need to do it.” I really want you to dig down deep and think about what your why is, and your why is most likely going to be different than your teammates’ why or your brother or sister’s why. whatever it is.
Some ‘whys’ I’ve heard from athletes that I’ve worked with are, “Well because I want to be motivated and do well during this quarantine time so I can return to my sport and not feel behind.” Some of them have said, “I want to return and be better than I was before so that I can level up or go to the next level that I want to go to.” Maybe your why is because you just love your sport and you feel happy when you do it and that’s why you want to keep doing it over this time. So that is a great motivator to know why. Maybe you just want to make yourself proud and prove that you can do it, so figuring out your why is going to be key to motivation.
Write It Down
Once you know that why, I want to encourage you to write it down somewhere, maybe on a sticky note or on a post-it or something like that, and post it to your wall so that you can see it every single day. That way, on those days where you wake up and you’re thinking, “Oh, I have to go through this again, I have to do online school, I don’t get to see my friends,” you can look at your why and it’s going to be a reminder to motivate you to get up and do what you want to do. It’s going to remind you of how it is every day.
When it comes to motivation, oftentimes we focus on setting goals. I think goals are super important because it gives you a direction and something to strive for, but sometimes people get stuck because they know what their goal is, they know what they want to do, but they don’t really know how to get there. So maybe you have the goal of wanting to eat healthier. Maybe you want to drink more water, or maybe you want to be active throughout the day. All of those are great goals, but what is missing is how – how are you going to do all of these things? That is where habits come in. Creating habits and sticking to them help you with self-improvement. The more that you feel good about yourself, the more you’ll want to continue doing the things that make you feel good.
Habits are those small things that you can do every day to help you reach your overall goal. Again, it’s going to take time to see change, but the more you stick with it and the more you focus on it, it’s going to help keep you in that present moment so that you can focus on those 1% changes every day that will eventually get to that overall goal that you’re looking at.
Establishing a System
A book where I’ve learned a lot about habits is called Atomic Habits, by James Clear, and within this book, he focuses a lot on the system of achieving your goals, not actually the goals themselves. What I mean by this is today, we’re going to focus on the process of achieving the goals that you have, not just what the results will be. Once you get there, I want you to start by thinking about some habits you might already have.
I’ll give you some examples of my own and maybe this will help you think of ones that you have. For me, I drink a glass of water with lemon every single morning before I have coffee, before I have breakfast, before I do anything else. This is something I started because I heard it was good for you and I thought, “Well, I need to drink more water anyway, so I’m going to start my day off right by doing something that I know is good for me.” So I got in the habit of doing that.
Now, every single morning I have a glass of water with lemon. I also have the habit of picking out a piece of gum and starting to chew it before I go on a run. I know that it helps me with my run. It helps me not feel thirsty while I’m running so I don’t have to run with a water bottle. I also have a bedtime routine. I do the same thing when I get ready for bed every single night – I take my contacts out, I wash my face, and then I brush my teeth. I do the same thing every single night.
Staying on Track
The reason that these types of routines and these types of habits are important is that it helps you remember to get things done in and order that’s going to help you be successful. For me, if I forget to go in order of taking my contacts out and I start with like brushing my teeth instead, it just confuses the whole process. Sometimes you might forget to do something. Maybe you woke up late and your morning routine is all out of order. Maybe you forgot your phone on the way to work or things like that. So having your routine is going to help you not only reach your goals but also keep you on the right track to being successful.
Becoming the Person You Want to Be
When you start to create habits and follow through with them, you’re not only working toward your goal, you’re also changing your behavior in a way that’s going to support who you truly want to be. If you have the goal that you want to be one of the most encouraging teammates that you can be on your team, you want to be that person that people know that they can always rely on. So every single time that you give your teammate a high five or you tell them that they did a good job in practicing the pass that they were going through, that’s putting money in your habit piggy bank and helping you become the person that you want to be.
Matching Habits to Your Values
On top of this, it’s important to create habits that match your values and your beliefs. Don’t think that you have to create habits that someone else is doing or that you think you should do unless you truly believe what they stand for. If you can match your values to the habits that you’re trying to create, you’re way more likely to follow through and complete them versus doing something that is important to someone else.
Steps to Creating Good Habits
Now, we know with motivation, knowing your why is going to be super important and you know that creating habits is going to help you get there. So how do you create these habits? Let’s dive into how to actually create and maintain habits over time.
Step 1: Make It Obvious
The more obvious you set up the scene for whatever habit you’re trying to get in, the more likely you’re going to be able to do it. I’m going to go through a few examples here of ones that I’ve used and that athletes that I’ve worked with have used and how they made it obvious.
Why: You want to eat more fruits and vegetables. Your why is because you know that fruits and vegetables are healthy for you and you feel good whenever you have enough fruits and vegetables throughout the day.
Making it Obvious: Have fruit be the first things that you see when you open up your fridge. If all of your fruits and vegetables are tucked away in a bin in the back corner of your fridge, it’s going to be really hard for you to see those fruits and vegetables to eat. But, if they’re the first things you notice when you open your fridge, you’re going to be way more likely to grab that as a snack or add it to your meal than something else.
Step 2: Practice
Maybe you want to get in the habit of practicing your skills, stretching, or working out every day. You can make this obvious by leaving a workout outfit and the shoes you want to wear in front of your door before you leave your bedroom for the day. When you wake up in the morning, you have to see those before you were going to leave your bedroom.
The reason this works is that you have to make the conscious decision to either pick those up and put them on or step over them and say, “You know what, I’m not going to work out today. I’m not going to go practice my skills.” So you make it obvious by leaving them out so it’s easy for you to get. This also helps make the choice a little bit easier because it’s easier to just put them on and go out for the exercise whenever it’s obvious to you in that way.
Step 3: Get Specific
This means setting a time and location for when you want to complete your habits. Just like goal setting, the more specific you are, the more likely you can track it and the more likely you’re going to be able to do it. Just saying something like “I want to drink more water” doesn’t really give you a direction and it doesn’t really provide clear instructions on how you’re going to do it.
Be specific. Do you want to drink more water within a month? Within a year? We don’t really know. You could say, “I want to drink one glass of water before I eat every meal.” That’s specific, and that tells you how much you are going to drink throughout the day. Maybe you have a water bottle and you’re going to say, “I want to drink one full bottle of water, this bottle of water, every single day,” and you can do that throughout the day. It will be really easy to track because you can see if you finish the water bottle or not.
Step 4: Pairing Old Habits With New Habits
A little trick I want to give you on how to create habits is pairing it with something that you already do. Here’s what that looks like. You would say, “After my current habit, I will do my new habit.” For example, if you want to practice more meditation or deliberate breathing and a habit that you’re already in is practicing your skills or conditioning and working out, you could say, “After I finish working out (working out old habit) I will lay down on my yoga mat and meditate for five minutes (new habit).” You’re pairing your old habit that you already do every day, which is working out, with your new habit of meditation, and you’re going to be way more likely to actually complete what that is.
Reminders & Cues
Another example would be say you want to drink more water. For me, in the morning when I drink my glass of water, my habit pairing that I do is after I start my coffee pot. I get my coffee ready, press start, I open the fridge and pour one full glass of water. Those motions are reminders and cues to my body to go through the motions of the habit that I’m trying to do. That has significantly changed how I have been able to accomplish my goal of drinking water in the morning. That’s why it’s important for you to reflect on the habits you already have, and then what are some new habits you want to create and how can you pair them together?
Finally, one thing that is going to be super important (and this goes with goal setting, habits, and motivation) is tracking how you are doing your habits. Do you remember in school when you would do something really well, your teacher would give you a gold star and you would feel good? This is pretty much a grownup version of that. I mean, who doesn’t love still getting gold stars? I know I do. I actually have a habit tracker. You can click here to download your own! Some of my habits are 20 minutes of physical activity, having my water in the morning, five minutes of deliberate breathing, and doing some of my chiropractic exercises. What I did is I listed numbers one through 30, and every single day that I complete a habit, I color it. I think it’s fun to color instead of using checkmarks. It makes it look nice and pretty. This is a really great way to track your habits because you can what you’ve done every day. You can also see if you’ve missed days of doing your habits. A good rule of thumb is to never miss more than two days in a row.
Give Yourself Grace
Obviously, life happens. For me, one of the days I didn’t work out was on Easter and that’s okay. I’m not going to burden myself for missing one day of my habit, but a good rule of thumb never miss more than two days in a row. You want to try to create as many winning streaks as possible. Every day that you get to mark off or color in that you did that habit, it’s building up that reoccurring motion of you completing that goal every single day. That’s why you want to try to never miss more than two days in a row when it comes to your habits.
Step 6: Accountability
When you have other people that are going through the motions with you, maybe they’re working on their own habits, maybe they’re doing a habit just like you are – if you can hold each other accountable, you’re more likely to complete those goals. Personally, I have a group of family and friends and for the month of April, we are all trying to do some type of physical activity for 20 minutes a day, every single day.
Sometimes there are days where I’m tired, I’ve had a long workday, and the last thing I want to do is go for a walk outside for 20 minutes. But I know that I can check my phone and see all of my family and friends have done it and they’re like, “Come on Merissa like we know you can do it!” That is what is going to push me that day to go do that activity. So if you can get a group of people that you trust, that you can help hold accountable, hold each other accountable, that’s going to help so much during this time.
I know a lot of us are missing that physical interaction with people. If you’re an athlete, you miss your teammates and you miss your coaches, so this is a great way to all get together and focus on these habits that you’re trying to create.
Within our PerformHappy community, we have a new challenge every single day where the athletes get to come together. It’s time for them to hold each other accountable. They’re all working on a similar goal and it’s something that they enjoy doing. They also get to talk to people. That’s something that’s so important during this time is continuing things that you love.
So if you like interacting, if you like talking with your teammates and talking with your coaches, then get together. Come up with a habit that you all want to try for the month. Create an accountability group and see the difference that it makes, trying to do something with other people.
I hope that all of this was helpful. I hope that you all were able to learn something new today, especially if you are struggling with some motivation during this time. If you would like more help during this time or in the future, please reach out. You can click here for a free 20-minute consult where we can come up with a quarantine plan that is specific to you in helping you reach your goals, staying motivated, and staying confident so when it is time to go back to sport, whenever that maybe, you are more ready than ever.
Thank you for joining me and we will talk more soon.