Life after lockdown….an opportunity to build better habits?
Adjusting to changing routines can be tough. But it also presents exciting new possibilities for self-growth.
Many of us crawled inside our cocoons during the Covid-19 pandemic and remained there for far longer than we would’ve liked. Our routines have changed, likely more than once. But these changes offer a unique opportunity: Having left our former day-to-day behind, we can get to work on new and improved behaviors and routines.
Is there something that you’ve been wanting to achieve?
Before you go full-steam ahead in any direction, it’s key to take some time to pause, reflect and evaluate. Are there healthy habits you've acquired during the pandemic that you’d like to maintain or build upon? Do you have some new not-so-positive behaviors that you’d rather leave behind moving forward?
Starting from today, your life is a book full of blank pages, waiting to be filled with your stories.
And you get to decide what you would like those stories to be. What are some big goals you’d like to splash across those pages and what small steps can you take now to move in that direction?
Jot down your ideas somewhere and leave them for a few hours or even overnight.
After some time has passed, give your ideas a second look. If they haven’t lost their appeal, it’s time to move forward with practical actions.
Start by getting SMART
When we want to attain a goal, our first step is clearly defining it. An effective technique from management and coaching practices you can use when zeroing in on new targets in your personal and professional life is SMART. This acronym stands for:
S - Specific
M - Measurable
A - Achievable
R - Relevant
T - Time-related
To put this idea to work, sit down and evaluate your goals with the following questions:
First, ask yourself: Is my goal clear and specific enough to act on? For example, just saying, "I want to start running" is not nearly specific enough to guide your behaviors. On the other hand, "I want to start running three times a week" is concrete and actionable.
Next, answer the question of how can I measure my progress and achievements? This is an excellent place to add in a distance or time-frame—i.e., "I want to run 2 miles three times a week", or "I want to run an hour three times weekly".
Then, take a moment to consider, is my goal realistic and achievable? Be sure to take into account your abilities and commitments. If you haven’t exercised in a long time, you should probably start with a plan to walk a mile three times a week before you start running.
Smaller steps will get you where you want to go eventually and you’ll be less likely to throw in the towel. Besides, research shows that reaching these smaller markers along the way increases self-efficacy and self-confidence, improving our chances of success with future goals.
After you’ve determined your goal is relevant, ask yourself, is this goal relevant and meaningful to me? When you choose a goal that’s in line with your own values, not something imposed on you by society or other people, you’ll be more invested in making progress, and less likely to give up when things get tough.
And finally, make sure to answer the question of what are my start and end dates? Making your goal time-related will help keep you motivated and on track.
After you’ve made sure your goal is SMART, give your motivation a further boost by planning rewards and lining up some support from someone you trust.
Leverage rewards and support to stay on track
Treats aren’t just for rewarding kids for good behavior. Incentives can be beneficial when building new habits—and evidence supports this idea. So, if you’re making progress and reaching milestones on the road to reaching your goal, actively reward yourself.
But select your incentives carefully and beware of "trap treats", aka, rewards that sabotage your mission (ahem, such as skipping your workout when you’re trying to make exercise a daily habit). Ideally, incentives reinforce the routine or habit you want to build, such as buying the new trainers you’ve had your eye on to reward yourself for going a month without missing a run.
Beyond incentives, you should also seek out some support. Let someone you trust know about your new goal. Ask them if they can check in with you, or if you can give them updates on your progress.
Or if it’s a habit you can practice in company (like running), see if this person might want to join you. Some people are very motivated by the mere presence of someone else to witness their actions.
Building better habits and routines can seem daunting when you’re first getting started, but goals of every size begin with action. It’s like the famous quote from 6th-century Chinese philosopher Laozi (also known as Lao Tzu) says, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step".
Do you have any new habits you’d like to build post-lockdown? What are some ways you incorporate new behaviors into your routine? Tell us all about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.