In the bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. We all have too much to do and not enough hours. So this isn’t the optimal time to start a diet (or work on getting more sleep or initiate a new exercise regimen or stop smoking or cut down on drinking or make any changes you’ve thought about and tried unsuccessfully to implement in the past).
Or is it?
Contrary to conventional wisdom, there’s no perfect time to begin building healthier habits. In fact, the very notion of a “right time” often prevents would-be self-improvers from taking the first step. If you’ve ever told yourself, “I’ll get back on track tomorrow” (after you’ve eaten the package of Oreos and are about to dig into the pint of Ben & Jerry’s) or “I’ll start my diet and exercise program on January 2,” you know what I mean.
Right now—whenever now happens to be—is the best time to lay the groundwork if you’ve decided you really want to change.
Thinking about how modifying unhealthy behaviors would improve your life is the first—and most important—step. Most people skip over this part. They jump right in and try to make drastic changes without really considering the costs and benefits of the work involved. This all-or-nothing approach inevitably ends up backfiring because, if you’re not absolutely convinced the outcome is worth the effort, you won’t stick with it.
So take out a piece of paper or your favorite electronic device and start making a list. Ask yourself, “How would my life be different if I could reach my health goals?” Be as specific as possible. So, for example, rather than saying, “I’d be happier,” itemize the reasons you’d feel better: “I’ll feel proud of myself for sticking with this commitment,” or, “I’ll be able to play with the kids without getting breathless,” or, “I can save the money I spend on cigarettes and buy the iPad I’ve been wanting.”
After you’ve come up with as many reasons you can think of, read them every day for the next week. In my next post, I’ll share my Five Minute Rule for developing new habits.
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