Be Patient with Yourself
Have you ever decided to start a new exercise regimen just to see the whole thing fall apart just a few days after? Oftentimes we want to take on way too much, way too soon. It is normal that when we want to start something new we are excited about it, and therefore we want to make a big change right away. But building new habits and getting rid of old ones is a process that takes time. As mentioned in a previous post, author Dr. Kyra Bobinet explains in her book, Well Designed Life, “As the new behavior is practiced more and more, the neural connections underlying that behavior get stronger and stronger. It is like wearing a rough footpath through repeated use, and then once established, paving that road (i.e., adding myelin to neural networks) to make it faster. Eventually there are two neural pathways that are of equal strength—the old habit and the new one—and you can imagine two highways that you could choose from. When we hit this point, the new behavior is as good an option (and equally likely to occur) as the old default behavior.” Building a new habit requires patience, dedication, and consistency.
The “Two-Minute Rule”
In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear mentions the Two-Minute Rule, which means: “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.” By starting something new that takes only a couple of minutes, there is very little chance of failing. James Clear gives five examples:
- “Read before bed each night” becomes “Read one page.”
- “Do thirty minutes of yoga” becomes “Take out my yoga mat.”
- “Study for class” becomes “Open my notes.”
- “Fold the laundry” becomes “Fold one pair of socks.”
- “Run three miles” becomes “Tie my running shoes.”
James Clear adds that “The point is to master the habit of showing up.” Of course you want to end up building on those two minutes. But if it is really just two minutes at first, that’s fine too. For example, if you want to start meditating, meditating for two minutes is an okay start. The new habit that you want to implement should not feel like a challenge.
To build a new habit for good, you want to take steps that are easy to implement on a regular basis. As explained in Atomic Habits, opening your notes can lead to studying for ten minutes, to maybe studying for three hours, to getting better grades, to getting your degree. Doing a few stretches throughout the day, as I do, even if you don’t have the time for a complete workout, is just enough to keep strengthening the right mindset. You are building a new habit, but also a new identity, the one of someone who keeps showing up. It’s all about taking small steps easy for you to repeat every day. Once the habit is established, you can build on this new foundation and reinforce it even more for the better!
Until next time!
Bobinet, Kyra. Well Designed Life : 10 Lessons in Brain Science & Design Thinking for a Mindful, Healthy, & Purposeful Life. Walnut Creek, California, Engagedin Press, 2015, pp. 295–96.
Clear, James. Atomic Habits : Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results : An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. New York, Avery, An Imprint Of Penguin Random House, 2018, pp. 162–67.
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