You are constantly choosing between your short-term and long-term comforts.
Sitting on the couch and re-watching Game of Thrones while plowing through a bag of microwave popcorn when you said you would hit the gym is a choice of short-term comfort. Getting regular dental cleanings sucks in the moment, but it prioritizes your long-term comfort.
Most of the time, the things that prioritize our long-term comfort don’t feel very good in the short-term.
Successful adulting hinges on your ability to answer the question:
"How do I get myself to do things I don’t feel like doing?"
Having a strong goal helps, but even then, it’s not the only answer. When I wanted to lose weight, I had an extremely strong drive to do so. I was miserable with the way that my body looked, with the way that my clothes fit, and feeling out of control around food.
I wanted nothing more than to feel in control and to be able to say no to the foods that I knew were problematic—like nutella, dark chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream, fruity pebbles, and super burritos (extra sour cream, please).
But my burning desire for control wasn’t good enough. I kept sabotaging my efforts, overeating to the point of illness, swearing I’d never do it again, and be facedown in a plate of food again within a week.
So if a strong goal isn’t the answer, what is?
You won’t have a chance of reaching your goal without these three components of habit change:
James Clear, a self-improvement and habit writer, advises against focusing on goals and instead, focusing on systems. Your system is how you plan to achieve your goal, the steps you’re going to take.
For example: If your goal is losing weight, your systems are going to focus on the foods you’ll eat every day, your daily activity, and getting plenty of sleep. If you’re building an online business, your systems will focus on list-building, emailing your list, creating valuable offers, and providing excellent customer service.
But systems aren’t the key if you can’t get yourself to take those steps.
Often what gets in the way of taking action is your environment.
With a weight loss goal, even if you have the greatest systems in place, if you always feel tempted to make terrible decisions when you go out to eat, restaurants are an environment you’d be better off avoiding. If you snack in front of the tv every night, you can improve that environment by changing your nighttime routine or keeping snacks out of the house.
If social media is distracting you from building your business, you can restrict your access to apps and websites during work hours. If you work poorly at home, head out to a coffee shop for a more conducive workspace.
Sometimes focusing on systems and changing your environment still isn’t enough to induce change, if you’re lacking...
I believe self-trust is the single most important trait you can develop in order to be able to build new habits successfully. And no one is talking about it.
Self-trust is the reason that I’ve been able to not only accomplish things like earning college degrees and learning the violin, but how I’ve been able to overcome bulimia and depression. It’s one of the deepest and strongest pillars I have based all of my self-improvement on.
Self-trust is the reason that my clients have been able to give away their fat clothes when they lose weight, knowing that they’ll never fit into them again, why they’re able to go on vacation without fear of weight gain, and why they don’t host a debate club in their heads each time they’re supposed to head to the gym.
Self-trust means that when you tell yourself you’re going to do something, you trust that you’re going to do it. There’s no guessing. If you plan to get up at 6am, when your alarm goes off, you don’t hit snooze 17 times, you just get out of bed. When you say you’re going to go to the gym, you do. When you set a deadline for a project, you hit it.
But this doesn’t happen without practice. Just as you would build trust in a relationship with another person, you need to build trust with yourself.
This happens by following through on your promises over and over again. If you have very little self-trust right now, you have to start small.
For example, you can promise yourself you’ll pack your lunch for work tomorrow so you’re not tempted to buy something crappy. Or promise yourself that you’ll make a healthy dinner instead of stopping for fast food on the way home. Promise yourself that you won’t buy any junk food at the grocery store.
Then treat your promises like sacred vows.
Once you make a promise to yourself, make it your utmost priority. NO EXCUSES. If you’ve made a promise that’s small enough, you should have no issue keeping it. If you struggle to keep the first one, start smaller. Once you can keep one, try out a different one.
Developing self-trust is not a short or easy process, but it’s the foundation of accomplishing anything worthwhile.