The second time will likely be your last: how to quickly kill a habit.

How many times have you said I’m going to start doing _______,  you do it for a day and then the next day something comes up and then the following day something else comes up and all of a sudden what you set out to do never really happens.

How do your projects or habits progress?

Anyone who knows me, knows I have a stash of yarn, needlepoint, and all the gear imaginable that could go with it.  In fact, I am now working on a needlepoint project that I got over 10 years ago when my dear friend passed away from colon cancer.  I was in New Orleans at a wonderful shop called the Quarter Stitch in the French Quarter.  I picked up a piece titled Angels Flying by Clementine Hunter (1887-1988). Ms. Hunter was a prominent Louisiana folk artist that painted plantation life scenes.   I loved the idea of honoring my friend with a piece featuring angels. That was over 10 years ago. By the way, the Quarter Stitch is still open!!!!  Yeah!!

So where is that project today? Well, I am delighted to report that I am just about finished with it.  Doing the last border so it can be made into a pillow.

Why did I wait so long to finish it and why do these things happen so often?  It’s no different than a diet or an exercise program. We get a great idea and go all-in on commitment and then something happens. Think New Year resolutions.  You know how long they last.

For me and fiber arts, it’s often a new shiny object that gets my attention. What happens next is that piece that I have been working on for a while settles back into the closet because I am enamored by the new item. My goal as I go into 2022 is to pull those pieces out and utilize a few habit hacks to get things finished. Is being motivated enough?

needle point flying angels
My project – almost done

Motivation is not always enough

If anyone is following along with my 8-week squat challenge, then these tips are for you! Even if the squat challenge is not your jam, I think you will find a pearl if you keep reading.

Getting started to prevent failure

Getting Started is definitely the first step!

If you want to do something consistently and make a habit of it, you need to first do it once.  Missing a day is not a tragedy but missing two will send you down the slippery slope and your needlepoint canvas will start collecting dust like mine.

We are all human

We all miss a day of that thing we are trying to do, whether it’s a workout, keeping to our diet, or doing our craft. We are all human and life gets in the way.  We sleep in instead of getting up early for our morning workout (of course if you are paying for a trainer, you are more likely to get up), we order pizza instead of making a healthy dinner.  We decide to not practice our musical instruments or take out our paintbrushes because we got consumed with our social media.  It’s OK and we can give ourselves permission to take that ONE day.

Fool me once, but don’t fool me twice

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, don’t be a turkey!

Let that activity slide a second time and you are looking at a long climb to get back on track. This has been studied by those who look and study habit formation.

Everyone misses a session, skips a workout, or eats bad food.  Those who will be successful are the people that are consistent.  Those who are successful get back on the horse and brush off the slip or one time “forget.”

Dieting is a great example.  If you are dieting, are you one of those people who will go out on a Friday night and eat food you weren’t planning on eating? You feel bad the next day because of the salt, sugar, and generally not the right food choices. What happens is where it gets dicey. You’ll blow off the entire weekend as a lost cause and keep making food choices that are not on your plan.  Now you have a good two to three days where you let yourself down. Monday comes along and you might be so disgusted that you say screw it and just keep eating the foods you vowed you wouldn’t.  See how that one bad meal choice sets off an entire chain reaction.

You’re just one meal away from the zone

In the book on the ZONE diet, Barry Sears has a great expression when that happens.  He says, “you are just one meal away from the ZONE.”   Yes, what he means is you can slip once, but not the second time.  Get back on track.

According to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, missing any single day of a particular habit has no impact on your long-term ability to stick to the habit. It won’t alter the long-term outcome as long as you get back on track.

One mistake is an outlier, but two is a pattern

James Clear

As James Clear says, “One mistake is just an outlier. Two mistakes are the beginning of a pattern.”

How to get back on track

Getting Back on Track is the most important thing you can do.

It doesn’t have to be hard, but when you blow it over and over again, you need to look at what will work. Not what is not working. Here are a few quick tips.

Make it easy

1. Make it easy. Find a time that really works to get in your workout.  I hear so often from people that try to work out at the end of the day, that they fail. It’s honestly just not the right time of day or activity to do this. Have your food prepped and planned in advance.

Schedule it

2. Schedule it. You can’t rely on motivation and sheer will. Motivation will always leave you at the curb. No one can stay motivated day in and day out. If you are trying to eat certain foods, schedule a day a week to prep the veggies, make the lunches the night before, plan and buy the ingredients for a meal so you don’t have to order pizza. Pick a time for your craft.  Maybe it’s 15 minutes after lunch, or before dinner.  Get into the routine.  There needs to be an anchor to help you do the next activity.

The Tiny Habits® recipe for find your anchor is easy… After I ___________, I will __________

Imagine if you only took the dog out occasionally because other things got in the way.  Your house would not look or smell so good. Most people generally feed the dog and then let them out or take them out.

Figure out what is getting in your way

3. Remove what is getting in your way.  A perfect example is to put your phone away and pull out your crossword puzzle or knitting project.  If you remove the dopamine hit you get from every social media ping, you might be able to replace the dopamine hit you get when you spend 15 minutes working a crossword puzzle and improving your concentration.

Celebrate your successes not beat yourself up for you failure

4. Celebrate!  Emotions create habits (good or bad).  If you do your intended activity – give a big shout-out to yourself and pump that fist.  Yeah, You!

What do you want to start doing and how are you going to do it?  Pop a comment in the comment section or join my 8-week squat challenge.  It’s not too late!  Check out my Instagram account.  https://www.instagram.com/sandifeaster/

Don’t let the holidays or any other activity you want to do get in your way.  You’ve got this! Happy Thanksgiving!

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Sandi Feaster

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