3 Ways To Create A System of Positive Behaviors
This year flew by, and another year is about to start! Around this time of year, people become focused on sweeping resolutions, dramatic self-improvement, and big picture goals for the next year. The best way to change habits is not to focus on the results you want (like weight loss, increasing physical fitness, etc.) and, instead, create a system of behaviors that lead to these results. When I work with clients one-on-one, I help them take their big goals and break them down into smaller, doable steps. Instead of resolutions, we focus on creating sustainable strategies for health and life improvements.
A source of inspiration for me is the book (or audiobook) Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results by James Clear. A great gift for any time of the year, but especially if anyone you know is looking to change their habits! I put this book in the category of ‘how to be a better person’ because the stories James Clear tells support the notion of systems and structure as a benefit for improving oneself through behavior change. My 3 main takeaways from Atomic Habits are:
#1 It’s not the person that fails, it’s the lack of a system.
Have you tried a fad diet? Gone to the gym to get more fit, only to stop going after 1-2 times? Started to eat healthier but quickly resorted back to junk food for most meals?
These are all examples of areas where the systems did not exist for you to achieve your goals.
#2 Changing your identity.
To stick with new behaviors, your identity has to change. If you see yourself as a couch potato, the new behavior of an exercise routine is challenging to implement. Think about how you can change your personal narrative about yourself to align with the behaviors you want to adopt? Here are some examples of shifting personal identity narratives:
Old Identity / New Identity
- I am a couch potato trying to exercise. / I am an exerciser.
- I am a smoker trying to quit. / I am smoke-free.
- I love junk food but want to eat healthy. / I eat healthy foods often.
Aim to create positive, affirming statements about your new desired identity. It might feel like you’re ‘faking it’ because you’re not yet in the routine of new habits, but identifying with your new identity is helpful for lasting behavior change.
#3 Simple systems
Often, when people are looking to make changes in their lives, they get dramatic – I’ll exercise every day! I’ll cook dinner 5 nights a week! I’ll clean my entire living space in one day! While that might sound exciting and encouraging initially, big change is hard to implement. Start smaller and simpler to enact sustainable systems.
- Cleaning: Clean 1 shelf in the refrigerator. Vacuum 1 room.
- Exercise: Two 20-minute workouts a week. Take the stairs.
- Wellness/Nutrition: Different pillow to sleep better. Boil eggs to hard-boil while on a call.
- Participating in a meal planning program that includes nutrition concepts built in, for example The Quick & Delish Meal Planning Program.
- Deciding the time & day that you do certain things, like exercise and chores, to reduce the risk of overwhelm.
If you want to develop a skill or if you want to spend less time doing certain tasks, daily practice can help develop skills and having systems for tasks, like meal planning, can minimize overwhelm and help plan ahead for your future self. For example, imagine if you had frozen soup on hand for when you have a cold or feel under the weather in the future.
Everyone’s life is like a circus tent – we each need to identify the cords to tie down the tent that ground us and help us follow through with our own personal health journey.
If you’re interested in learning more, check out James Clear’s e-newsletter.
The holidays can be an overwhelming time! Remember to listen to your own needs, whether that’s hanging out with friends as a loneliness buster, or separating from large gatherings to take a moment for yourself.
Cheers to your health,
By Alicia Connor, MA RDN & Chef
Links to Alicia Connor’s Socials:
- Quick & Delish on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCT0DBT0dF_qEeiePwcxamMw
- Quick & Delish on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/quick_delish/?hl=en
- Quick & Delish on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aliciaconnorrd/
- Join Alicia Connor’s email list: quickanddelish.ck.page/cheers-to-your-health
- Sign up for Alicia Connor’s Virtual Meal Planning Series in January 2021: https://www.quickanddelish.net/workshop
Alicia Connor is a registered dietitian nutritionist and chef who lives in San Francisco. She is passionate about healthy cooking, with a focus on simplifying meal planning and making healthy eating easier. Alicia built a successful career as a chef, working at one of the top restaurants in San Francisco. But as her vision declined due to a hereditary condition, she decided to focus on a career with longevity and returned to school to become a dietitian.
Closeup of a person’s hands writing in a journal.