Devin Ellsworth

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How To Start ANY New Habit — or, How I Woke Up Super Early to Run Yesterday!

The start of a new year is always big for me. I am one for the symbolism. The fresh start. The clean slate.

January is a time to take a look at your life and clean out the clutter.

What’s not serving you anymore? What could you be doing more of that would serve you?

I’ve always made resolutions, and my senior year of college was the first time I really stuck to one.

It was to learn how to cook, and my mom got me Mark Bittman’s brilliant cookbook “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” for Christmas that year.

Bittman has a way with words, and he honestly taught me how to cook simply from the pages of his tome. At the time, I was getting really into food and had just completed my 1-month as a vegetarian experiment.

I was also about to graduate and go out into the “real world” and felt like I needed some real world skills.

So, I learned how to cook.

And in the process learned that I had a passion for cooking, and for food issues at large.

But this isn’t a story about my first resolution I ever kept, it’s a story about 2016.

Since I work as a health coach, all online, my schedule is very flexible. I make my own hours and can “clock-in” any time of the day.

Anyone who knows me well knows I am not a morning person. So when it comes to exercising I’d much rather do it after my workday is winding down than before. In fact there have been just a handful of times when I’ve had the hubris to attempt working out in the morning…

Today was just such a time.

Let me back up. Because I am not a morning person and I set my own schedule, I usually sleep in pretty late in the mornings and stay up pretty late at night. It’s just my natural rhythm. But since I wake up pretty late in the a.m., I end up going straight to my computer to start working, having my breakfast while I start my day, my tea, etc.

It’s kind of a jarring way to start my day, and lately I’ve been thinking I need a better morning routine.

In grad school I was in the habit of meditating every morning, and it was simply the best way to start my day. With my 3-minute-morning before I start work, morning meditation has gone out the window. I still meditate at night, but there’s nothing like starting your day with the stuff. Good for the soul.

In the past when a job has forced me into a morning routine I’ve actually really enjoyed earlier wake up times. It’s just really hard to force myself to do it. No one is checking to see when I clock in…

So, back to the story. Today I woke up 2 hours earlier than my normal routine, went for a run (in the cold morning chill), had breakfast and tea, and meditated, all before starting my actual work day.

Tomorrow I plan to do the same.

Will this become a new habit? Most likely no.

And that’s where the heart of this post comes in…

When people have asked me recently what my resolutions are I’ve been very careful not to call this a resolution, because as I put it, “frankly, I don’t think I can keep it up.”

Can anyone tell me what crucial piece is missing in this equation? Why won’t this become a new habit for me?

It won’t become a habit because I don’t believe it will.

In the behavior change world, the belief that you can do something you set out to do is called “self-efficacy.” In this example I lack self-efficacy.

I have little faith in my ability to form the habit, and therefore the research would suggest I will likely fail.

But here’s a little twist — I’m ok with that.

Life is about trying new things. I could surprise myself and find that the benefits — a more relaxing, peaceful start to my day — outweigh the costs — leaving my super warm cozy bed prematurely.

And let’s be honest — we are SO hard on ourselves that sometimes we don’t even try new things. And that’s just not good. The quickest way to stop growing as a person is to stop trying new things.

So screw it. I’ll probably be hitting the snooze button by early next week. But for now I’m committed to giving this a shot! And who knows maybe I’ll find some happy medium where some mornings it’s a run and others just meditation, or whatever.

Only time will tell, I’m just happy to be trying things.

Happy New Year. For whatever goals you’ve set yourself in 2016, ask yourself if you believe you can achieve them. Then, I suggest, do it no matter what your answer is. Just don’t be too hard on yourself when your prediction is right 😉

(Next week we’ll talk about how to build self-efficacy!)


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