remember the why: starting new habits and sticking to them

I heard the term “habit stacking” recently and it made me reflect on why new habits can be so hard to keep and what we can do to hold ourselves accountable. Gyms are packed at the start of a new year with people who made the resolution to start working out more–but in most cases, these people haven’t worked out in years.

While their intentions are in the right place, it’s a drastic lifestyle change; you need to prepare ahead of time on how you’re going to adjust your schedule. When you start feeling uncertain or uncomfortable, it’s easier to feel discouraged and just go back to what is comfortable. You have to want to keep showing up for yourself and trust that if you stay consistent, you’ll get to a place where these habits are second nature to you. But how do you keep showing up for yourself?

Understand the “why”. Before you start thinking about the how and the when, it’s important to sit with yourself and understand why you want to change in the first place; why is this habit even important to you? It helps to put your habit into perspective when you establish the real reason you want to start. Seeing the value in something helps you stay more consistent because you are aware of how important this is to you and your future self.

Write down the “why” you want to change and how your current habits are affecting your life. Place it somewhere you will see daily to continue bringing inspiration to your goals.

What is Habit Stacking? Once you have the why established, you can start thinking about how you are going to stay consistent. This relies heavily on when you perform these habits—here enters Habit Stacking. It’s the idea of building new habits by “stacking” them with things you already do habitually. When you are already in the habit of doing something, it will be easier to slowly add new habits in.

How to stack new habits. If your goal is to start taking daily vitamins, try leaving them next to an existing habit, like by your toothbrush, or coffee maker. When you brush your teeth in the morning or make your cup of coffee, the vitamins will be right there as a reminder to take. If you want to wake up earlier, start by setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier than you normally do and increase by 10 minutes every week.

Give yourself grace through the difficulty and remind yourself that you can always start again. Some habits are going to seem harder to create, just as some habits will seem harder to break. Falling off and getting back up is the hardest but most important part. Remember why you started and why this is important to you.

2 thoughts on “remember the why: starting new habits and sticking to them”

  1. Dear Kaitlin Slack, thank you for this practical piece with stacking strategies that have worked for me. Physiotherapists (bless them) add new and cumulative exercises to each visit. Sometimes I can pin them down on the top 3 I should do in-perpetuity. Then I piggy back an exercise onto one of my 3 toothbrush routines. Likewise in the shower I can merge another exercise with part of the wash. It’s a little like memory. Easier to remember someone’s name linked to a movie star. Trusting us and ours to hope, health, happiness and harmony.

    • Thanks for your response! I’m definitely trying to be more consistent with my habits and giving myself grace when I’m not so consistent 🙂


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