Are You Trying To Change Too Many Habits At Once?


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Our HABITS rule our WORLD. And there are enough examples to confirm that changing habits can lead to a better life.

But sometimes, the task feels daunting. You have millions of inspiring habits you’d like to implement, and loads of bad habits you’d like to get rid of… And you’ve tried to CHANGE, again and again. But you always get back to your OLD HABITS.

So, are you trying to change too many habits at once? Once we decide to stop procrastinating, we often want to tackle all of our dreams and problems at once. But changing many habits at once is not an easy task. However, it can be done with the right approach. In any case, you will need to prioritize and select which habit(s) are the most impactful for your desired outcome.

If you feel frustrated because changing many habits at once hasn’t been working so far, I recommend going through the following steps.

Step 1: Which Habits Do You Want To Change?

… and which habits are in the “nice-to-have” category and can be put on hold?

I recommend you start listing up all the BAD habits you’d like to break, and all the GOOD habits you’d like to implement.

Write down spontaneously what comes to your mind.

Most of you may want to break the following bad habits:

  • Smoking.
  • Drinking too much coffee.
  • Eating too many desserts, snacks, too much meat…

And many more…

In my case, at this stage, it looks like this.

NOTE: I’m using my example to help illustrate the steps to when you are trying to change too many habits at once. But feel free to skip this section and go directly to STEP 2 if you are not interested in my personal lists

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Which habits do you want to change?

BAD HABITS I’d like to break:

As of now…:

  • Stressing out too often.
  • And in combination with this, I’d like to stop making so many assumptions about what may happen of what other people are thinking.
  • Putting myself under time pressure too often.
  • Negative self-talk.
  • Eating too many nuts 🙂
  • Drinking too much alcohol during social events.
  • Watching too much TV (Netflix, Movies, YouTube…).
  • Checking my “numbers” too often. Some people do not check them often enough, but I’m the contrary. I check into my google analytics account several times a day. I recalculate my budget for the next few months really often. And sometimes, I wonder what would happen if I’d just use the time I spent on my numbers actually DOING stuff that matters.

Last year I still had the following bad habits, which I managed to break (yay!):

  • Eating too much sugar. I’m talking about desserts or sugar-heavy food such as cereals.
  • Eating too many carbohydrates. When I tried to quit eating so much sugar, I’d often switch to carbohydrates such as pasta, bread, potatoes. And I would binge-eat those.
  • Being a workaholic at heart. It was such a hassle to get out of this mentality, but I finally managed to cut the vicious workaholic cycle. Now, I am able to enjoy and relax for a good portion of my days, with only little moments when I fall back into my old pattern. I’ve written an extensive article about how to stop being a workaholic if you’re one as well 🙂
  • Having so many to-do lists that I feel overwhelmed… It’s much better now. I’ve had to cut down on the number of projects that I wanted to do and simply prioritize. If you want more tips on how to get out of a to-do list mess, I’ve written all my thoughts about it in this article.

GOOD HABITS I’d like to implement:

As of now…:

  • Working on my “90%” activity first thing in the morning, every day.

I’ve just listened to Jim Harmer’s book Work Energy*. It’s highly motivating for anyone willing to dive into entrepreneurship, and especially online business. Once again, one of the key learnings is that you should figure out WHICH task brings you 90% of your business RESULTS in the long-term. Then go ahead and work on it, every day. For me, this means producing QUALITY CONTENT every single day of the workweek.

  • Exercising.

Having a healthy and diverse weekly exercise routine.

  • Reading.

I listen to a ton of audiobooks, but I am a very bad reader. Sitting down and diving into a book is really difficult for me.

  • Brain gymnastics.

Improving my memory, speed reading, as well as learning something new every week, thereby applying super learner techniques from Jim Kwik, Scott Young* and others…

  • Eco-friendly lifestyle.

I’d like to get better at buying less plastic, using the right products and travelling with less environmental impact… It’s not just ONE but TONS of habits that I need to learn. Which is why it is taking quite some time. I’m getting better but still got a long way to go.

  • “Playing” a little bit, every day.

Even if it’s just for 5 minutes. Singing and dancing are excellent activities for this. Brené Brown mentions how healthy this habit is in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are*. I highly recommend this read, which is an eye-opener, especially for people who find it difficult to just BE THEMSELVES even when it goes against social conventions.

  • Taking better care of my looks.

I’m too often “letting myself go”, working in my pyjamas and looking wild for a couple of days in a row. It would be good (FOR MYSELF) to wear nice clothes and make myself pretty more often. I feel better when I make the effort every now and then.

  • Doing 1 or 2 sports challenges a year.

For a couple of years, I had gotten into the habit of pushing myself once or twice a year, by signing up for a sports challenge. I did one marathon and 3 triathlons… And then I stopped because I pushed it a little too hard. Not sure which sports challenge yet, but I’m missing this habit and would love to reintroduce it…

  • Getting creative again, every week.

As a kid and teenager, I loooooved painting. I took classes and really could dive into my own artistic world for weeks in a row during the summer vacation. But it all stopped when I started studying. However, creative activities are important, good for your brain and happiness level, and therefore we should not dismiss them simply because they seem unproductive.

  • ALWAYS telling the truth.

In the past, I wasn’t too sure if this would be a good or a bad habit. But I’ve observed myself and others over the past 2-3 years, and come to the conclusion that it’s an amazing habit to have. Of course, there are always ways of saying things. And I believe that as long as you remain open and loving, it’s a good thing, to tell the truth. So I’d like to train myself to always tell my personal truth (because of course, what I believe to be “the truth” is most probably very subjective).

  • Becoming FEARLESS, by training myself to do things that I feel scared of regularly.

It could be something as simple as daring to call or get in touch with someone that I admire. Or talking to people on the street when I feel like it…

  • Spending one afternoon per week on PERSONAL GROWTH.

I find that it can be amazing to spend 2-3 hours in a row on my personal development. It gives me the time to read, watch, digest the input AND practice right away.

Last year I still was hoping to leap forward with the following habits, and I did (yay again!):

  • EAT HEALTHY most of the time. I took the Wildfit 90-day challenge beginning of 2019 and since then my eating habits really have shifted. So, I am happy to say that I feel like this good habit is WELL ON TRACK. You can read my honest review of the programme here.
  • Re-implementing my daily MEDITATION practice. It had become pretty loose in the course of 2019…
  • Re-implementing my daily YOGA practice.
  • Walking at least 10,000 steps per day on average.
  • Learn more. I wanted to listen to more audiobooks, take more online courses and programs. And actually take the time to absorb the knowledge and apply it. And I feel like I’m well on track in 2020.
  • Implement what I like to call a “half-day sabbatical“. It’s the idea that once I stop working, I really STOP WORKING. By telling myself that I am on a “half-day sabbatical” this year, it helps me make this mental cut more easily.
  • Using the Law of Attraction every day. I used to think of the Law of Attraction as some voodoo magic and was very sceptic about it. But I was taught otherwise. It really seems to trigger an inner and mental shift, which helps you go in the desired direction. So, I now make sure to include some “LoA” practice every day, either through meditation or in writing.

Step 2: WHY Do You Want To Change These Habits?

Why do you want to change your habits?

If you have nearly as many habits as me that you want to change, I can already tell you that it’s really TOO MUCH TO CHANGE AT ONCE.

But let’s not give up just now.

The next step you need to take is to PAUSE for a moment and find out WHAT EACH HABIT REPRESENTS FOR YOU.

Because let’s be honest. Most of us don’t want to change our habits just FOR THE SAKE of changing our habits.

What we really want is to RIP THE BENEFITS of our newly implemented habits. And in this process, we often want to BECOME A DIFFERENT PERSON.

As I explained in more detail in this other article, our habits are strongly correlated to our identity. If you are “not a morning person” and you keep telling this to yourself, you will find it really hard to get up early and to feel good about it.

So, WHY did you write down THESE PRECISE habits? What do you want to achieve or who do you want to become by changing them?

Take some time to LIST all the DESIRED EFFECTS from EACH HABIT you want to change. Also, reflect on WHAT IDENTITY SHIFT you need to make to STOP resisting the new habit and implement it successfully.

I’ll lead by example:

Here are the EFFECTS I hope to get from the habits I listed, as well as the IDENTITY SHIFT I hope to get out from them.

But please feel free to SKIP RIGHT DOWN TO STEP 3 if you don’t want to go through my extensive list of examples.

1. BAD HABITS: Desired effects and identity shift

Here is WHY I want to change the following BAD HABITS now:

  • Stop stressing out too often.

DESIRED EFFECTS: reducing my general stress level. Because I want to be both healthier and happier.

IDENTITY SHIFT: I admire people who barely worry and seem to be calm all the time. I’d like to become a calmer and wiser person.

  • Stop making too many assumptions about what may happen of what other people are thinking.

DESIRED EFFECTS: stop losing time and energy imagining millions of possible scenarios and problems. Liberating mental space for clear communication, personal development and potentially REAL problems that actually exist. It’s incredible how much TIME we lose worrying about IMAGINARY problems!

IDENTITY SHIFT: to get there, I need to become somewhat less EMPATHIC. I am normally overly empathic and tend to try and foresee all the needs and wants of others. So I forget myself.

  • Stop putting myself under time pressure too often.

DESIRED EFFECTS: Being able to enjoy life more often. Trusting myself in the process. Being healthier and happier.

IDENTITY SHIFT: becoming a more RELAXED person. This implies that I may need to step away from my identity as an over-achiever.

  • Stop negative self-talk.

DESIRED EFFECTS: channelling all of my energy in the right direction. I’ve realized that negative self-talk is toxic. It slows me down in my development and makes me generally less happy.

IDENTITY SHIFT: becoming a self-confident and self-compassionate person. A person that loves herself. As I’ve learned over time, it’s quite difficult and most people struggle with this one.

  • Stop eating too many nuts 🙂

DESIRED EFFECTS: improving my health in the short and long term.

IDENTITY SHIFT: becoming a less impulsive eater. Becoming a person that can eat everything in moderation. So far, that’s definitely not me! I tend to binge-eat and to go to extremes. It’s either FULL ON chocolate or not at all. With time I have gotten better though, and I hope to make more progress.

  • Stop drinking too much alcohol during social events.

DESIRED EFFECTS: improving my health in the short and long term. Having more energy more often. Learning to act more extrovert and enjoy a party even without alcohol.

IDENTITY SHIFT: that’s a tough one.

I built an identity as a woman that can drink most men under the table as a late teenager already. Because I was a bit of a tomboy, I prided myself on that.

But even now, at age 33, I must admit that I still love it when people act surprised at how much I’ve been able to drink without obvious negative consequences. Pretty childish, huh? Well, I’m not proud of that but it’s just how it is.

So, to be able to drink less during social events, I need to LET GO of this identity and EMBRACE an older, more mature Anja that drinks IN MODERATION.

Are You Trying to change too many habits at once?

  • Stop watching too much TV (Netflix, Movies, YouTube…).

DESIRED EFFECTS: I hope to RECLAIM MY TIME. At some point, I realized that before I could squeeze in more things into my day, I had to LET GO of other things. And TV is definitely a time-guzzler that doesn’t bring me as much joy in the mid to long-term as other activities.

The few experiments I did so far showed that limiting time in front of a TV liberated a lot of energy for other more important activities. I want to keep going in this direction!

IDENTITY SHIFT: Becoming an AVID LEARNER again. I used to learn a lot in my free time. I did watch TV series of movies sometimes when I felt quite alone. But my boyfriend likes TV series a lot, and once again my social behaviour finds it hard to resist this social activity (or passivity?) and addiction.

Although I have not built an identity around watching TV yet, I have lost my identity as an avid learner. If I reclaim it, it will feel much easier to make the right choice of activity.

Another identity shift I need to make here is to STOP BEING a TOO AGREEABLE AND EMPATHIC person. Because it makes it different to distantiate myself from others’ behaviour sometimes.

  • Stop checking my “numbers” too often.

DESIRED EFFECTS: Just like for watching TV, I’d simply hope to RECLAIM MY TIME. We all have “hidden” addictions sometimes. Meaning, we do something that SOUNDS great, but for the wrong reasons and having the wrong effects.

In my case, it’s checking my numbers. There are phases when I check my Google analytics, Pinterest analytics, my budget… all the time! A couple of times per day. And it just makes no sense, because things haven’t dramatically changed in a few hours.

Checking my numbers has become my favourite PROCRASTINATION activity. And I’d like to DO more and CHECK and WORRY LESS.

Because checking those numbers regularly makes me more IMPATIENT and ANXIOUS. When the numbers go up for a day I feel high. When they go down I feel so low. Even though it’s totally natural…

IDENTITY SHIFT: I need to move away from being a “CONTROL FREAK”. And become a person that “TRUSTS THE PROCESS, and NOT ONLY THE NUMBERS”. Tough beans…

How did the BAD HABITS I changed last year impact me?

  • I stopped eating too much sugar.

DESIRED EFFECTS: increasing my general level of health. Boosting my immune system. Having less pain, and more energy. And it worked!

IDENTITY SHIFT: I shifted from being “overly social” to “health-conscious”. I learned to say NO to desserts, even when people around me seem disappointed. And now I am a person that has put her HEALTH FIRST, before social conventions.

  • I stopped eating too many carbohydrates.

DESIRED EFFECTS: very similar to the desired effects of stopping eating too much sugar. On top of this, add the hope to “detox”, i.e. releasing accumulated fat that may bear some toxins that have increased over time.

IDENTITY SHIFT: I used to be the “CARBS GIRL”. I’ve just always loved carbs. I now realised that I can have periods with no carbs at all, without feeling weird about it.

DESIRED EFFECTS: reducing my level of self-induced stress and pressure, hence all the related health issues (headache, neck and back pain, intestine problems…). Learning to love myself EVEN when I don’t achieve so much. Enjoying every day as a gift. Being present and more “fun to be around” for my friends and family, and anyone who crosses my path, really.

IDENTITY SHIFT: stepping away from my “over-achiever” identity. Becoming a slow entrepreneur, i.e. a “SLOWPRENEUR”. Stop being the person that FEELS responsible for IT ALL. But it also means becoming MORE EFFECTIVE at what I am doing. I want to work LESS but work BETTER.

  • I stopped having so many to-do lists that I feel overwhelmed…

DESIRED EFFECTS: less stress, less overwhelm, and MORE satisfaction that I get my to-do lists done.

IDENTITY SHIFT: from a person that holds on to too many of her ideas to a person that carefully selects the MOST IMPORTANT ones. From an identity point of view, I had to realize that I am just like everyone else.

We all have great ideas, all the time. But it doesn’t mean that we should try to pursue them all, or even to write them all down. I realized that it was not my identity as an “IDEA-GENERATOR” that would bring me forward.

It’s my NEW identity as a careful “IDEA-SELECTOR” and idea-implementer.

2. GOOD HABITS: Desired effects and identity shift

Here is WHY I want to implement the following GOOD HABITS now:

  • Working on my “90%” activity first thing in the morning, every day.

DESIRED EFFECTS: constantly bringing the most important tasks forward. Getting (and staying) into a positive work “flow”. In my case, the activity that brings me 90% of the results so far is CONTENT CREATION. And I’ve noticed that it is better to do a little bit of it every day. When I stop creating content for one or two weeks, it is SO hard to get back on track…

IDENTITY SHIFT: similar to the one related to workaholism. Becoming a person that is able to just do 1 or 2 hours of the work per day. Without feeling compelled to do much more and then abruptly STOP for a while.

  • Exercising.

DESIRED EFFECTS: becoming physically fit again, and staying fit in the (very) long run. My vision is that, no matter how old I will get to be (80…100…120?), I will remain extremely fit, flexible, and able to hike, dance and play with kids.

IDENTITY SHIFT: from a mildly active to a super fit person.

  • Reading.

DESIRED EFFECTS: There is something blissful about sitting comfortably and reading away for a few hours. I believe that it stimulates you in a different way than audiobooks. Plus it’s probably better if you want to relax since you can read in silence. I’d also like to be able to speed-read. That would most probably spare me a lot of time: reading emails, instructions, blogs, news…

IDENTITY SHIFT: from a hyperactive to a more RELAXED, comfortable person. I have to BECOME A READER. And I’ve never really been a reader.

  • Brain gymnastics

DESIRED EFFECTS: staying mentally fit at any age. Being better at my work and more insightful, generally.

IDENTITY SHIFT: shifting from being lazy during my time off (“TV-watcher”) to a person who ENJOYS brain gymnastic exercises. Becoming the person that memorises everything easily and can read super quickly.

  • Eco-friendly lifestyle

DESIRED EFFECTS: living up to my own values. Contributing a little to making the world a better place. Feeling good about myself. I’ve noticed that I feel much more satisfied when I manage to have an eco-friendlier lifestyle. Being an example to others and maybe even finding creative ways to do things in a greener way.

IDENTITY SHIFT: from “normal” to “informed”… and “proactive” consumer. Integrating bits of eco-friendly identities progressively. For instance, I try to buy as little as necessary. I pay attention to which clothes I buy. But I am not yet the person that really minimises the use of plastic. One step at a time.

  • “Playing” a little bit, every day.

DESIRED EFFECTS: a positive effect on my health and mood. Reintroducing my ability to switch off my “productive mindset”. Stimulating my creativity. Having more fun.

IDENTITY SHIFT: from a workaholic to a fun-loving, relaxed person.

  • Taking better care of my looks

DESIRED EFFECTS: improving my self-esteem and practising self-love and self-care. Feeling pretty and better about myself. Also simply honouring every day with the best version of myself.

IDENTITY SHIFT: I used to be a tomboy. And I’m also the person that never really learned how to put makeup on or how to style her hair… I just don’t invest time in that. So I will need to shift to a more feminine identity and find the right balance for me.

  • Doing 1 or 2 sports challenges a year

DESIRED EFFECTS: having fun and pushing the body a bit further once or twice per year. I’d also like to use these as a way of measuring my level of fitness over the years. Ticking off some checkboxes on my bucket list as well 😉

IDENTITY SHIFT: from a mildly active to a super fit person.

  • Getting creative again, every week

DESIRED EFFECTS: leaving room for my creative side again. Stimulating my brain in different ways. Feeling the pleasure of the creative process again.

IDENTITY SHIFT: here I need to move away from my overproductive and overachieving identity to leave more room for the artist and child in me again.

  • ALWAYS telling the truth

DESIRED EFFECTS: living my values. Leading by example. Having clearer, more transparent relationships.

IDENTITY SHIFT: from being an empath and agreeable person to someone who puts telling the truth (in a nice way) first.

  • Becoming FEARLESS

DESIRED EFFECTS: getting rid of useless fears that slow me down in everyday life. Having more fun. Having a better and bigger impact on others. Getting more creative.

IDENTITY SHIFT: becoming a bolder person, who enjoys every second of life and lives like today could be the last day. Stop being an anxious and (too) careful person.

  • Spending one afternoon per week on personal growth

DESIRED EFFECTS: making tremendous progress as a person. Becoming calmer, healthier. Improving my meditation practice… Learning to read and learn faster.

IDENTITY SHIFT: becoming the kind of person that can set boundaries and takes time off just for herself. Without feeling ashamed or bad about it. Stop caring more about others than about myself.

How to change many habits at once

How did the GOOD HABITS I implemented last year impact me?

  • EAT HEALTHY most of the time.

DESIRED EFFECTS: I improved my health, stopped having pains and now have much more energy. I also hope to increase my potential longevity, not only living longer but also remaining in great shape most of my life. Nice side-effects: better skin, hair and nicer body shape.

IDENTITY SHIFT: being less flexible and socially agreeable. Identifying with healthy eating: “I eat healthy 80% of the time. I don’t eat desserts.” Sticking to my decision FOR ME instead of accepting to eat unhealthy FOR OTHERS.

  • MEDITATION practice.

DESIRED EFFECTS: mental clarity, lower stress levels, being calmer and wiser. Being more present in the now. Being able to take a step out and simply observe any moment and situation that arises with no judgment.

IDENTITY SHIFT: From busy bee to calm little woman buddha. I’m kidding, but you get the idea. I feel like I am moving away from my overly empathic identity to a more “neutral yet loving” attitude.

  • YOGA practice.

DESIRED EFFECTS: becoming more flexible, having a better posture and being more appreciative of my own body. Building strength. Having great meditative experiences. Being fitter and in better shape.

IDENTITY SHIFT: the identity shift is slowly happening. So far, I consider myself as a yoga beginner. In order to step up my game, I should see myself as a yoga trainee.

Also, if I believe that I am fitter than I (probably) am, it will be easier for me to do more difficult and longer sessions. Sometimes my belief that I am not fit anymore is a barrier and can stop me from practising any yoga at all.

  • Walking at least 10,000 steps per day on average.

DESIRED EFFECTS: better health, living longer and also reducing my stress levels. Getting more in touch with my surroundings every day.

IDENTITY SHIFT: Similar to the yoga practice identity shift: from couch potato back to being a fit person.

  • Learn more.

DESIRED EFFECTS: learning the things I have always dreamt of. That includes psychology, architecture and more languages, including programming languages. It also includes acquiring a lot of tools for further personal development.

When I learn more, it feels like I am living my life to the fullest.

I also want to show people that one is NEVER TOO OLD to learn and study. Learning more should also help me staying mentally fit for very long. And I hope to have some creative ideas from learning more about very different fields of study.

IDENTITY SHIFT: to be able to learn more, I had to stop identifying with “being too old”. Another identity shift I needed to make was to move away from LEARNING for my career or to earn a degree.

To learn more, I simply have to follow my interests.

That’s more difficult than you may think. Because part of the identity I built over the past 15 years is that I belong to the “serious” world of finance and later, IT. And I love this sweet spot of being a woman in a field that is usually dominated by men. 

BUT I have to finally let go of this SERIOUS, somewhat tomboy identity of mine in order to LEARN the things that I TRULY am passionate about and fit my personality better.  

  • Implement what I like to call a “half-day sabbatical”.

DESIRED EFFECTS: live life to its fullest. Be more relaxed and more present. Reintroduce creativity and playfulness in my life.

IDENTITY SHIFT: stop being an overachiever. Identifying with being a “SLOWPRENEUR”. Also re-evaluating the relative balance between and importance of work and leisure time. Becoming the person who does more of “what she feels like” and less of “what she should be doing”.

  • Using the Law of Attraction every day.

DESIRED EFFECTS: being more confident and believing in my future success. Using the Law of Attraction every day takes away many doubts and helps me “JUST DO IT” instead of questioning every task and step I take.

IDENTITY SHIFT: I had to re-open myself to my spiritual side. Even though there is scientific evidence on many different levels to show that the Law of Attraction DOES WORK. But it still feels a little “voodoo” to me.  So, I had to let go of my INNER SCEPTIC to just embrace this practice.

Step 3: Find Patterns and Correlations Between Your Habits

If you’ve put in the work as I did above, you now…:

  • … have listed all the habits you’d like to change at once.
  • … know which EFFECTS you hope to get from changing those habits.
  • … have a better understanding of the IDENTITY SHIFT you need to make to foster these changes.

Now you should take the time to go through your list in order to find potential SIMILARITIES or CORRELATIONS between the different habits you would like to change.

This way, you can REARRANGE YOUR LIST in order to:

  • … filter out potential DUPLICATES.
  • … REGROUP habits that have the same desired effects OR shift of identity.
  • … filter out HABITS for which the desired effects are UNCLEAR OR not really aligning with your vision of your better self. It can indeed happen that you find some habits interesting or inspiring, but maybe they don’t quite fit YOU at this stage. This can especially happen when you want to COPY other people’s routines.

REMEMBER: it’s not the HABIT itself that matters in the end. It’s the EFFECT it will produce in the long-term. Keep this in mind while REARRANGING your habits list.

I suggest you NOW TURN EVERYTHING “UPSIDE DOWN”.

List all of the DESIRED EFFECTS and regroup your habits PER the desired effect. It will help you have a better understanding of the big picture and help you out with the next step.

Time to LEAP FORWARD... and change MANY habits at once!

Example: My List Of Desired Effects:

In my case, regarding the HABITS that I want to change now… the list of desired outcomes and corresponding habits goes as follows.

AGAIN, feel free to JUMP TO THE NEXT STEP (“How Bad Do You Want Each Effect?…”) if you’re not interested in my personal example.

1. Reducing my general stress level:

  • related BAD habits:
    • Stressing out too often.
    • Making too many assumptions about what may happen of what other people are thinking.
    • Putting myself under time pressure too often.
    • Negative self-talk.
    • Being a workaholic at heart.
    • Having so many to-do lists that I feel overwhelmed.
  • related GOOD habits:
    • Using the “Law of Attraction” every day.
  • related identity shift:
    • Let go of my INNER SCEPTIC.
    • Becoming more (self-)confident and self-compassionate person.
    • Stop being a workaholic and over-achiever.
    • Becoming a SLOWPRENEUR who is able to CUT OUT everything that is not “essential”.
    • Become a calmer, wiser and more RELAXED person.

2. Reclaiming my time, by making the most of it.

  • related BAD habits: 
    • Making too many assumptions about what may happen or what other people are thinking.
    • Watching too much TV (Netflix, Movies, YouTube…).
    • Checking my “numbers” too often.
  • related GOOD habits:
    • Working on my “90%” activity first thing in the morning, every day.
  • related identity shift:
    • Stop being too agreeable and accepting that I might spend less time with others if I don’t watch so much TV.
    • Move away from being anxious, impatient, sometimes obsessed TO TRUSTING the process.
    • Being able to FOCUS ON ONE THING and CUT OUT everything that is not “essential”.

3. Better physical health.

  • related BAD habits: 
    • Eating too many nuts.
    • Drinking too much alcohol during social events.
    • Eating too much refined sugar and too many carbohydrates (habit changed successfully, yay!).
  • related GOOD habits:
    • Eat healthy most of the time (worked so far this year, yay!).
    • Exercising.
    • Doing 1 or 2 sports challenges a year.
    • Yoga.
    • Walking at least 10,000 steps per day on average.
  • related identity shift:
    • Moving away from my sugar and carbs-addicted identity.
    • Identifying with healthy eating: “I eat healthy 80% of the time. I don’t eat desserts.”
    • Becoming a person that can eat and drink everything in moderation.
    • Move away from being “overly” sociable to “health-conscious”, i.e. putting my health FIRST, even if it means putting “socially awkward” habits in place. I need to stick to my decision FOR ME instead of accepting to eat unhealthy FOR OTHERS.
    • From seeing myself as mildly active to believing that I am fit.
    • From yoga beginner to yoga trainee.

4. Enjoying every single moment of my life:

  • related BAD habits:
    • Drinking too much alcohol during social events.
    • Watching too much TV (Netflix, Movies, YouTube…).
  • related GOOD habits:
    • “Playing” a little bit, every day.
    • Taking better care of my looks.
    • Getting creative again, every week.
    • Becoming FEARLESS.
    • Meditating.
    • Implement what I like to call a “half-day sabbatical”.
  • related identity shift:
    • Stop being a too agreeable, empathic and anxious person. Having a more “neutral yet loving” attitude.
    • Stop being a tomboy by principle. Accept a more feminine side of myself. Becoming more mature with my relationship to food and drink.
    • Becoming a bolder person, who enjoys every second of life and lives like today could be the last day. This includes learning to act more extrovert and enjoy a party even without alcohol.
    • Becoming an AVID LEARNER again.
    • From workaholic to a fun-loving, relaxed SLOWPRENEUR, that makes room for her inner child and artist personality as well. Allowing myself to do more of “what I feel like” and less of “what I should be doing”.

5. Staying as mentally fit as possible:

  • related BAD habits:
    • Watching too much TV (Netflix, Movies, YouTube…).
  • related GOOD habits:
    • Reading.
    • Brain gymnastics.
    • Learn more.
  • related identity shift:
  • Become a reader.
  • Shifting from being lazy during my time off (“TV-watcher”) to a person who ENJOYS brain gymnastic exercises.
  • Becoming the person that memorises everything easily and can read super quickly.
  • Stop identifying with “being too old”.
  • Move away from LEARNING for my career or to earn a degree. To learn more, I simply have to follow my interests.

6. Living up to my VALUES:

  • related GOOD habits:
    • Eco-friendly lifestyle.
    • ALWAYS telling the truth.
    • Spending one afternoon per week on personal growth.
  • related identity shift:
    • Integrating bits of eco-friendly identities progressively.
    • From being an empath and agreeable person to someone who puts telling the truth (in a nice way) first.
    • Becoming the kind of person that can set boundaries and takes time off just for herself. Without feeling ashamed or bad about it.

How BAD do you want each EFFECT? And is it necessary to change SEVERAL HABITS to get there, or will 1-2 habits be enough?

Regrouping your HABITS per DESIRED EFFECT should help you have a better overview of what it is you want to achieve.

I feel much better having identified that there are, in fact, only 6 main EFFECTS that really matter to me at the moment. And, actually, some of them are STRONGLY CORRELATED.

For instance, if I manage to “reclaim my time”, I am getting closer to “enjoying every minute of my life”.

Now that you have produced the above LIST, PRIORITIZE.

Which are the 2-3 effects you MOST want? Or which are the EFFECTS that will most probably cause a snowball effect and make it easier to have it ALL?

In my case, the 3 most important effects would be the 3 first effects I mentioned:

  • reducing my stress levels.
  • reclaiming my time.
  • better physical health.

And these 3 effects WILL already help me make progress on the 3 other desired effects.

Step 4: Define Your KEYSTONE Habits

Why you should focus on keystone habits

Now that you have prioritized the desired outcomes, TAKE A LOOK AT THE RELATED HABITS AGAIN.

Do you REALLY need all those habits in order to make progress in each area? Or are just 2-3 habits ENOUGH TO MAKE TREMENDOUS PROGRESS?

In his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business*, Charles Duhigg presents to POWER OF KEYSTONE HABITS. Those are the habits that will cause THE MOST EFFECT on your life and other habits, possibly with just a small effort.

So, which habits will make you leap forward the quickest?

I would recommend you only pick up to 3 habits to change. That’s already a good start and enough work for you.

When making your choice, you should also take into account the level of DIFFICULTY that each habit represents for you regarding its implementation.

It’s best to focus on EASY WINS, first, if possible.

Most of the time, SUCCESSFULLY changing ONE HABIT will automatically trigger a change in other areas. So that you don’t have to ACTIVELY decide which next habit to change. You end up FEELING it.

As an example, I will pick JUST ONE HABIT per desired outcome, that I feel is the most powerful:

1. Reducing my general stress level.

THE ONE HABIT TO FOCUS ON FOR ME = stop acting like a workaholic.

Optimizing my time to work as much as possible and squeezing in WORK wherever possible definitely STRESSES ME OUT THE MOST. It creates the feeling that I am behind all the time. That I never work enough.

This habit of WORKAHOLISM triggers several different bad habits:

  • stressing out.
  • putting myself under time pressure.
  • negative self-talk. Because I tell myself that I haven’t done enough all the time when I am in “workaholic” mode. Hence I tell myself that “I am not good enough”.
  • having too many to-do lists. This BAD habit comes from the wrong idea that I can sustain this level of workload over time. Also, since my mind doesn’t have time to wander, it feels like ideas pop up in the middle of my work all the time. Since I am afraid of forgetting them, I write everything down. And I never take the time to just go through my lists and cross things off.
2. Reclaiming my time.

THE ONE HABIT TO FOCUS ON FOR ME = stop watching too much TV (Netflix, Movies, YouTube…).

This one habit EATS UP TREMENDOUS AMOUNTS OF TIME. I feel like it’s probably about 70-80% of the time I could reclaim simply by better self-monitoring my TV consumption.

3. Better physical health.

THE ONE HABIT TO FOCUS ON FOR ME = eat healthy most of the time.

I now know for a fact that eating healthy most of the time will decrease my cravings for unhealthy food and drinks over time (it already has!).

Plus I have noticed that eating healthy increases my levels of energy and makes me lose weight, which in turn makes doing sports and exercising much more appealing to me.

Are You Trying To Take The WRONG Shortcuts?

I’d like to give you one WARNING when it comes to picking the right habits to change.

PICK HABITS FOR THE LONG-TERM WIN.

This means it should be:

  • habits that you can MAINTAIN for years. Otherwise, it means you are probably trying to take the WRONG shortcut and this might lead you NOWHERE.
  • habits that support the RIGHT LONG-TERM VISION and identity.

I want to emphasize this because I’ve made this mistake in the past.

I’ve tried changing habits to “LOOK FIT”. When, instead, I should have focused on BECOMING FIT AND HEALTHY. I have wasted so much time and energy because I was REFUSING to focus on the ONE DIFFICULT KEYSTONE HABIT: eating healthy.

Instead, I would spend SOOO much time working out, running, and compensating for junk food.

Let alone the time I LOST searching for miracle solutions. When, actually, deep down I knew they did NOT exist. Only a true change in lifestyle would lead me to the goal in a sustainable way.

And I’ve made the same mistake with work, too. Trying to put in AS MANY HOURS AS POSSIBLE in the hope that I could accelerate the progress. When the only thing that really works is consistency over time, patience and STAYING HEALTHY.

Many of us don’t want to accept that our brain HAS ONLY SO MANY RESOURCES and that our productivity dramatically decreases after 4-6 hours of focused work.

IF YOU ARE GOING TO PUT THE ENERGY into changing habits: PICK THE RIGHT ONES.

Step 5: The Best Way To Change Multiple Habits At Once

The Best Way to change multiple habits at once

So, here are a few points to consider if you want to change MULTIPLE habits at once.

1. Go for low-hanging fruits, first.

For instance, good habits that you have already had in the past will be easier to put back into place because your body and mind remember them well. And any change, even small and easy, may cause a ripple effect.

In my case, I picked the 3 habits above NOT ONLY because they are very impactful. It’s also because I have already started working on them and had some phases (up to a few weeks) when I was consistently following the new habit.

So implementing them will be easier than, say, putting a brand new habit in place.

This is also the reason why I am struggling to work on my “exercising” habit. See, I used to do a lot of sports in the past. A LOT. The minimum would be running one hour a day, 6 days a week.

If what I mentioned above is true, why don’t I just put back this habit into place?

After all, my body and mind were used to me being a runner for YEARS.

Well, the fact is that I REFUSE to go back down this road. A few years ago, doctors found out that I was destroying my knees with so much running. It shocked me.

What I want now is to build a TOTALLY NEW exercising routine. And I want it to be very HEALTHY and DIVERSE.

But this very DIVERSITY is hard to put in place. It’s easier to put simple habits into place such as: running the same route every day.

But it’s harder to put a diverse and custom routine into place such as…

Monday morning 20 minutes HIIT, Tuesday afternoon 30 minutes of Yoga, Wednesday 25 minutes of weightlifting…

Every activity is a totally new habit to put into place. And that’s a lot for your brain and body to take. It requires more willpower and brain resources at the beginning.

That’s where it can help to go for low-hanging fruits, first.

In my case, I am building up a small daily yoga routine again, just to get used to that type of exercise again and get my brain used to having a short sports routine every day in the morning.

So, deconstructing and reducing the initial barrier is a way to move forward.

But another important thing is… to learn that FAILING IS PART OF THE PROCESS.

2. FAIL, fail, fail… and fail again.

Of course, you can’t have only low-hanging fruits in the long run.

You will NEED to tackle totally NEW HABITS as you grow.

But, too often, we seem to think that we SHOULD be able to put in place a new habit SUCCESSFULLY and FOREVER right away.

As in… deciding to do 50 pullups per day for the rest of our lives tomorrow.

But, first of all, we don’t even know HOW to do pullups. In fact, we’re not even able to do just one.

And then, we don’t really know what doing 50 pullups per day will bring us. Maybe, being a woman, I will realize down the road that my arms are getting too big for my taste.

Why don’t we take it more as a game a trial period?

It helps tremendously to think of CHANGING HABITS as a game. You try something and see how it goes. If you FAIL fast, you also learn from it very fast.

Here are a few questions that you may want to ask yourself:

  • What caused you to fail?
  • Was part of your self-made identity resisting the change?
  • Is this habit truly a good fit for you?
  • Is it sustainable in the long run?
  • Did you like the EFFECT you were having from this change of habit over this trial period?
  • Do you maybe need a detour, i.e. to put in place a few other habits, before you can tackle this one?

I see myself making so much more progress since I see this process more playfully. Sometimes, I even decide to put a habit in place KNOWING that the chances are HIGH I will fail quickly.

But if this new habit intrigues me enough for me to put the effort into it, it’s worth trying even if I may fail quickly at it.

The “trial phases” as I’d like to call them, help me confirm that certain habits are the RIGHT FIT for me. And this gives me extra motivation to actually follow through and put those habits in place for the long run. Knowing what I’m doing.

And one last benefit of PLAYFULLY trying new habits out is that you manage to work on more habits at once. Because it feels LESS LIKE AN OBLIGATION and more like FUN.

3. Focus on habits that will have a high impact on your IDENTITY.

Very often, when changing habits you will have trouble moving forward because your current IDENTITY is resisting the change.

This is why I highly recommend selecting habits that will have a high impact on your identity.

Because, once you create an IDENTITY SHIFT, other habits will be MUCH EASIER to put into place.

This is why, for instance, PEOPLE report eating healthier once they start exercising in the morning. Starting your day this way is CONSIDERED very healthy. Hence, it causes you to SEE YOURSELF as a healthy and fit person.

Would a healthy and fit person eat a cookie for breakfast? NO. All of a sudden, you crave fruits. Because that’s the association that makes the most sense in combination with your NEWLY CREATED IDENTITY.

This is also why I still decided to focus on HEALTHY EATING, first. Because, at the moment, that’s lowest-hanging fruit for me AND by losing weight and slowly LOOKING fitter, my brain starts to think that I am a sporty person again.

It already triggers some intrinsic motivation to do exercise more and more often. And, of course, exercising is easier when you don’t have to carry too much weight…

That’s what I’d call a VIRTUOUS CYCLE based on an IDENTITY SHIFT.

4. Combine habits.

You most probably all want to break some BAD habits.

But, when you STOP doing something, there is a vacuum. In his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business*, Charles Duhigg explains how the best way to stop a bad habit is to SUBSTITUTE it with a more virtuous one, that still brings us the reward we are used to.

Substituting habits

This partly explains why many people put on weight when they QUIT SMOKING.

They simply haven’t thought about a substitute. So, in order to get a similar reward, the brain heads for FOOD, especially junk food.

Instead, you might want to think of finding a GOOD HABIT you wanted to put in place anyways. For instance, you could still go out for your usual SMOKING break but do a quick breathing exercise instead. Or a quick and fun meditation exercise.

Chaining habits

In his book, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones*, James Clear talks about the power of putting NEW HABITS into place by “chaining” them.

The idea is simple but effective. If you brush your teeth every morning, you simply decide to do a quick meditation RIGHT AFTER you have brushed your teeth. This way, the trigger is very well defined. And since you are already in “automatic mode”, it will be easier to follow through without having the brain ask too many questions.

Another reason why this works is that we often forget to SET the exact conditions in which we will start a new habit.

A declaration such as “From tomorrow on, I will start meditating 5 minutes per day” is not enough.

Instead, you should define the exact time and location for this new habit. The exact FRAME, if you will.

“I will meditate for 5 minutes RIGHT AFTER I brush my teeth on the COUCH IN THE LIVING ROOM.”

Your brain now knows exactly what’s to be done. And as you say this, it can even VISUALISE the new habit.

That’s how you set yourself up for success!

Books That I Love… To Help You:

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