One member of my yoga group, David, has been trying to make changes in his life. He knows that he can make a commitment and follow-through – after all, he attends yoga regularly. Whenever he tries to add another commitment, though, he struggles. He starts enthusiastically with good plans but never seems able to follow through.

David shared this frustration with the group recently after class. He thinks carefully about his commitments, chooses one priority, develops a plan, starts well, and forgets to follow through after a day or two. He is frustrated with this pattern.

I understand his frustration. Most of us have had this experience where we tried so hard to do everything right and ended up giving up. I remember that Angel V. Shannon discussed this issue in a recent video:

Wrap your commitment

Dr. Shannon talks about an effective technique to help changes become permanent. She suggests that we stack habits in our favour. We can link our new routines to solid, existing patterns. Here are some examples of relating new habits to current practices:

  • Add small bits of exercise to your morning routine by linking that exercise to tooth-brushing. So, stand on one leg while brushing and squat five times afterward. 
  • Pair your morning nutrition boost with your morning coffee. Find an easy option, like a nutrition bar, that will add value to your coffee break.
  • Use your shower routine to focus on journaling. While in the warm shower, review your last day and decide what you want to talk about. When you get out of the shower, make a brief entry. Start with a few words and build up as it becomes comfortable.

A second way to wrap your commitment around a habit is to prioritize the responsibility. Set one – and only one – priority to be accomplished that morning. Then, make a contract with yourself that you can’t do anything else until that thing is done. So, no coffee, no internet, no fun stuff until the thing is done. Prioritizing the change doesn’t deprive you of the fun stuff. It just adds to the satisfaction of enjoying them.

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