Image courtesy of Toréa Rodriguez — © 2012

The other day, I met a friend for coffee and we got to talking about incorporating change into our lives. It seems to be the impulse of a lot of people, especially myself, to try to make a lot of changes all at once. It's the fallacy of the New Years Resolutions; after not taking care of ourselves for 15 years we suddenly decide that on 01 January we'll start eating a {raw vegan, Paleo, Bulletproof, vegetarian, take-your-pick} diet, sign up for months of pre-paid Boot Camp, Yoga and CrossFit classes, and decide to learn both Italian and Mandarin Chinese for good measure. I don't know about you, but I know how long that paradigm lasts for me! About a week, I get overwhelmed, and then I go back to my old habits again.

When talking to people about my recent & current journey of healing, I often hear things like "I don't know how you made all those changes at once!" or "How can you give up all that?" Admittedly, when you have a health condition, you have a bit more internal motivation than the run-of-the-mill New Year Resolution. However, changing a lot of things at once is still a recipe for disaster. Humans, adapt to change well, but adapting to a lot of change at once can be a major stressor. No wonder we don't do well with our over-zealous resolution plans!

In reality, I didn't make all the changes at once. I worked with my team of doctors to change one thing at a time: first we focused on diet, then on medication where necessary, then onto movement and stress. (Of course we are still working on new angles, more about that later.) I found that I needed to set up structure to help me establish new habits. So how did I do it?

Here's my secret. There's this little iOS & web app that has been crucial for me to create new habits called Lift. It's has built-in support plans, accountability through social connections, and its simple! In fact, here is an interesting interview with the app founder Tony Stubblebine if you want to hear more. The key thing for me, though: simplicity. I can enter the one thing that I wanted to focus on, and Lift helps me create a habit out of it.

For example, I'm currently working on incorporating quiet time during my day - time when I don't do anything on my to-do list, I don't engage with other people or devices - you get the picture. I use Calm for this purpose, but I track it in Lift. Lift lets me see my progress and I get props from people who may be trying to build the same habit or from my friends. I only have one habit in Lift at a time. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits talks about the power of establishing one habit at a time, infact he completely changed his life that way.

Tips for lasting habit formation

  1. Change only one thing at a time - focus on this one thing until it becomes a habit and fully integrated into your routine.
  2. Build structure for yourself - if you need help, use a product like Lift.
  3. Get an accountability partner - have friends and/or family keep you accountable, or find an accountability group!

How do you incorporate new habits? What's worked for you? Leave a comment below - I'd love to hear your ideas!