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Creating new habits that last a lifetime is tricky business no matter what realm of human experience we are discussing. As a personal trainer and lifestyle coach, I find it is often a struggle to guide others in creating healthy habits, but I’ve learned a few strategies that work more often than others.
Now more than ever, we’re all working to re-establish old healthy habits that we may have lost and new ones that will serve our health and well-being better than ever before.
One of these strategies is to adopt a process orientation rather than a goal orientation for anything you take on in life. By doing so, not only do you release yourself from the stress and pressure of attaining a prefabricated goal, but you set yourself up for ongoing and perpetual success as a natural outcome of your effort. Wouldn’t it be nice to feel good every day instead of just on the day you reach your goal?
Why Process Orientation Works Better Than Goal Orientation
Process orientation means placing your focus on any action that is taking place in the moment, which will have a positive impact not only in the moment, but also further down the road. By contrast, a goal orientation tends to disregard the experience you are having now for some other end product that you believe will ultimately be better.
For example, process orientation would emphasize preparing a healthy and nutritious meal because it feels great to nourish your body with actual nutrients, whereas a goal orientation would emphasize the end result, like weight loss, somewhere far off in the future as the primary reason to prepare that meal. Process orientation has you enjoying your life on a day-to-day basis for exactly what it is, while goal orientation has you always feeling that where you are now is less valuable than where you are potentially headed.
Of course, the irony is that when we focus on the process, whatever end results we may have been chasing show up anyway. If we eat healthy food and get exercise every day, then we will achieve our body composition goals without being singularly focused on them — and we still get to enjoy a meaning-filled day right now.
The Whole Life Challenge puts you in the mindset of taking simple daily actions that build better health and well-being down the road, helps you stay in the process, and shifts your focus from the future to right now.
6 Tips to Help You Embrace New Habits
Habits of strength and fitness are one of the best examples of this process orientation principle in action. By pursuing the process over the goal, the purpose of a workout transforms from “having to work out” into a means to act in the moment, feel good about what you are experiencing, and to then move on with life.
Lately, I’ve been experiencing the highest success and enjoyment of new habits when they are guided by a few simple guidelines. These six tips can empower you to embrace new habits that can reshape your life:
- Make your habits simple, small, and attainable.
- Pursue them daily, but not every day.
- Dive into a community that has the same values and pursuit.
- If you can’t have fun with your habits, they probably won’t last.
- Habits won’t stick until you teach someone else how to pursue them as well.
- Your new habits must be compatible with other habits you already have.
Take a moment here to quickly evaluate any new habit you’ve committed to integrating into your life. Chances are, no matter what it is, it can be modified to fit within these guidelines for a higher potential of long term sustainability.
A Word About Guidelines #3 and #5
Finding a solid community that values process orientation is perhaps the single biggest factor in helping you maintain new habits and to turn your attention to the action of the moment. Studies done on social validation have shown us that humans naturally view an action as more desirable when we see others doing it. So why not use this principle to our advantage to validate activities that we know will benefit us, such as mindfulness, nutrition, and physical training?
Whole Life Challenge is one such community, and I’ve created a simple example of another such community here. Whatever your interest, there is probably a community in your area of other like-minded people. Check out your local running store, Craigslist, or Meetup to find a group that is a good fit for you. Learn from others with more experience, and then pass your experience along to the new members who join after you.
Enjoy the Process
By reorienting our focus to the process and the moment, we invite new opportunities for daily habits that will gradually transform us. After all, if we cannot enjoy the moment while we pursue excellence, then what’s the point of the pursuit?