The Making of a Habit

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I think I can speak for many when I say this journey to a healthier you isn’t as easy as it’s cracked up to be. If all we had to do is eat better, get in some good cardio, do a little strength training here and there, and manage our stress, then certainly we should be at our goal in no time. Right?

Once again it isn't always quite that easy as many of you know. And I think I may have been given a key to the reason why we struggle to get to our goal--it all has to do with one little word--habit.

As many of you already know, I am a runner. Over the summer I worked with a running coach to help me gain a better perspective on this sport. On this particular June morning Coach Lee took me and my fellow running pals to the local high school track for some speed drills. As we were working on the drills I was having issues with my right foot not aligning correctly. Every few minutes I would hear the following words echoing across the track from the far side, “Keep your feet straight, Nancy.” It seemed like these words were a constant stream every time I ran around the track. By the time we were done, I think I heard that phrase a bazillion times. I was so frustrated because just when I felt I was doing the so-called ‘right way’ of running, there was Coach Lee shouting yet again, “Keep your feet straight, Nancy.”

We started heading back to the gym and I was not a happy camper, to say the least. I felt the harder I was trying the more I would hear those words. I finally decided to tell Coach Lee just how I felt.

And this is what he said, “I am your cue, Nancy. I am going to tell you when you start to falter so that YOU will recognize when you are falling back into your old habits. This is so you can work on recognizing it for yourself. In order for something to become sub-conscious or natural, you must make a conscious connection to the habit in which you want to break or make.”

Let me tell you, I have never ever looked at any habit, good or bad, any other way since. Here is a kid, just out of college, telling me a woman, old enough to be his mother, how to make a habit. I think that is what we often refer to as Aha! moment or as I like to see it--a blessing.

And you know, I think he is onto something. In order for us to make or break a habit we must consciously be aware of what we are doing until we change permanently; therefore, we no longer have to think, we just do. If we don’t learn how to cue ourselves to change than we fall prey to living the same way we always have.

These are the little voices inside our heads that tell us that we deserve to live a healthy lifestyle. Soon one voice is exchanged for another and then another, but when they are all working in conjunction WE HAVE MADE A HABIT! .

So from now on whenever I hear those infamous words, “Keep your feet straight, Nancy” I will not listen with a critical heart but instead be grateful that Coach Lee was willing to teach me just not to think but do.

Has anyone inspired you to make or break a habit? Do you find that it is harder to break bad habits or make good habits? What habits have you finally let go and what habits have you embraced?

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JAMER123 1/2/2021
Good reminder. Thanks for sharing. Report
CWILSON88 1/2/2021
I need a bell that goes off every time I sit in front of the TV! That is my habit that I need to break. I think there are some jingle bells still out from Christmas. I just might see if I can sew them to the cushion! Report
CD2693807 10/19/2020
interesting article and very interesting comments Report
PLCHAPPELL 8/14/2020
Great article Report
Thanks Report
Thank you for sharing. Report
Thank you Report
Thank you Nancy, I enjoyed your blog. Report
Thank You...………... Report
thanks Report
Absolutely great Report
I believe other people or more aware of our bad habits than we are. I have a bad habit of slouching. Everytime I catch myself doing it I straighten up. What I do is inform other people of a habit I'm trying to break so if they see me doing it, they critique me. Report
What a great reminder.....actions can be habit forming in good ways as well as bad! Report
Great post. Thanks! Report
This was good information. I read somewhere else that it takes six weeks to change behavior. It makes sence too. At the new year I wanted to stop drinking soda and drink more water... It's now second nature for me to always have a glass of water around me. Report
Oten times when I see someone else doing the bad habit that I have, such as slouching while I sit at work or not listening carefully to what someone else is saying, it inspires me to improve the habit myself because I see how bad it looks. Report
Excellent blog! I bet most people don't even realize how much habit plays in the eating situation. Report
I have been able to get up at 6-630am every weekday morning and workout everyweek for almost a year now. It is finally become normal to me to get up. Yes some mornings I am a little more tired than others but I don't even think for one minute about sleeping in and not working out. Now for the next healthy habit to build.... Report
This is REFRESHING. I'm changing habits with the Lifestyle Coaches, leaders, and friends on SP, one_molecule_at_a_time (LOL!!) and sometimes it's like trying to wring moisture out of a bone dry cloth! I'm learning to LISTEN to my SP trainers just like you have to listen to your running coach. The 'cues' have to be given over and over and over again until I WAKE UP to each and every negative habit I want to change. I came across something POWERFUL yesterday 01/24/09 on the SparkPage of SPARKEYES, who found it on a thread and I want to share it with you, Nancy.

I am your constant companion.
I am your greatest asset or heaviest burden.
I will push you up to success or down to disappointment.
I am at your command.
Half the things you do might just
as well be turned over to me,
For I can do them quickly, correctly, and profitably.
I am easily managed, just be firm with me.
Those who are great, I have made great.
Those who are failures, I have made failures.
I am not a machine, though I work with the precision of a
machine and the intelligence of a person.
You can run me for profit, or you can run me for ruin.
Show me how you want it done. Educate me. Train me.
Lead me. Reward me.
And I will it automatically.
I am your servant.
Who am I?
I am a habit. Report
I have children and I have always gotten frustrated with there coaches for yelling the same thing over and over. I have never thought of it in this perspective. A light bulb moment. Report
great blog
yes i also have a nasty habit
emotional eating
and when i get stressed up i eat
i have to be more conscious about it
thank u for the awakening
My broken habit is to leave an unmade bed behind me in the morning. My Mom taught me that you need to air your bed out before making it. That works well for Mom, she's very good at remembering to go back and finish jobs. I'm limited that way, LOL and so I've finally worked out a different system. I get up, put on my glasses and "flap" my bedding several times, then make my bed before leaving that room. Now my room always looks tidy and I'm pleased with my nice, shiny new and good habit. :D Report
I broke two major habits due to the thoughtfulness of my ex. Drinking diet coke and going to the tanning bed. I started going to the tanning bed in middle school I believe, but really started going regularly in high school. My ex would always ask me where I was going (this was just this year) and I'd say the tanning bed. He was super concerned that I'd get skin cancer. He didn't preach to me, he just simply told me he didn't want that for me. I haven't gone back since.

Also, him simply pointing out how awful drinking soda is for your body made me reconsider my relationship/addiction with it. I didn't want to be addicted to anything, so I gave it up too. Report
This is such a good reminder! It's a great perspective about habit-formation, too. Something we all need to keep in mind. Report
Very good article & thank you for sharing. I have conquered the smoking habit and the nail biting habit. Still have a ways to go on the nutrition and fitness habits but it's getting better each day. Articles like this help to realize that it is possible to succeed. Report
I believe that in order to break a bad habit, it must be replaced with a good habit. On March 21, 1995 I quit smoking, cold turkey, after a 25+ years of a 2-1/2 pack a day habit. I did it by walking. Every time I wanted a cigarette, I went for a walk until the craving passed. I explained to my boss what I was doing and his exact words were, "I don't care if you walk all day! Go for it!" It helped to have that support, but I finally developed a good habit of walking, and I've been smoke free for over 13 years now. I still love walking, and that first summer, I ended up losing 35 pounds just by walking! Perhaps this might work for someone else... Report
Great blog Nancy! I could really relate to what you were saying! I've found that each time I do something that I shouldn't, if I'm aware that I'm doing it, if I start a self dialogue and explain to myself why that behavior hurts me, I'm more likely to change. I'm a big fan of those post-it notes and I write reminders to myself all the time. Change is hard for most people. It takes time and patience to form new habits. Report
This is so true I am loving the new habit of thinking and eating thin. Report
Thanks for the article!

Jibbie49: I looked for the SHRINKYOURSELF spark team by doing a search and could not find it initially by using the book's name, with or without a space. I finally found the team by using GOULD. I don't know if there's an easier way to find teams than searching for a group's name. Report
OK, confession time! When I was young, I sucked my thumb -- and then in my teens when it was getting really embarassing, I decided to quit. Not so easy. But if I found my thumb in my mouth, I yanked it out even though my body seemed to crave the comfort. However, later after most of the daytime behavior was gone, I would find myself sucking my thumb when I was tired or waking from sleep, so I kept yanking it out. Finally in my twenties, I no longer sucked my thumb!!! Report
Fantastic blog Nancy! Boy, that sentence from your coach was a punch to the the best way. I love the concept of being "conscious" because so much of what I do, I'm not even aware of at the time. Being "present" in my actions really will make a big difference in my success. Thanks for posting this! Report
Thank you for a great blog! Report
In the book "SHRINK YOURSELF" by ROGER GOULD, M.D., he points out that our diet failure comes from STRESS. He says we can diet, until STRESS takes over and then we "fall off the wagon." He helps us to learn to deal with STRESS and stop the yo-yo dieting cycle.
There is a SparkTeam for SHRINKYOURSELF. Report
Good post! I think even beyond "habit", working to make ourselves healthy is a "lifestyle". Report
Thank you also for another aha moment! Sometimes hearing it from someone else is all it takes! I have those word printed out now to remind me everyday.. Report
This is a great article, I was so unaware of all of my bad habits until I found SparkPeople.. Wow! Now I am on the right path and little by little my bad habits are being replaced with good ones and when I do fall down I have a fellow spark pick me up dust me off and get me back on my path...Thank You sparks... Report
"In order for us to make or break a habit we must consciously be aware of what we are doing until we change permanently; therefore, we no longer have to think, we just do."

These are words to live by, for all of us. When I quit smoking 10 months ago I read every motivation article, quote, story, blog, post, email I could get my hands on and this was one of the most basic, underlying themes in sticking with lifestyle change. You HAVE to be aware of the change ALL THE TIME, until it simply becomes natural, or a habit. Some people say that this means surviving one of everything with your new habit - one wedding, one Christmas, one birthday, one funeral, etc. but for others it just comes in time...regardless, it does take hold in each of us if we're aware and patient. As always, the only way out is through... Report
Great blog! It's hard to set a new habit, but thinking positively about the process rather than feeling frustrated because it *is* a process makes the journey more rewarding. Thanks for the wonderful example! Report
This is specifically what I needed to hear: "You don't need to do things perfectly every day to "stay on track," and it really doesn't matter if you eat a few calories more today and a few less on some other day--it’s not like you’ve got a deadine to meet or the world is going to end if it takes you an extra day or two to get to your goal. And you don't have to wait until you lose the weight to get on with your life. This IS the rest of your life, and all you have to do is the best you can to live according to your own values and goals--it's the process and the journey that matter, not the destination."

AshleyB, I can really relate to the soda habit!!! I'm working out and eating well, but stopping the soda is my BIG PROBLEM! I hope you've inspired me to finally stop (as I take the last sip from my morning Coke). Report
I found the inspiration for exercising early in the morning while my family is still sleeping on SP message boards. However, it was easy this summer because even at 5:00am it was daylight. Now, it is too dark out there and I sort of let go of what had become a good habit but is not anymore... Thanks for reminding me that I still could get those miles done first thing in the morning, on my TM. Report
I have an annoying habit of clicking my nails. I know this may be off the topic, but I have just recently become aware of it and it is something that is driving my boyfriend crazy. I am working on stopping and this article has inspired me to work even harder to get past this bad habit and a few others! Thank you! Report
I inspired myself to break my soda habit! A couple of months ago I realized that I was just making an effort in futility when I was eating right and exercising, but still feeding my sugar habit by over-loading on soda. That HAD to stop! I put down the can, looked at myself in the mirror, and told my image, "You CAN and you WILL do this! No more complaining." I haven't had a soda in 60 days and counting.

It CAN be done! Report
"In order for us to make or break a habit we must consciously be aware of what we are doing until we change permanently; therefore, we no longer have to think, we just do. If we don’t learn how to cue ourselves to change than we fall prey to living the same way we always have."

WOW this well be helpful in my continuous emotional eating battle. Never quit NEVER! gonna add it to fav to re-read.
Those things that you do unconsciously ARE habits, good or bad. Unfortunately, the 'bad' habits are SO ingrained that they seem to overpower your attempts at creating those 'good' habits. But it IS all about recreating a GOOD habit and making the desire for it stronger than the desire of the bad one.

As far as keeping the feet straight, this is why I love running on the treadmill at the gym. They're situated in front of mirrors, and I can see if my shoulders are turning or feet swinging around and I slow back down and restart until I can get into 'the groove'. Report
This is sooooo helpful. Provides insight into one of the questions I've been wondering about! Thank you!!! Report
this story brought back childhood memories ,I grew up with foot deformatories and used to walk splae footed ,mum used to say straighten your feet so often.I was made aware constantly to walk with my feet straight.Then one day I realised I was walking straight footed without even thinking about it. This really worked for me,Even to this day I sometimes look down at my feet and I still walk straight. Report
I think the key is being conscious of what we are doing. When we live on autopilot, we do what is easy, what we have been doing over and over again. To make a change, we have to engage our minds and purposely do the new action. It is hard to change because we get so tired from so much thinking! Report
I like what you said here and it does make sense. It gives you a wake up call when you had to overcome what was making it to be a habit. Some habits are good if you keep at it and hopefully to change them into something else. There are some habits that I would like to change into good ones, but I am doing them one day at a time and marking them off my list as I accomplish them. When they are all done, then I would say " Well done ". And it will be a milestone for me.... Report
Great blog. Thanks for sharing. Report