The Surprising Way to Make Your Habits Stick

by Kristen Rogers Anderson

So many of us love the “fresh start” feeling of a new year (plus this one is on a Monday? Awww yeah) and the clean, blank page it represents, having turned the page on the previous year, and it’s trials, tribulations, failures, and habits forgotten.

This time, it’s going to be different! I AM REBORN. I AM SHINY AND NEW. I AM GOING TO START MEAL-PREPPING EVERY WEEK AND SAVING MONEY AND BEING PRESENT WITH MY CHILDREN and…and…*passes out*.”

 

But notoriously, those intentions and resolutions often end up falling by the wayside by the time February rolls around.

January Challenges like the Whole 30, a healthy eating program that’s especially popular in the first month of the year — or Dry January, a month of abstaining from alcohol — become battles fought, conquered and forgotten rather than the jump-starts to a lifestyle change integrated into everyday life that they’re often intended to be.

I don’t often set New Year’s Resolutions because I’m continually trying to improve myself and my life [insert hair flip gif here]. I do get a little thrill of fresh-start excitement and sometimes tack onto new habits, hoping that the optimism of the world trying new things will give me some momentum, but the date isn’t necessarily a huge motivator for me.

After all, time is a flat circle, man.

And so as someone who likes to tweak her routines and habits on a regular basis, I feel somewhat qualified to give you my personal, unscientific advice on how to start something new in the new year: half-ass it.

What I mean by that is figuring out the barriers to folding something new into your life, and then removing them from the equation — even if it ends up changing something about the thing itself.

I’ll give you a couple of examples from my own life that are usually high on people’s New Year’s resolution radars.

Meditation

At one point, I wasn’t meditating as consistently as I would have liked. I knew I felt better when I did it, that my days were better and my moods more even, so what was the problem? What was it, when I thought to myself “I should meditate,” that kept me from following through?

The answer was deceptively simple: it was uncomfortable. For most meditation techniques, it’s advised to sit in an upright position with your spine upright and unsupported — what’s often referred to as “a dignified posture.” This way, rather than getting lax and sleepy because you’re too comfortable, you can remain focused and alert. You know what’s REALLY lax though? Not doing it at all because it makes your back hurt and it sucks. Once I realized my barrier, I started allowing myself to sit on the couch or in bed when I meditated, and I magically started doing it more because it didn’t suck anymore. Is it the absolute A+ version of meditation? Probably not. But I get far more benefit out of half-assing meditation than not doing it at all.

Regular Exercise

Another habit that crashed and burned was regular exercise. Earlier this year, I was trying to make it to barre class a few times a week and always falling short because the studio was far away and the classes weren’t great for my schedule. That was followed by an iffy attempt to take it down a notch by going to classes at the gym nearby a few times a week. Still a nope.

For this one, the half-assed habit that I actually stick to is doing yoga in my apartment along with YouTube videos from Yoga With Adriene, and taking long walks with my dog.

I started troubleshooting by free-writing my thoughts about exercise into my journal and realized that motivation to exercise is a struggle for me. Then when you add the barriers of getting presentable, traveling, being dependent on someone else’s schedule and, if we’re being honest, interacting with other people, it becomes quite the sweaty mountain to climb.

Admitting that to myself and then getting honest about what I’m realistically willing to do and, beyond that, what I would ENJOY and look forward to have made all the difference when it comes to moving my body.

Am I a cut ballerina? By no means. But I’m more active than when I was struggling to make it to the studio or gym, and far less guilt-ridden. (I’m also considering joining Kara in Peloton Mania, but that’s neither here nor there.) And beyond the absence of guilt, there’s the presence of accomplishment.

That’s a big bonus of this half-assing: the sense of accomplishment.

You might worry that you won’t feel it because you’re not doing the biggest, fullest version or whatever it is you’re trying to incorporate, but you probably will. Being consistent with something is a great feeling… far better than the occasional rush and relief that comes with FINALLY checking that thing that you’ve been migrating from daily to-do list to to-do list, feeling guilty all the way.

I think we underestimate the personal shame we feel by having a goal that we’re constantly putting off but not entirely writing off, always keeping ourselves strung along and disappointed in ourselves. Sorry, but absolutely, 100%, not-half-assed NO.

We don’t need that.

Life is meant to be enjoyed.

And what’s the thread running through all these habits, intentions or resolutions we make for ourselves? That we’ll enjoy them or the fruits of them; that they’ll benefit us or others in some way.

By setting goals and not following through on them, we’re undermining ourselves by accidentally integrating the habit of feeling stress and shame about tasks uncompleted. Wouldn’t you rather trade that for middle-of-the-road satisfaction?

And try not to see it as a negative, either – having half-assed habits isn’t a bad thing or a shortcoming.

In fact, I think of it them that way in my mind as a kind of reminder not to take things so seriously, not just to be needlessly profane (although I am obviously not above that as well).

It’s knowing yourself and adapting. It’s taking on everyday challenges in your life in the way that’s right for you — which, by the way, can still mean that they’re challenging!

Some people thrive on having something to tackle. And the habits may not even be “half,” you may find your sweet spot is compromising things down just a notch — it’s just that 75%-ing it doesn’t quite have the same ring.

What goals or habits have you had a hard time incorporating that could use some dialing down in order for you to actually show up? I would genuinely love to help you troubleshoot!

Kristen Rogers Anderson co-hosts the podcast Guide to the Unknown (TalkBomb.com/GTTUPod), where she and her brother Will Rogers talk about mysteries, the paranormal, urban legends and folklore, but ya know, keep it light. She works as an assistant for Kara Benz and probably packed those Boho Berry stickers in your journal. Kristen also teaches restorative yoga (basically an assisted nap) and has a major thing for Bravo programming.  She loves being outside with her dog, Crumbs, eating good food in restaurants or crappy food in front of the TV with her chef husband, Ryan, and cracking up with her very, very loved friends and family.
  • Janie

    ” I feel somewhat qualified to give you my personal, unscientific advice on how to start something new in the new year: half-ass it.” LOVE this sentiment haha.

  • Great post! I frequently remind myself to be okay with “half-assing” sometimes. It’s really easy to be derailed and feel defeated with an all-or-nothing approach to changing habits.

  • MROC

    This is great, Kristen!! I’ve already tried to build this in with my baby step action steps for 2018. However, I will remember this if that gets frustrating. I am doing new things in 2018, so I don’t know how they will work yet. Thanks for this post!! I am also looking for podcasts. How do I get to yours with your brother? Have a great year!!

    • If you go search for “Guide to the Unknown” in whatever podcast app you use, it’ll come up! So glad you liked the post. Happy new year!

  • Julie Flynn

    OMG!!! Awesome post! It takes so much pressure off! I know for me I have the all or nothing mentality, so my resolutions don’t normally last a full week because I cannot meet my expectations. I am learning to be kinder with myself and have the same realistic expectations on myself as I would on anyone else.

  • Helen Stamps

    Fantastic post! You hit the nail on the head. It IS better to do something towards your goal than beat yourself up and do nothing. This will rattle around in my head and help with my perfectionism procrastination excuses lol

  • Shibahn Landry

    I never thought about it like that! While we all have those ultimate habits we want to incorporate. But the reality of my life is it just may not happen. But if I do the half approach, I stand a better chance of succeeding in some fashion. I will keep that in mind as we get to the new year. Thanks!!

  • Mari M.

    Thank you so much for this! I never thought “half-assing” could be the key to sticking to something (exercise in my case). It’s so true that we expect to go all-out or nothing in resolutions. This will give me things to think about other than just giving up.

  • Liza Adams

    Some awesome and honest ideas there Kristen! Thanks so much! I think we tend to make ‘impressive’ decisions about what we want for our future without looking at the real nuts and bolts of it. We flounder for months before finally giving up and at that point tell ourselves numerous reasons why it didn’t work out so that we feel better about it. Being realistic at the start and making plans we can actually stick to would save all that stress and feeling of failure. You’re a star, I hope lots of folks take your advice and half arse their way into a successful 2018! ;)

  • Sophie

    Love this post (and your “about me” blurb!). I will be re-naming my January Habit Tracker, “Half-assed Habit Tracker” :)

  • Kristina Emilius

    This is exactly what I needed! The end of the year is always tough for me because I start to beat myself up over all the things I didn’t stick to or did in general but my motto for 2017 was “no regrets”. I guess my new one for 2018 is “half-assed is still done”. As a rebel and questioner this makes new habits far more likely to stick.
    Thank you for this!

  • Chloé Marcanti

    Yes, yes and MORE YES!! Thank you for putting what I felt into proper words!! <3

  • Lydia Brown Mills

    I really enjoyed this blog and it certainly resonated with me – especially the part about exercising. The bane of my existence for sure. Plus I would like to get in the habit of journaling and can’t quite get there.

    • Eendjusbujo

      I could never get into the habit of journaling either. Then I decided to just write down one or two sentences a day and I’ve been sticking with it for a few months now. If I feel like it I’ll write more, if I don’t than one sentence is enough.

  • This is great! I’ve been removing obsticals in my life and this has opened that in a new way for me. Thank you so much for your encouragement!

  • As A Rye

    I’ve got to say that it really is a comfort to know that even you struggle with staying consistent with a habit. Sometimes I feel like a failure if those trackers are left blank and it’s important to remember that we learn from it and move on. Plus, you just gave me the best quote that I will laugh at forever, “time is a flat circle.” Totallyl made my day haha!

    • I love “learn from it and move on” moving on and proceeding with life is sometimes the hardest habit to break!

      • As A Rye

        I couldn’t agree more!

  • Hi Kristen! Great post! I know sometimes I give just half effort to some habits, just to keep the habit a habit. There are sometimes where I don’t want to let it go, but I don’t have time to fully maintain it or I don’t make time. Using your journal is a great way to assess what is holding you back. I’m going to start doing that!

    • As A Rye

      That’s where I struggle — did I not do something because I genuinely didn’t have time or did I not MAKE the time?

      • Yes! Excactly. I don’t let my kids say ‘they didn’t have time’ I tell them that they didn’t *make* time. I should follow the same advice! But some months my priorities are higher than others.

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  • I love this so much! It valiadates my feelings about New Year’s resolutions and goal setting. I’m guilty of trying to change too much all at once and failing because I was quickly overwhelmed. Now, I try to keep everything simple. Even my habit tracker list is small- I only track a handful of tasks each week. I am so much happier working towards bigger goals by doing small, manageable tasks.
    I also love what you had to say about exercise. If it becomes too much work to go (especially the part about being presentable), I won’t do it. I’m very much team YouTube yoga videos and dance parties with my little ones for exercise!

  • hammons546345

    A good habits is very important for every one. So we need to hard work to make a good habit. It can give us a regular life what we want.

  • Shar

    Very good advice! It reminds me of GK Chesteron’s observation that “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.” Better to do something rather than nothing, better to pare down an exercise routine than quit it altogether, better to tidy for 10 minutes a few times a day than to say you won’t do anything at all. Like you, I do this with exercise. I do 28 minutes on the elliptical, including warm up and cool down. I’m just getting in shape so I’m doing a steady pace, but will switch to a highly efficient HIIT workout once I’ve gotten my heart used to exercise. I even find myself thinking “See you in 30 minutes!” to my jacket when I tuck it into the locker. If I had to say, “See you in an hour!” I’d feel like that was too much of my day and I wouldn’t go at all. Thanks for reinforcing the truth that it’s better to do something “poorly” than to let perfectionism keep me from doing anything at all!

  • Robyn Ord

    Great Giveaway love the hint for the bohoberry box too

  • Svenja Desinger

    Thank you those helped a lot :)

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