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How to Take Imperfect Action

If you've ever tried to build habits before, you might have noticed it's a little complicated. It's not just a simple cue, action, reward. It's not magically effortless at any point in the journey.

There's a whole load of mental skills that can help us build habits, and they open up a wide spectrum of change and progress that becomes so much more interesting, so much more beautifully flexible, and require a lot of messy, difficult, relentless practice.

Sometimes we may try and build health habits such as adding vegetables, or going to the gym or becoming less stressed, and kind of ignore that skills such as delaying gratification, increasing growth mindset, tolerating imperfection and thinking intentionally cannot be separated from these goals.

So here are simple and easy ways to practice building the mental skills that might support the habits you are trying to create:

  1. Stop waiting for the perfect time on the clock face to get up from the sofa or bed. Stop waiting for those five minute intervals. You might try instead using Mel Robbin's tried and tested trick: count down from 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 and then do the thing. This helps you practice imperfect action.

  2. Next time you feel the urge to buy something online, or are bored and head to the fridge, set a timer and wait five minutes. Does it still feel really important after that five minutes? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't: but you have practiced delaying gratification along the way.

  3. Next time you do something that is unhelpful for your goals e.g. eat the entire tub of ice cream, skip the gym, pick an argument with your spouse etc, take a moment to identify the emotions you feel in your body. Notice breathing, increase/decrease in temperature, your stomach, shoulders, belly, chest. Where do you feel anything? Creating emotional awareness around what drives your behaviours open up self-compassion and creates space.

  4. Try experimenting with something tiny. Sleep on the opposite side of the bed, eat your dinner with your fork in the opposite hand etc, and observe what is difficult about that for you.

  5. Have a think about one thing that could go wrong tomorrow (how easy is this for you?! Very for me!!) and then think up a response statement for you'll handle it if it happens.

  6. Think of one thing that you're bad at (for me, singing!), and think of it as a skill that can be improved. What the first step, the tiny action that moves you towards the goal, or is a 1% improvement. Hello growth mindset!

One of the most common obstacles I see with my clients is that they think making changes to fitness and nutrition are easy ('I know what to do, I just need to do it'), but just because we've chosen to change, doesn't mean we are therefore immediately masters of change.

Remember, simple doesn't mean easy.

In fact, simple is RARELY easy.

Change is hard.

We need to practice. And that involves messiness, discomfort, learning many ways of how not to do it, and cultivating kindness and self-compassion along the way.

Have a go at one of the ideas above this week and let me know how you get on!

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