An inspiring man that many student athletes at the University of Pittsburgh look up to, Penny, once told me on my official visit, that habits need to be made in order to succeed. DOMINATE was his motto, dominate in everything you do. Creating positive habits ensures we are able to dominate through multiple avenues of our lives.
Habits are actions that become autonomous, and are triggered by what psychologists refer to as contextual cues. For example, a person will have a bad day at work (contextual cue) and as a way of coping, will proceed to eat comforts foods (action) and watch an entire series of a television show in order to gain a sense of happiness and relaxation. This habit of overeating and binge watching TV shows is one that is common among us (I have recently become addicted to Suits!).
In order to stop these unhealthy habits from hindering our long term health, we must make a conscious decision to overturn them. Once we have done this, we should constantly look to reevaluate and improve our short term goals, while keeping sight of why we were motivated in the first place. A recent study conducted by Wendy Wung and Dennis Runger found that habits are likely to be formed when a person is acting in pursuit of a specific goal. The research looked at several studies on the formation of habits and why some are formed and some are abandoned after time. Among other findings, they found that desired habits, for example eating healthy, were significantly more likely to be sustained in the long run when there were specific goals put in place. In their framework, Wung and Runger found that goals help maintain the desired action in the short term, which will eventually allow the habit to become part of the person’s behaviour in the long term.
This is important for our health and lifestyle. If we want to change, we should be giving ourselves the best possible chance we can. The information put forward by this study shows the vital importance of goal setting while on our healthy lifestyle journey. Simply put, we should put the importance of SMART eating and exercising first and foremost, and then incorporate our hard work and sacrifice once we have our goals in place.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” Lao Tzu