By guest editor LEO BABAUTA
You might decide you’re going to change your diet and lose some weight, but when mealtime comes around, you just eat the same kind of food and still get too full from eating too much. Or you decide you’re going to procrastinate less and be more focused, but then after a short success, you start going to your usual distractions. You start exercising but then get lazy and fall off the habit. You start waking early but then have a late night or two and the whole house of cards comes crashing down.
We start with great intentions, but the harder ventures cause us to flounder around. Then we repeat that: start with good intentions, flounder around. Over and over again, until we feel hopeless to change anything or start to nourish a deep sense of inadequacy.
What can we do to change things? It’s not you, it’s your method.
If you current method of change isn’t working (start with good intentions and then flounder), you have to try a new method.
Unfortunately, there isn’t just one perfect method. But there is one thing you can do to vastly improve your method: add some kind of structure.
How Structure Improves Our Method
What do I mean by structure? Anything that keeps you sticking to the course better. Anything that holds you to your intentions.
The possibilities are endless, but here are some common examples:
- Create rules: No sugar, don’t go 2 days without a workout, no electronics after 9pm, meditate first thing upon waking.
- Get accountability: I like having a group of people who I report to every day. A simple way to do that is to use an app (Runkeeper, some kind of diet tracking app) where you have friends on the app who will see your log. Another way is to create a Google spreadsheet and use it to track how you did with a goal each day. Or just email people each week who agree to hold you accountable.
- Set reminders: How will you remember to do what you said you did? This is a huge obstacle — forgetting. Instead of forgetting, set reminders on your phone, on your computer, little notes all around.
- Do it with others: Find a workout partner, a collaborator on a project, a group class. Doing a project or going through change with others is always an amazing idea.
- Get a coach: I am a big believer in coaching, for many reasons — but one of the simplest reasons is that if you have someone you’re paying and reporting to, you’ll simply be much more likely to follow through. And a coach can see patterns that are getting in your way that you can’t see. In fact, I am currently offering coaching if you’re willing to pay a decent amount for impactful shifts in your life — I’m looking for people on a mission, filled with uncertainty, who want an expert trainer to help them open into that uncertainty (apply here if that’s you).
- Create a challenge or game: I’ve done challenges with my family or friends (pushup challenge, drawing challenge, reading challenge) and also made up games with points and rewards. It creates structure and makes it fun, two amazing ways to create change in your life!
You can see the idea. What can you do to add structure to your change or goal?
Read other articles from Zenhabits here