Lowering the barrier to entry makes it easier to build a new habit.
At the beginning of the year, like so many, I set a goal. I was going to get back to working out regularly. I joined Beachbody on Demand and started a new program. The program, 80 Day Obsession, was, to put it mildly, challenging.
80 Day Obsession is a 13-week program with 80 total workouts. The workouts last 45–60 min, and to stay on track, I had to work out six times a week. A huge jump from my basically nonexistent workout schedule. Not to mention that the workouts were difficult. I wasn’t even sure I would be able to do most of the moves. Part of me thought I was crazy for even attempting this program.
But for some reason, I was attracted to this program. Maybe I was craving that challenge. The opportunity to push myself and my body further than I had ever done. I was through taking it easy on myself and making excuses.
There was just one problem. When was I going to do these workouts? And where? I had always been an evening exercise person, going to the gym after work. But lately? My hour long commute left me drained and by the time I got home, the last thing I wanted to do was drag myself to the gym.
So if the evening was out, that left only one option: the morning. The dreaded 5 a.m. club. I simultaneously hated and envied those people. The ones who jumped out of bed every morning with more motivation than I could muster in a month. The ones who were dedicated to their morning workouts and “never missed a Monday.”
Did I actually think I could join them? I’d tried the morning workout thing before. But I’d felt lethargic and sleepy through the whole thing. I didn’t feel like it was for me. I didn’t have the energy in the morning. I needed time to ease myself awake before throwing on my sneakers and sports bra.
But something had changed since the last time I’d attempted pre-dawn exercise. I had a new apartment. And my building had its own gym.
I’d previously been a member of a gym down the street from where I lived. It wasn’t too expensive and was conveniently in walking distance. So logically, it should’ve been easy for me to build an exercise habit. Yet, it wasn’t.
So I had my doubts about trying to build this habit again. Why would it work this time when I’d tried so many times and failed?
Well it turned out there was something different about this time. While my old gym was convenient, it still required putting on a coat and walking down the street to start my workout. And at 5 a.m., this required Herculean effort.
But in my new apartment building? All I had to do was lace up my sneakers, walk down a flight of stairs and I was there. Suddenly, the effort was greatly reduced.
And just like that my morning exercise habit was born. I can now proudly say I am a member of that exclusive 5 a.m. club.
Building a new habit is not easy. But lowering the bar can make it easier.
I think sometimes we get too caught up in the difficulty of trying to create new habits. Or we try to do too much. But if it’s too difficult or overwhelming, we won’t do it.
Instead, think about how you can simplify your habit and make it easier. What if you worked out from home instead of the gym? What if you had a water bottle that you carried with you all the time to stay hydrated?
If there’s an easier way to do what you want to do, then do it. You’ll have a much better time convincing your brain to stick with it.