zen habits : breathe

A Short Guide to Starting, if You’re Struggling

By Leo Babauta

I know a lot of people who fall into a slump, losing the habit of exercise, procrastinating with work, slipping into a bad diet, and generally not feeling motivated.

It’s hard to get out of a slump like that.

It’s hard to get going again, to get started when all the forces of inertia are against you.

Here’s how to get started, in just a few easy steps.

  1. Pick one thing. Pick just one change. People who want to change their lives usually want to change everything at once. But trust me, one change is enough for now: go for a short walk, do a few pushups, eat a fruit for breakfast, do a 5-sentence journal every morning. Not all of these, just pick one! Focus on it for the next month.
  2. Send a friend an email. Just a quick email, asking for help. Tell them you’ve been slumping, but you’re going to stick to one change. Ask them to keep you accountable — if you don’t do what you promise every day for a month, you owe them something big (or embarrassing). Make it something powerful, so you definitely won’t allow yourself to fail.
  3. Promise to do something ridiculously easy. Tell your friend you’re going to do something every day — but something super easy. Again, go for a 5-minute walk. Do just a few pushups every morning. Do a journal of just 5 sentences each day. The easier the better. Again, trust me on this one. You want it so easy you can’t say no.
  4. Create unmissable reminders. Put a huge sign somewhere you won’t miss it. Reminders in your email, calendar, phone. Ask people around you to remind you. Put a rubber band around your wrist. Don’t let yourself forget!
  5. Build trust with a single step. Every day, you just need to take one step. Just write one sentence in your journal. Just do one pushup or yoga pose. When you take that step, do it mindfully and with gratitude and joy. Smile. Enjoy that tiny victory. With that step, you’re building trust in yourself. When you see yourself want to put it off, pause. Breathe. Stay with the urge to run away but don’t let yourself run. Smile, and do the habit anyway.

With every single step, you’ll feel better. When you finish that step, take the next one. You’ll trust yourself more and more, and eventually you’ll be able to add another small habit, then another the month after. And soon you’ll be kicking butt, happy you’re moving in a good direction, smiling with gratitude with every good thing you’re doing for yourself.

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