Make a 21-Day Agreement: Changing Habits & Overcoming Addictions
Changing Habits to Become a Better You
No man can sincerely help another without also helping himself.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Scale the Mountain
One of the greatest truths of life is that it flows from the inside out. We’re affected by what happens inside—our feelings and our thoughts—which, in turn, affect our emotions, the words we speak, and the actions we choose to take. What you feel or experience at any point in time is up to you. Change your thoughts, and you change your life. If you want to scale the mountain of life with gusto and reach the acme of human potential on the highest peak, then take charge of your thoughts and become the CEO of your life.
Easier said than done, right? This page focuses on how to change bad habits, foster health- and life-enhancing habits, and to make a 21-day agreement to enrich your life and follow through on what you say you want to do or accomplish. And to help you stay committed to your 21-day agreement, download the form attachment above or at the bottom of this page. I'll tell you how to use it later on this page.
Mind Power & Exercise Motivation
A great place to start on all matters motivation and commitment is with the important role of your mind in creating positive change. Your mind is a powerful tool for bringing about beneficial change and success, but it isn’t always your friend. Sometimes it’s a less-than-willing partner; at points, it may actually undermine your good intentions. As an example, let’s look at how your thoughts can make or break a new exercise program.
Everyone knows that exercise is of paramount importance in creating vibrant health. Perhaps you’ve taken up walking or jogging and promised yourself that you’re going to hit the trail at least every other day. At first, you have a lot of motivation and meet your goals. But as the days spin by, your resolve starts to flag a bit. It seems that something always comes up that appears to be more important than exercise. Perhaps you need to be in the office early and can’t take time for a morning run, or you might have to take one of your children somewhere and it prevents you from taking your afternoon walk. Maybe you stay out late one night, and an extra hour of sleep seems more inviting than a few laps in the pool. I have found that the "buddy system" always works wonders to help keep you on track with your goals. Find someone to exercise with you or even participate in a 21-day program with you. You might have different agreements, but you can still support each other — even if you don't live together or, perhaps, even live in another state or country than your "Buddy Partner." Just agree to check in with each other daily on your progress.
Whatever circumstances you create (they rarely just arise), and no matter how legitimate they seem at the time, be aware that your mind is more than happy to help you create excuses so that you can slip back into familiar patterns. According to behavioral psychologists, it takes 21 days of consistently repeating an activity before your mind accepts it as a habit. Whatever you do for 21 days makes or breaks a habit. And it really works!
Three Surefire Steps to Stay Motivated to Exercise
- Choose an exercise program that includes activities you honestly like to do. Ideally, you’ll pick a variety—such as jogging, walking, hiking, bicycling, swimming, and weight lifting—that collectively work different muscle groups and offer diversity. Most important, select things that you won’t dread doing a minimum of three times a week.
- Create an exercise plan that seems easy to accomplish. You might, for instance, want to make an agreement with yourself that you’ll spend 30 minutes jogging or walking (depending upon the way you feel) every day. Or you might agree to spend 15 minutes stretching or doing yoga each morning. Don’t create a plan so difficult that it sets you up to fail, such as running or biking long distances every day. Your mind and body are designed to rebel against drastic changes, and their protests will see to it that you don’t succeed.
- Resolve to stay with your agreement every day for 21 days. If you skip a day in your program for some reason, you must begin the cycle over again. The reasoning behind this is simple: Because it takes 21 days to form a new habit, it will probably take that long for your mind and body to stop resisting the new pattern. Three weeks isn’t a very long time, so if you find your mind coming up with excuses, you can regain control by reminding yourself that you only have to do it for 21 days.
If at the end of that time you still don’t enjoy the activity or feel you aren’t receiving any benefit, you always can reevaluate. What you’ll almost surely find is that by the end of the trial period, you’ll no longer mind doing the exercise. It will have become a normal part of your life. At this point, you’ll be ready to incorporate a slightly more demanding fitness program, which I describe in detail
in my books Choose to Thrive, Wired for High-Level Wellness, and Invest in Yourself with Exercise, I describe in detail how to stay motivated and empowered to achieve any goal in your life in record-breaking time.
This 21-day process can be used in any area you choose, including changing your eating habits, drinking more water, getting more sleep, breathing more deeply, simplifying your home or office space (such as spending 15–20 minutes daily cleaning out and organizing drawers, closets, and cupboards), expanding your vocabulary, or establishing a meditation or prayer program. Using it to help you relinquish negative health- and life-destroying habits is also very effective. For example, make a 21-day agreement to give up processed foods, alcohol, cigarettes, swearing, candy, soda, or a diet ladened with trans and saturated fats. By the way, as a way to further empower you to stay positive and heading in the direction of your goals, dreams, and commitments, visit my website often for the new daily quotes and affirmations.
Discipline and Commitment
Consider the importance of discipline and commitment. Discipline is a choice. If you’re to achieve your highest potential, you must practice self-discipline in every aspect of your life. Success and fulfillment are available to you only if you learn to control your body, mind, and emotions.
Discipline, to me, means the ability to carry out a resolution long after the mood has left you. It also means doing what you say you’re going to do—with courage, eagerness, and enthusiasm. If your attitude is positive, you’ll get positive results. There’s no way to achieve 100 percent success without putting in 100 percent effort.
With such resolution comes freedom and peace of mind. A disciplined person isn’t at the mercy of external circumstances. Whereas someone without this quality is usually lazy, undirected, unhappy, or depressed, someone with it is in control of what she thinks, feels, says, and does. A disciplined mind creates a disciplined body, and from that comes an exhilarated mind. It’s a powerful cycle and one that will change your live for the better.
This characteristic ignites your inherent inner power and helps create miracles in your life. Breakthroughs occur when people are willing to live out their vision and commitment and to honor their decisions. When you’re committed, you allow nothing to deter you from reaching your goals. Discipline keeps you going even when you are not feeling motivated. You don’t make excuses, and you follow through and do what you say that you’re going to do.
Implementing a 21-Day Agreement or Commitment
Encouraging you to focus on your goals, stay motivated, keep your word, and ignite your inner power so you can release bad habits and embrace new, positive habits is what this page is all about. Make extra copies of this download document at the bottom of this page and use it often as you make and follow through on your agreements with yourself. I have used and taught this efficacious technique for over 35 years. Each month, I make an agreement to embrace or release a habit. Thus, I make at least 12 positive changes in my life each year. Sometimes I'll combine two things for the month such as drinking more water and exercising more. I usually start the process at the beginning of the month because then it coincides with the days on the calendar. The last week of each month, after the 21 day program is over and I accomplished my goal(s), I am generally more relaxed and flexible with my daily habits.
After filling in the first sentence with your agreement, use the 21 lines to record a daily, "diary-like" progress report. For example, if you agree to walk every morning for 30 minutes, you write down what you did each day, along with a short commentary, such as the following:
Day 1: Walked 30 minutes; legs felt strong and I'm motivated.
Day 2: Still feel motivated, but harder to get up today.
Day 3: I no longer like Susan. Her idea stinks. My thighs and butt are so sore today that I can hardly sit down . . .
Day 21: I feel so empowered because I kept my word and exercised for 21 days in a row. I started because I demanded it of my body. Now my healthy lifestyle is my top priority, and I know I can do anything that I set my mind to do. Susan was right!
If you make one 21-day agreement each month (start with this simple one-agreement plan if you are new to this process), you will make 12 beneficial changes in your life each year. Whether you give up something unhealthful, such as any foods made with white sugar or white flour, or you add in something salubrious, such as eating more leafy greens or exercising daily, at the end of 21 consecutive day (if you ignore a day, you must start back over again from Day 1), you either will have established a new habit or will no longer crave what you gave up. For easy access right now, download the 21-day agreement form HERE.