When we’re trying to change habits, we almost always encounter resistance. Change feels like a loss of autonomy. We worry that we’ll have to give up who we are or something we might not be ready to give up. One of the keys to changing any habit is beating your resistance.

Before I switched to a 5:30 wake-up time in January, I had to overcome resistance. It took me a while from thinking about getting up early to actually doing it. Once I tried this little mind trick though, it was surprisingly easy to go for it.

What’s the trick I used to get myself to start waking up so early even though I didn’t want to? And how can you use it to game your life?

  1. Gently, tell yourself to “Just try” now.
  2. Commit to doing your new habit for a short time (like 2 weeks) only.
  3. Leave the long-term decision open.

Let me walk you through the steps:

Just try now!

Try right when the impulse hits you. By waiting you lose the momentum and give yourself time to come up with excuses. By doing it (whatever your “it” is) now, you’ll get zero or no resistance and won’t have enough time to psyche yourself out. And by TRYing, you contract a sort of challenge with yourself.

“Just try” has an encouraging subtext that will lower your guard/resistance.

Commit to a short time only

The fear that we’re giving up control or will lose something if we change is virtually eliminated when we commit to only a short time. Control is restored! What you’re saying yes to now feels more like a game and because games have an element of fun to them, you move past resistance and may even start looking forward to “the challenge.”

Leave the long-term decision open

It’s hard to commit to something long-term when you don’t know if you love/need/want it or not. So by leaving the long-term decision open, you’re saying, “Let’s see how it goes before I decide.” You’ll likely make one of three decisions at the end of the test period:

  1. NO. If you don’t see encouraging results or see it benefiting your life, you’ll decide it’s not for you.
  2. MAYBE. If you like the goal but genuinely don’t have time for it now, you’ll put it on your future goals list.
    For years, I would put Learn French on my New Years resolution list. I even paid for classes at Alliance Française and signed up for groups to help me practice conversational French. But I genuinely didn’t have the time to devote to one more thing when I was working full-time, pursuing entrepreneurial goals, trying to stay healthy. Moving it to my future list, I took the pressure off, stopped “failing” at that goal, and fully focused on more urgent goals.
  3. YES! Because you can’t argue with results, if what you do pays off AND it benefits your life now, you’ll want to stick with it. You’ll find a way to make it work.

How to game the system and use the trick to work for you

Let Future-You motivate you

The “leveling up” concept in gaming is a great metaphor for personal development. Leveling up is used to describe progressions your video game character makes as you get better at the game.

At new levels, you unlock new abilities, skills, get access to new tools and get to experience a new area of the game. With this gaming metaphor in mind, it can make changing any habit easier. How? Think of future you often. Let that vision of yourself performing better motivate you.

All of us have higher levels we can reach… And all of us are playing our own video game.

Expect curveballs

As I wrote back in January, at the end of the 2-week test (my self-imposed challenge), I didn’t want to go back to my old schedule. Here I was getting more accomplished in a day, feeling like a boss, and running my life better. I felt like I was operating on a different level so obviously, I wanted to continue on.

But a few months later, my enthusiasm was heading south. I began to struggle with getting up earlier and wanted to chuck it; benefits be damned!

Luckily, I recognized this as the “Relapse” phase in the change cycle. Because I’m trained for this and have a virtual Ph.D. in changing any habit, I knew what to do. Most people don’t and it’s one of the reasons they fail at achievable goals.

Because I know that when we’re improving our lives and operating at new levels, life likes to throw a wrench into our plans, knew how to deal. So, that’s the first thing you can do to help yourself do better with Relapse: Expect it!

Relapse or thoughts of giving up will almost always happen—even when you love what you’re doing. Expect that you’ll run into conflict with the practical demands of your life. You may question whether you can afford the time or money you’re spending on yourself. You may question whether you should put your needs above that of someone you’re responsible for. Or, you might think you’re being selfish if you do. And you might do something to sabotage yourself. Changing any habit becomes easier with just the knowledge of the change process.

Reasonable excuses will come up.

Manage the inevitable Relapse

Choose YOU. Bet on yourself. Take the thing that’s working for you OFF the table!

Focus on finding ways to handle, outsource and work out the other stuff instead. If, for example, your goal is taking time away from you caring for a child or elderly parent, get creative.

  • Could you do it WITH your child/parent? That’s how Mommy and Me Yoga started, BTW.
  • Can they help you with your workout or business if you rearrange the living room or other space?
  • Is there an app or device that can help you to be in two places?
  • Can you trade caretaking with someone else or rotate chores?
  • Can you afford help—sitters, tutors, etc.?

Think of the other stuff that’s causing a conflict (obligations, distractions, even hardship, and self-sabotage) as obstacles in your video game. With practice, you’re going to eventually master these obstacles, but not if you take yourself off the board.

Stay on the new level because that’s how you will get to higher levels where you know you belong.


Written by

Christine Angelica

Christine is a lifestyle coach who believes the way we live affects everything we do, especially our motivation. She's also a mindful living educator living in Los Angeles, California.