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  • Stella Tersteeg

5 tips to build healthy routines and habits that stick

Updated: Jun 14

Discipline and motivation can be very fickle. One day you can feel a new surge of energy to get things done, but the day after you even have a hard time getting out of bed. You will see that if you only rely on your discipline and motivation, it can be really difficult sometimes to keep up the good work. And if you're really looking to achieve a new goal in any aspect of your life, it can become pretty frustrating at the moments that your motivation and discipline leave you hanging.


I think we all know how this works when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. You want to work out but you can't drag yourself to the gym. You want to eat healthier, but you don't seem to get yourself to eating broccoli instead of pizza. You want to learn a new skill, but every time you sit down, Netflix wins from your books. Or you want to finally start food prepping, you do it once and it somehow stays at that one time.


Our discipline and motivation are too dependent on too many external influences. They're a great tool to get started on something new, but they won't let you keep up the good work.


I often get asked how I manage to exercise so often, or how I can eat so healthy all the time, or what it was that made me build my own business. It's not because of my motivation or discipline only. But people forget that I wasn't a sporty type for the first 18 years of my life. I didn't have a healthy diet until I turned 21. It wasn't until I turned 22 that I had finally found my own way of creating a healthy lifestyle that I could upkeep with minimal effort. In the process, I discovered a lot of things about what it takes to stop letting your discipline and motivation control your progress and how you can take charge. Here are 5 pieces of my advice based on everything I learned as a young woman over the course of the last 7 years.


1. Learn how to talk positively to yourself


If you only allow your inner critic to talk to you, you will never grow to become the person you long to be. Our inner critic will tell us that we're not good enough, that we don't deserve the greater things in life. As long as you can't convince yourself that you could never be someone who eats healthy, has a beautiful career, exercises enough, who has great personal relationships, it won't happen.


If you want to exercise more than you do, but you end up on the couch after all. You can tell yourself "I told you so. You are lazy. You will never be that sporty girl". Or you can say: "I am so proud of myself for setting this intention to go to the gym. I deserve a healthy body that is fit enough to do anything I want."


So learn how to talk positively to yourself. Learn to say to yourself in the mirror that you are worthy, that you are good enough. Give yourself the pep talk you'd give to your best friend.


2. Establish and redefine your "why"


We often do things for the wrong reason. In this case, we won't stay motivated and we won't succeed. It's exhausting to do something you actually don't want to and you will most likely stop in due time. Keep asking yourself "why" you want to do something or be a certain someone. If your "why" is right, you will gladly make the effort without the need for a lot of motivation and discipline.


Some examples:

- You want to start eating healthier because you want to lose weight. But you want to lose weight because you think you're too fat and no one will like you in this shape.

Redefine: because you want to have a healthy body that doesn't get sick and that makes you feel great in your own skin.


- Or you want to start weight training because you want to be like the women you see on Instagram, who everyone seems to adore.

Redefine: because you want to feel strong and boost your confidence.


- Or you are exhausting yourself at work to get that promotion because your parents so desperately want you to.

Redefine: because you strongly believe it will help you pursue the career you so desperately want.


3. Make it a habit

We spend our days almost completely through habit. As humans, we establish certain routines to hold on to and to be able to go on autopilot. Just think about all the things you do every day and how easy that is for you. You don't have to think about taking a shower in the morning, eating a sandwich at lunch or watch your series at night.


The power of habit is enormous and you can use it to your full advantage. Habit always beats discipline and motivation. Habit is a stable factor. You can trust yourself you won't skip your habits.


One way to create a new habit is through "habit-stacking". You take a habit you already have and you link a new habit to the old one. In other words, every time the old habit happens, you also let the new habit kick in.


A simple example:

"Every time I cook a healthy dinner, I make a double portion to save in the fridge." After a while, this new habit will help you to always have healthy food prepped in the fridge.


Or, "Every morning before I have breakfast, I want to do a 10-minute workout at home". You will notice that at a certain moment, your workout has become just as important for your morning routine as having breakfast.


A little reminder: keep it small and simple. Even the tiniest habit, can make a significant difference.


4. Get yourself an accountability partner


An accountability partner is someone who you trust, who isn't afraid, to be honest with you and who you can always reach out to. Pick your mother, a friend, a colleague, a cousin and tell them about a goal you're trying to achieve but that you're finding it hard to do it on your own. Allow them to help you get over the obstacles or wherever you are stuck.


Essentially, you're making a pact with them. You promise to keep your partner up-to-date on the progress that you're making and they promise to offer you the support whenever you ask them to.


You don't have to depend only on yourself when you can have an accountability partner who holds you accountable for your actions and behaviour.


- Land that big promotion? Practice the conversation you'd have with your employer with your AP.

- Cook more homemade meals? Let your AP applaud you whenever you succeed.

- Try a new type of workout that seems rather intimidating? Have your AP join you.


5. Make it as easy as possible for yourself


You can try to be that girl who wakes up at 6 AM in the morning and go to the gym before going to work, but if you're anything but a morning person, this shouldn't be your goal. You are only making it very difficult for yourself and it doesn't have to be.


It counts for a lot of things that we're making it too difficult to actually be successful. We often want too much in too little time. Or because we do it for the wrong reasons as I previously pointed out... Then obviously you need a tremendous amount of discipline and motivation to succeed.


In order to stop relying on your discipline and motivation, you must make whatever it is you're trying to do reaaaaaaaally easy for yourself. Achieving big goals should be a process you mostly enjoy instead of dreading every step along the way.


Ask yourself what comes easy to you. What usually doesn't cost you any effort? What makes you feel happy or satisfied? And use that information to make every new intention, every new goal a fun process. You won't be running around looking for your motivation whenever it's not there, because you don't need it as you're perfectly happy to do the work anyway.


For extra examples and more tips, I recorded a bonus podcast episode! Click on the button below to listen.