We’ve all been there: contemplating doing something that we think would be good for us but not liking the particular activity.
A great example is running. I love to run (but I’m not supposed to anymore which makes me sad). I’ve talked to all sorts of people who’d like to run but don’t enjoy it. Then there’s reading. I talk to people all the time who say “I don’t really read books, but I wish I did.” Or coffee. I had a conversation with a co-worker last week who said, “I don’t like coffee, but I wish I did.”
So, what to do? How can we learn to like (or even love) things that we don’t find enjoyable? Here are some hacks that will help.
1. Identify What You Don’t Like About the Activity and Find Solutions
Start by listing out what you don’t like about the activity. For running you might list out: it’s a lot of effort and makes me feel exhausted, it’s boring, and it hurts my joints.
There are solutions to each of these problems. To combat the effort issue, try running really really slowly. As you run more and more your slow will become fast. If you think it’s boring, try running with a friend or listening to a podcast or audiobook while running. And painful joints likely mean your running form needs some work — go to your local running store and have them advise on your gait and solutions for improving it.
2. Dilute the Activity
Non-coffee drinkers usually say they don’t like the taste. What to do? Dilute the taste. Maybe pour a packet of hot chocolate mix into your coffee. Or load it up with some almond milk, sweetener, and a touch of another flavor. That will help with the taste. Over time you can reduce bit-by-bit the additions and you’ll become used to the coffee flavor. This strategy also works for alcohol. Don’t like whiskey? Just put a bit in a glass of water to get used to the whiskey taste. Then, over time increase the whiskey to water ratio. Next thing you know you’ll be a whiskey drinker!
This works for running also — start by walking and just running for a bit — like a minute in every five. Then increase the running to walking ratio over time.
3. Habit Stack
I know meditating is good for me, but I don’t always do it. My mind races. I feel like I should be doing something more productive. I tell myself I’ll do it later. Etc.
A great solution is to do what James Clear calls “Habit Stacking.” This technique works by taking a habit you’d like to develop and pairing it with a well-established existing habit.
For example, a habit of mine that is ingrained is that I drink coffee in the morning. Two habits that I’d like to be more consistent about are meditating and listing three things I’m grateful for in my Journal App (great app). So, I’ve stacked the habits. I’ve committed to myself not to drink coffee in the morning until I’ve journaled and meditated. This has been very effective (so far) because my coffee habit is so well-established.
Another: I don’t floss my teeth regularly enough. My flawed routine has been to floss after brushing in the morning. But, I often feel rushed and skip flossing in order to get to work or whatever. Based on the habit stacking concept, I’ve switched so that I’ve committed to flossing before I brush my teeth at night. In the morning when I’m done brushing I put the floss on top of my toothbrush to cue me to floss first. Again – so far so good.
As you may have noted from my personal examples – the order matters a lot. You should usually order the habit to be developed prior to the established habit. So, if you want to read more, don’t allow yourself to watch TV until you’ve read for 15 or 30 minutes (or whatever). If you want to eat more vegetables, don’t allow yourself your favorite treat until you’ve had a serving of veggies.
4. Try a “Mini-Habit”
Author Stephen Guise is a champion of what he calls “mini-habits.” He says to pick an activity you want to start doing and start out really small. So, for working out, just commit to doing one push-up a day. He says that once you do one, you’ll probably do more. And you can increase your commitment over time until maybe you’re doing 100 a day.
It works for reading — commit to reading just five pages a day. Some days maybe that’s all you’ll do. Other days you may read 50. Eventually, reading will be an ingrained habit.
Or yoga/ stretching just do one stretch/pose a day. Build up over time.
5. Adopt “Mile 21 Thinking”
Mile 21 Thinking is the idea that you can learn to appreciate almost any moment, even if it’s tough by telling yourself there’s no place you’d rather be and nothing else you’d rather be doing. Here’s my IFOD on Mile 21 Thinking. I use this hack when traveling, while standing in a long line in a store, doing yard work, or when I’m frustrated while writing and banging my head against the wall of writer’s block. For each of these things, I stop and tell myself that there’s no place I’d rather be and nothing that I’d rather be doing. Our brains are powerful — if we repeatedly tell ourselves that we like something, then maybe we will.