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7 steps to set your sankalpa and create new good habits

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The legal profession isn’t known for nurturing, but Kim Simmonds is working to change that, leading by example. She not only provides the best IT and flexible working, but also offers all employees the opportunity to work with Executive Coach, Louise Otton, to ensure they have all the tools they need to succeed.

Kim takes employee physical and mental health seriously and, in addition to the monthly 1-2-1 executive coaching and the weekly team meetings led by Louise, she provides weekly PT, yoga and meditation sessions for staff.

We want our clients to succeed too, so Kim has asked Louise to share some of the work we do with her here in this series of blogs. We find these tools help us to achieve our full potential and to provide the best service to our clients. We hope you find it useful too.

Do you find it hard to create a new good habit?  Do you know what you could be doing differently to help your new behaviours stick?

Louise Otton, our Executive Coach has been helping us understand how we can get better at changing our behaviours and creating new habits in order to feel better, work more effectively and meet the goals we set for ourselves.

Louise talks about the importance of paying attention to your intention as the fundamental starting point.  Before creating any new habit or goal, you need to understand your intention behind it.  You need to get really clear on why you want to create this new behaviour, or break the cycle of a behaviour that is not working for you anymore.   We are far more likely to commit to a new behavior if we understand why it is meaningful to us.

In ancient Sanskrit, (or yoga) this is called setting your Sankalpa.   A Sankalpa means an intention formed by your heart and mind and therefore has purpose and meaning to you.

This is proving to be especially important as we are living through the pandemic and many of us will be continuing to work from home for the foreseeable future.   As such, we need to work hard at protecting our boundaries around work and home life, by looking after our mental and physical health and committing to habits that are going to help us continue to thrive.

Here are some effective tools you can use

Your brain is hardwired to look for threat as a form of survival, a primeval response left over from when we had to flee from wild animals.  This is called the negativity bias and is strongly connected to the words that we use.  So, if you find yourself saying “I don’t want to do x anymore” or “I have to / should do  x,” you are putting a negative spin on it before you have even started. So deliberately use positive language when setting yourself a goal to create a new good habit.

The 3 Ps of setting good habits

Set your habit / intention in the present moment. What is important to you right now?

Frame it using positive language that moves you towards your goal rather than away from something you don’t want to do.

Make it really personal and meaningful to you, what will it give you beyond just the new behaviour?

For example, “I need to protect my mental wellbeing during the pandemic as I respect the state of my mind.   Therefore, I will do my mindfulness exercise every day, even when I do not want to, because I know it makes me feel calmer and better able to cope with work and the kids.”


If you want be more organized, it is easy to write a plan and a schedule, but you need to consciously acknowledge what your intention is behind this.

For example, “I would love to be more organized as I know it will make me feel more energized and efficient and I will be able to work more quickly, giving me more time to relax and do things for myself.”

The ‘cue – routine – reward’ model

This helps you to create a new neurological learning loop.

The Cue – Identify an existing cue or behaviour that you do daily and tag a new behaviour onto it.

 The Routine – Create a 10-minute routine that can be as simple or complex as you want. This maybe physical or emotional, depending on the outcome you are trying to achieve.

 The Reward – Anything that gives an instant natural hit of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that is linked to reward. The more you get it the more you want of it.

7 simple steps to help you create a new habit

  1. Plan for it the night before
    If you want to start running, plan your outfit, put your running shoes by the door and mentally prepare the night before.
  2. Visualise yourself doing it
    Create a visual image in your mind of yourself getting up, putting your running clothes on, leaving the house, how you will feel running in the fresh air, what you will see, the freedom, imagine listening to your favourite podcast / music etc. Make it real and as positive as you can, your brain doesn’t know the difference between real or imagined.
  3. Start ridiculously small
    If you have never run before start with a micro behaviour. Maybe download an app to help you start running on Day one.  Day 2, buy new running shoes. Day 3, try a 1 km run etc…just keep it really small so you feel successful.
  4. Tag it onto an existing habit
    Find a behaviour or cue that you do every day without effort and tag it onto it.  E.g. when I get up I brush my teeth, then I will put on my running shoes. Or when I turn my computer on, I will do 5mins of mindfulness etc…
  5. Do it every day for 7 days
    Take-action towards your new habit every day, however micro the action is.  Repetition is key to building that new neurological loop for the positive habit to stick.
  6. Keep a log
    Notice how you feel afterwards, write it down so you can use this in future visualisations.  Writing down how you feel is a great way to embed the positive impact that your new habit has had, so you are more likely to repeat it.
  7. Reward yourself for doing it
    Think of something that you love that is simple to do, that you can reward yourself with afterwards. This is your dopamine hit, but try to keep it healthy!

Behaviour change takes time and many people find that having someone who can champion them (and hold them accountable to sticking to their actions!) is the key to success.  So enlist the help of a partner, friend, colleague or a coach if you want to make really sustainable changes to improve your performance, leadership capabilities and maximise your wellbeing.

About Louise Otton
Bsc (Hons) PG CERT (Coaching) ICF ACC, MNCP
Executive and Personal Coach

As a post graduate qualified Executive Coach, Louise is energised by helping ambitious professionals, entrepreneurs, business owners and teams to optimise their performance, impact and wellbeing.

By raising their self-awareness, leadership capabilities and getting clear on their goals, she helps them become more conscious, purpose-led and emotionally intelligent leaders.

Louise is a post graduate qualified, ICF accredited coach and a psychometric practitioner in Myers Briggs Personality Type Index (MBTI) and Emotional Intelligence EQi-2 and EQi-360. She also holds a degree with a psychology background and draws on psychological theories that are vital in understanding how and why people think, feel and act, in order to become more aware of the impact they can have in their lives.

Louise Otton

Louise Otton Coaching
Mobile: +44 (0) 7786858291

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