If you are a super-organized, iron-willed and highly-determined person, I envy you. I seriously do, because once you set your mind on something, nothing will be able to stop you from accomplishing your goal. Sometimes I wish I was like that too, but let’s be realistic – I am not.
I had to start 3-4 times before I finally managed to change some of my habits, like exercising every day or sticking to a 3-month vision-improvement program. I am fully aware of how hard it may be to control the urges and follow through with your goals. But I also know how great it feels to say, “I made it!” and give yourself a big proud smile.
I want you to realize that no matter how many times you have failed before, building a new success habit does not have to be difficult.
Here are a few things that you might want to consider, before you start:
1. Be prepared. Very often changing one habit leads to some degree to a lifestyle change. For example, when I first decided to start waking up at 6 a.m., I suddenly got an extra 2 hours of free time. And honestly, I had no idea what to do with it. I had to completely rethink my morning routine. If I had not done this, my new resolution would not have lasted a week. Similar, if you want to give up an old habit, you have to know what other activities you will substitute it with.
2. Find specific time. If you block out specific time for your new habit, you are more likely stick to it than if you just go along with your ever-changing daily schedule.
3. Identify your triggers. Try this exercise. Close your eyes and mentally go over your weekly routine day after day. Think of what might prevent you from sticking to your habit? What situations, activities, events, surroundings, and thoughts trigger your old habit? Be proactive and do everything you can to avoid these triggers in the future.
4. Have a plan B. If your habit involves jogging outdoors each day for one month, what happens if it rains? If you have decided to get up at 6 a.m., what happens if you have to stay up late at your friend’s Birthday party? You need to think about these details in advance and have a plan B ready in case something goes wrong.
5. Concentrate on one habit at a time. I noticed that at the beginning of the year I always have that irrepressible enthusiasm to change my life for the better in all of its areas – eat healthier, learn some new skill, ran a marathon, you name it… I want to do it. At times like this, I have to stop and remind myself that taking on too much is a recipe for disaster. Because, when it comes to creating new habits little consistent steps are a lot more effective than a massive amount of action over a short period of time.
6. Don’t do it on a whim. If you have decided to start jogging ‘just like that’, the chances are you will drop it just as easily. Changing a habit is a serious business and it requires some preparation and some thought. The guru of changing habits Leo Babauta advices to gradually build up the enthusiasm and anticipation by setting a “Quit Date” or a “Start Date” for your new habit, instead of beginning to do it right away.
7. Commit for 30 days. It takes around 30 days to form a new habit, for some a little more, for some a little less. Use a calendar to track your progress. Every day you stick with your new habit, draw a big red “X”. Make sure that the chain of successful days grows longer and is uninterrupted by even one non-X day.
8. Convince yourself that quitting is not an option. We all know the danger of “half-assing it” when we are trying to accomplish something. To prevent yourself from giving up – make it unacceptable to skip even one day of your 30-day challenge! No exceptions! Even if you had a hard day at work. Even if you have a doctor’s appointment. Even if it is raining outside. Even if you went to bed really late the night before.
9. Have rewards ready! For every successful 5 days of your 30-day challenge – give yourself a reward. It is much easier to stick to a 5-day challenge for a small prize than to stay committed for 30 days for some intangible big reward, like good health or a better-looking body!
10. Write down your motivators. Why do you want to adopt this new habit? What benefits will you get if you stick to it? Think this through, or better yet, write those benefits down and re-read them daily.
11. Find danger in an old habit. Forbidden fruit is the sweetest. The fact that you have to get up early makes you suddenly miss the days when you could sleep in and snuggle under the warm blankets. The thought that you have to go to the gym after a tiring day at work, makes you crave your big, comfy couch and your lovely remote control. It does not help to start changing any habit with the thought of what you are giving up. If you want your new habit to stick, concentrate on the consequences of leaving everything just the way it is.
12. Watch out for the siren calling. “Why am I putting myself through this?”, “How bad is this for me anyway?”, “I’ll do it tomorrow, when I feel more like it.” – watch out for these thoughts. They will lure you into failure.
13. Do not tell yourself, you’ll do it later. You will not and deep down you know it. It is just an excuse to postpone something for the next day… and then the next day… and then the next week. You get the point.
14. Do less, but do something! Whenever the urge to give up or to postpone hits you, take at least one small step towards your goal – jog half of your regular distance; wake up at 6 a.m., do your morning routine and then if you feel tired, go back to bed. It is better to do less than to do nothing.