Most of the time, our biggest dreams and goals require us to make few bigger or smaller changes to our everyday routine. Either it is to save some money, start a business or get into desirable shape. They all need us to make some changes to our life, what we call, well… new habits!
According to researchers at Duke University, habits account for about 40 percent of our behaviours on any given day. Understanding how to build new habits (and how your current one’s work) is essential for making progress in your health, your happiness, and your life in general.
So, let’s see how it can be easier and less painful to create and actually stuck with new habits.
1. Start with a REALLY small habit.
When people struggle to build habits, you can often find them saying something like they need more motivation, inspiration or just more willpower to do what it takes. Or that “I’m just not that TYPE of person.”
Well… the thing is that you are a person and you can choose what TYPE you want to be. We are not just born of being highly productive on unproductive.
Research shows that willpower is like a muscle. It gets tired as you use or train it throughout the day, without giving it to any break. Another way to think of this is that your motivation ebbs and flows. It rises and falls. Stanford professor BJ Fogg calls this the motivation wave.
Solve this problem by picking a new habit that is easy enough that you don't need much motivation, nor time, to do it. Rather than running 10km per day, start with 2 kilometres. Rather than trying to meditate for 10 minutes per day, start by meditating for one minute per day. Make it easy enough that you can get it done without motivation. Basically, break down your new desirable habit to very small, more reachable and realistic ones.
2. Increase your habit in small steps
Rather than trying to do something amazing from the beginning with that big hooray, full of motivation and willpower (read 1. again ), start small and gradually improve. Along the way, your willpower and motivation will increase, which will make it easier to stick to your habit for good.
When we think of motivation and willpower as a muscle what is desired to bulk up- giving it time to rest and start building it up with correct weights at the time, is crucial. Otherwise you will most likely end up with a accident and well- being unable to train for a while.
So think of your little steps and new habits as weights. Don’t think you can go and press 50kg straight away. Start with 6kg, if needed. Everything needs time and strength to build up.
3. When you slip, get back on track quickly (and you will slip, it’s okay!)
We all make mistakes, commit errors, and get off track just like everyone else. The difference between those two types of people are that some of them get back on track as quickly as possible. Realising from the start that when starting with something new you WILL slip and being ready to catch the moment and get back on track, is, oh well… the key.
Research has shown that missing your habit once, no matter when it occurs, has no measurable impact on your long-term progress. Rather than trying to be perfect, abandon your all-or-nothing mentality.
You shouldn't expect to fail, but you should plan for the future failure. In a way. Take some time to consider what will prevent your habit from happening. What are some things that are likely to get in your way? What are some daily emergencies that are likely to pull you off course? How can you plan to work around these issues? Or, at least, how you can bounce back quickly from them and get back on track?
You just need to be consistent, not perfect. Focus on building the identity of someone who never misses the new habit twice.
4. Be patient. Stick to a pace you can sustain.
Learning how to be patient is perhaps the most important skill to learn from the start. You can make incredible progress if you are consistent and patient. Good things take time, as smart people have said long time ago and it does have a truth behind it. It can be hard to go few months or even years, depending on your goal, to see no or very little progress, but be patient.
If you are adding weight in the gym, you should probably go slower than you think. If you are adding daily sales calls to your business strategy, you should probably start with fewer than you expect to handle. Patience is everything. Do things that you can sustain.
New habits should feel easy and exciting, especially in the beginning. If you stay consistent and continue increasing your habit it will get hard enough, fast enough. It always does.