Changing habit is hard, forming a good habit can be even tougher. This is because habits are something that are deeply ingrained in our behavior. Starting up a good habit is going to take a lot of effort and time before it becomes something automatic.
According to behavioral psychologists, a habit forming process includes 3 main elements:
- Reminder: The trigger that initiates a behavior
- Routine: The behavior itself; the action you take
- Reward: The benefit you gain from doing this behavior
1. Take baby stepsWe all want to effect great change in as less time as possible. People might want to go from zero gym sessions to doing 7 gym sessions a week or meditate for an hour every day without even meditating successfully for a minute a day. Such thoughts are unrealistic and are destined to fail because a tremendous amount of determination and will power is required on the part of the person attempting such change.
The very first step is to have a right mindset – start small. Every big habit is supported by many smaller habits. Have long term goals in mind which are ambitious and huge, but break them down into small manageable actions that you can effect daily, which will help you get closer to your goals. It's easier to kick off the little things, and repeat them over and over again.
2. Have clear intentions - know why you want to cultivate this habit and how it will benefit you
Are you serious about going through with sticking to your new habit? Or was it a vague decision with no thought given to the long term benefits of such a decision?
Studies have shown that you will most likely stick to a new habit and be committed to it if you know exactly what is the purpose behind it and what needs to be done to achieve that purpose.
Get clear on who you are, what you want and why you want it, write down the “why” to review your purpose regularly. When you have clear intentions and purposes, your "why" becomes your main motivator.
3. Focus on routineHabits are something we do on autopilot mode; we feel like we do them unintentionally. So the key process is to get familiar and comfortable with a specific behavior, by work the desire behavior into your daily routine. Write it down in your daily schedule, check it off your list when done.
This speaks of commitment. Take the time to analyse your daily routine as it exists now, and see where you can fit your desired habit into that routine. A routine once developed, will run its course in your life like an autopilot flies a commercial jet liner. No additional input and effort on your part will be required once that happens.
4. Expect and accept obstaclesLife without challenges and obstacles would not be life at all. We must come to expect obstacles, and especially when you take up the challenge to develop and maintain good habits.
When a failure occurs, don’t get stuck in a rut. Accept it, remind yourself that it’s natural that challenges and failure get in the way, and get back to your daily routine. With time, you’ll improve and get better at them.
5. Journal your progress and feelingsOften, a habit forming journey can get overwhelming and the frustrations can take their toll on your mind. It is at times like these, where journaling can really help.
Try to maintain a journal detailing your progress and the feelings you’ve had to deal with in getting there. And when things become tough, you can just take a moment, go through your journal, look at how far you’ve come and appreciate yourself for the progress.
A life worth living is a life worth recording. Be humble, be grateful and be confident from regular self- reflection!
6. Celebrate your small wins
Most of us often blame ourselves up for the bad performances, but we rarely praise ourselves for our good performances. We tend to underestimate the importance of having “fun” while building habits.
Remember, celebrating your wins helps motivate you and strengthen you to press on further. Every single time you reward yourself, you release positive feeling chemicals that help you feel a sense of achievement and pride, and that sense of achievement helps you stick to your new routine.
Build a reward system into the process so you can take time to celebrate the successful completion of your goals.
7. Surround yourself with supporters
Oprah Winfrey once said, "surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher".
The people surrounding you have a great impact on how you behave and live your life. Surround yourself with people who care about you, who want the best for you, and who’ll motivate you to excel and become better.
This type of supporters will make sure you are on track and do it in a positive way. They will also remind you that you are staying consistent with your purposes and encourage you during tough time.
8. Commit for a minimum of 30 days.
Some people say it takes 21 days to form a new habit, while others claim it actually takes up to 66 days, both backed by science. The truth is that the length of time really varies from person to person, habit to habit.
If you are really serious about developing good habits, make a commitment to stick with them for at least 30 days or a month. The longer you stick with something, there is a greater chance that you will develop that habit as a reflex action - which comes naturally with time.
The only way to get to Day 1000 is to start with Day 1. Forget about the number and focus on maintaining the routine for as long as possible!
Everything from eating well, work out regularly, responsible spending, to work performance and beyond, requires habits that make such behaviors part of our daily life.