8 Proven Tactics to Build a New Habit
How many times have you tried to build a good habit, be it going to the gym regularly, quitting sweets, or reading for 30 minutes every morning?
Why are bad habits easier to develop than good ones? Why is eating an apple a day so difficult, but grabbing a pack of chips over Netflix comes so naturally?
My perky 80-year old neighbor told me once: “You have to learn to like what’s good for you son, not what’s bad.”
I’ve been studying long and hard how the process of habit formation works. I want to share what I’ve found and save you the trouble of having to do all the research yourself.
Use this info to build constructive habits and create yourself a better life:
Tactic 1: Break up a habit into small chunks
Start with the smallest chunk possible. Make your habit so easy to do that you can’t say no.
I can’t stress this enough, so I’ll repeat and bold:
Make your habit so easy to do that you can’t say no.
For example, if your intention is to start your day with a workout, start with 1 push up. You can then gradually increase the ‘workout’ until it becomes an actual one.
Note: his principle is the foundation of all habit building theory out there!
Tactic 2: Habit anchoring
A great way to introduce a new habit is by tying it to an existing one. For example, you’re trying to introduce a habit to stretch for 10 minutes every morning. Tie it to an existing habit you already do every morning, such as taking a shower. So, every day before taking the shower, stretch. In this way, your old habit becomes a trigger for the new one.
Tactic 3: To change a habit, change the environment
One study showed that if you have an obese friend, your chances of being obese increase by 57%. Just think how powerful our environment is!
When I was trying to quit on sweets, I simply made sure that I have no sweets in my home -- I packed my fridge with fruits instead. The law of least effort made me eat what I had in the fridge instead of running to the shop every time I had a sugar crisis.
Tactic 4: Think about the reasons and visualize the outcome
Think of all the reasons why you’ve decided to develop your new habit. What will this habit bring you in life? Think hard and put your reasons on a piece of paper.
Then, when it gets super hard and you want to quit, have an image of your outcome in your mind to remind you of what you’re trying to accomplish.
Tactic 5: Set up reminders
Even better, instead of having to think about your outcomes, simply set up reminders in your environment. If you’re trying to introduce a habit to jog after work, place your running shoes in the middle of your room to remind you what you need to do next, so you can’t miss it.
A friend told me about a great way she has to remind herself of her goals - she simply changes the passwords of all her accounts to remind her of her goal of the period. For example, she was trying to lose 15 lbs before the summer, so she simply changed her Facebook and Gmail passwords to 15lbs! In this way, she created an affirmation that would remind her of her goals daily.
Sometimes we want to perform the habit, we just forget! This is also a way your mind tries to trick you because our minds don’t like changes.
Tactic 6: Expect to fail
Every now and then you will fail with adopting your new habit. And that’s okay! Don’t be too hard on yourself. Like I mentioned once, the “all or nothing” approach won’t do you much good, so try to avoid it. Temptations around us abound and it’s okay to succumb every now and then.
Rather than fearing failure, embrace it.
One of the main reasons why people say they never managed to build a new habit was not because they failed but because they felt so guilty and disappointed with themselves for failing that they never tried to build the habit again -- they were so convinced that they will fail again!
Tactic 7: Don’t think, just do
It’s Wednesday, 7 PM, time for your workout. No thinking, whining or devising reasons why you should stay at home. Just get up and go!
The trick is to catch your lazy mind trying to trick you into staying and decide not to listen. 7 PM is time for your workout, period.
Tactic 8: One habit at a time!
If you’re a self-improvement junkie like me, then there is probably loads of habits you’d like to develop. Here’s an important tip from someone who has had his share of attempts in forming new habits: start with one habit at a time. Don’t focus on too many things at once because it won’t get you too far.
Tactic 9: Pick a reward
I spoke about this one before.
In short: in the beginning, you will need some kind of stimulus before the new habit becomes ingrained in your behavior. So, pick a way to reward yourself! I personally like massages 😉
Building a habit is like building a muscle. It requires time, patience and discipline. But once you’ve got it going, you’ll develop a penchant for your new, good habit and it will be difficult to fall back into your old, negative patterns. You’ll be wondering how on earth you could have managed for so long without your new habit, be it morning workouts, meditating or starting your day with a warm glass of lemon water.
Building good habits is indeed addictive. You will see how developing just one, good habit will trigger a bunch of other positive life choices!
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