How to Become a Good Habit Forming Machine....
You must have noticed how some people just seem to have the knack of getting things done. They will say something like, ‘I am going to start exercising next year’, and they do! Yet when you try, it’s another story. You stick to it for a bit and then somehow it all falls flat. It can very easily make you discouraged and frustrated.
But it doesn't have to be. You can develop good habits that stick and that motivate you develop even more habits, in a wonderful cycle of continuous improvement. You know the saying - Be the Change? Well don't worry, you don't need to change all at once.
Lots of things out there, from social media, self-help literature, celebrity interviews, etc promote the idea of being at the top of your game, all of the time, in all areas, all at once. And while that's a great ideal, truth be told, it sounds exhausting!
If you're nowhere near the top of your game you're still a good person. Still, you might be interested in becoming a little better. And it's A-Ok to become a little better, just a little bit at a time.
Here are some tips for making developing healthy, positive habits one step at a time.
- Start small
Most people want to plunge in at the deep end and change things overnight, but if you want to be successful, it is best to start small and build up because sustaining positive habit does take a lot of willpower. Research shows that willpower is like a muscle, once you use it, it gets tired, and when it’s tired it wants to stop. The solution is to start small without using too much willpower. So if its exercises we’re talking about, instead of plunging into 50 pushups a day, start with five. Always establish your habit behavior first, not increasing the amounts until what you have started becomes a natural part of you.
- Get attached to your good habit
Research shows it can take at least 21 days to develop a new habit. When starting something new, it's easy to get distracted and break the chain. Therefore, starting small (i.e. the 5 push-ups) instead of the 50) and committing to an unbroken chain of doing it will do wonders to building a new habit. Grab a calendar - a real one, note the start date and the 21 day mark. In between, X out every day you practice your new habit. Motivate yourself to "not break the chain".
- Are your intentions clear?
Between saying and doing lies a lot of distraction, procrastination and life. Are you very clear on what your new habit is. Losing weight is a goal. Getting 20 minutes of exercise in a day is a habit. Don't forget to frame the habit in a positive way. If you're goal is to eat more healthily, then committing to a vegetable/fruit juice for breakfast instead of a donut is a better definition of the habit you're trying to build.
- Celebrate wins
When you are managing yourself well with your positive habits, reward yourself. Rewarding yourself releases good-feeling chemicals in the brain, feelings of pride and pleasure. It empowers you to carry on with your good habits and create bigger wins in the future. After you build one small habit and have it well committed to your routine you can tackle the next.
- Create your own environment
Many times our environment drives our behavior and subtly undermines our ability to build better habits. The good news is that we can create our own environment and shape it to support our new habits. Maybe your habit is to read more, but the TV or your phone always lures you away. You could buy multiple copies of the paper book and keep one with you in the car, in front of the TV and by your bed. You could cover the TV and put the book in front of it. You could get a dedicated reading device like a Kindle (without access to the internet) and use that to read, so your phone or TV isn't a distraction. You could set aside 10-15 minutes a day to read and use a timer, allowing yourself time to watch TV or scroll through the internet after you've finished your reading.
- Supporters will support you & Haters will hate you - choose wisely
It goes without saying that our reference group - the people that we hang out with - shape our own behaviors and patterns. If you're trying to build a new habit, you might need to separate yourself from your regular reference group for a while. You don't have to make a big deal about it or call them out on their bad habits. Simply find excuses for the next few weeks to politely but persistently "blow them off." Excuses like, catching up on work, random out of town guests, a cold etc., can all be non-threatening excuses for you to use. This may also be the time to seek out and surround yourself with people who have already mastered the habit you're working on. t.
Now, what if it's your family that's a non-positive reference group? Definitely a tricky one! The same vague excuses you'd use with friends or colleagues might not work here. Honesty might as well - if you feel your family will be supportive. If not, then you''ll have to work your will-power that must harder. But, once they see you succeeding, hopefully you'll serve as an inspiration to them!
- Be accountable
Review your daily accomplishments - did you practice your habit? All the way? Half way? Celebrate the wins, but also review why you failed to practice your habit - what got in the way? What prevented you? Can you avoid this in the future?
8. Rinse & Repeat
Once you've got one great new habit down, you should be feeling good about yourself and have boosted your self-confidence - you know you can do it! In which case, is there another habit you're dying to tackle? Then go for it. Small habits build up to BIG changes!
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