If you have ever tried to start a new habit, you know you difficult it can be to make habits stick.
The irony is, it can be so easy to fall into bad habits, but building good habits are often hard!
Whether you want to improve your life, become more productive, or just start taking better care of yourself, to make habits stick requires discipline.
What are habits?
Basically, habits are behaviors or thinking patterns that become automatic when repeated enough times.
Habits allow our brains to be more efficient because habitual tasks can be executed without our brains spending mental energy on it.
If you think about it, our habits are the reason for a lot of situations in our
Your financial situation has to do because of your spending/saving habits.
Your health has to do with your exercise/nutrition habits.
Your mindset has to do with your thinking habits.
Habits are automatic
I like to know how things work. It makes me feel more in control and more intentional when I understand how something works, and it empowers me to act on it or change it.
By understanding automatic habit loops, it will help you create a system to make habits stick.
Our brains build neural pathways of any repeated emotion, thought or action so that we can be more efficient.
The habit loop looks like this:
First of all, your brain gets cued. Cues can be anything such as a place, a time of day, a craving that you want to satisfy, or a group of people or even an emotional need.
When your brain gets cued, it goes into routine (autopilot) mode. The routine mode is either mental or physical. You follow the same set of patterns, think the same type of thing, or do the same actions.
The last bit of the loop is the reward. As a result of the pattern you engaged in (physical or mental) during the routine stage, you get a reward. This reward is what makes the habit stronger.
Related: Watch How to break bad habits – Charles Duhigg
Why new habits often fail
A HUGE reason why we find it so hard to keep new
When we decide to change some of our habits, we don’t really spend the time to understand WHY we behave or think a certain way.
Instead, we just try to implement the new habit or behavior in full force from day one.
There are a few problems with this, mostly
- you need to walk before you can run
- you forget to practice the new habit as you get into your normal daily routine
- you don’t understand the REWARD that having this habit gives you in the first place
How to make habits stick
Whether you are learning (or unlearning) something, it pays to take it
Here are some more ideas to help you make habits stick
1. Understand how this habit rewards you
Spend some time thinking about the reward that the habit that you want to change, gives you. And, what will the reward be of the new habit you are starting?
2. Make a commitment to yourself to change
This might seem obvious but I think this is a step that is often overlooked. Enter into a contract with yourself to start practicing this new habit. And don’t break this commitment! You won’t easily break your commitment to another person, would you? So why do it to yourself?
3. Be clear on the new habit you are creating
Don’t use vague language like “I will eat healthier this week”. Be specific, for example: “I will eat at least one vegetable with each meal”.
4. Start small and keep it simple
Remember how we spoke about habits that fail because we try to do too much too soon? Do the smallest action you can to help you get started. Instead of running 3 miles and falling over, go for a walk around the block.
5. Attach new habits to an existing habit
It is easy to forget to practice a new habit as our day unfolds, and our unconscious activities take over. By attaching your new habit to an existing habit, it will be easier to remember to do it. For example: Meditate for 2 minutes after I brush my teeth at night.
Your habits define you
You have the ability to change most things in your life, by changing the habits that you have. Our habits define us and map out our days.
These steps can help you define how you want to create your life and support you to make the habits stick.
By understanding the rewards you gain from *bad* habits, it makes it easier to create *good* habits that give you similar rewards.
Be clear about exactly WHAT habit you are starting, and make a commitment to yourself, to keep you accountable and on track.
Attach your new habit to something which you are already doing, this makes it easier to remember (and do) and finally, start small and work your way up to your final goal.