I know you want to live a fulfilling and remarkable life, but sometimes it so so easy to fall back into unhealthy routines like eating junk food, not working out or smoking. The truth is, that we become what we repeatedly do.
The life you are living today is essentially the sum of your habits.
If you are out of shape, it’s because of your habits.
If you are unhappy, it’s because of your habits.
If you are unsuccessful, it’s because of your habits.
In our culture, we talk a lot about overnight successes and transformations. We hear about stories when someone lost 100 pounds or someone made million dollars with a clever business idea. We don’t really hear anything about the daily grind or the process of these people and the habits that led to the actual results.
It’s easy to underestimate the importance of small decisions over time and almost every habit you have are the result of thousands of small decisions you’ve made over the years.
If you want to become a certain type of person or transform your life, it’s about the daily process not about the end result.
Whatever you think about most, and what you repeatedly do, will ultimately form the person you are, the things you stand for and the person you portray to be.
I put together this in-depth article for you, so you can transform your habits, life and live the life you were meant to live. This article is based on scientific data as well as personal experience.
How Habits Work?
Every habit follows the same three-part pattern.
- Reminder – Something that triggers and initiates the behaviour
- Routine – The Behaviour or action you take
- Reward – Benefit you get from doing the certain behaviour
This concept has been proven over and over again by behavioral psychology researchers.
Let’s see how this three-part pattern works in real life and how it can be used to form a typical habit. Let’s take an example of brushing your teeth.
Step One: You put your clothes on in the morning (reminder). This is the reminder that initiates the behaviour. Putting your clothes on in the morning acts as a trigger or a cue to tell your to brush your teeth. This is the prompt that starts the behaviour.
Step Two: You brush your teeth (routine). This is the actual behaviour. When you put your clothes on in the morning, you have a habit of brushing teeth afterwards.
Step Three: Your teeth are clean (reward). The reward is simply the benefit that you get from doing the behaviour. In this case, it was the habit of getting your teeth clean and mouth tasting fresh.
The interesting thing is that, if you follow the same cycle over and over, you’ll stop thinking about it. Your behaviour becomes a habit. Whenever I brush my teeth I don’t analyze about the pros and cons of the behaviour, I simply do it.
Let’s use that information above to create new habits and actually sticking to them.
Step 1: Setting a Reminder For Your New Habit
Many books and self-development gurus preach that you might need to find more willpower or exercise your self-control to form a new habit. I don’t believe that. Your willpower and motivation will fail you. If you want to form a new habit, then the most important step is to start with encoding the new behaviour with something you already do.
Easiest thing is to set up a visible reminder, so when you want to form a new habit, you won’t forget. For example, you would put your fish oil or vitamins next to the dining table, so you’ll see them right in front of you when you are about to eat lunch or dinner.
Another example could be if you want to get started with flossing, you could place it next to your toothbrush, so every time you’ll brush your teeth it reminds you to floss.
By setting up visible reminders, it’s easier to link a new habit your current behaviour and make a change. You don’t have to count on your willpower or motivation.
Choosing a reminder
One of the best things to do is to pick a correct reminder for your new habit. This will make the first step to making a change in your life way easier. You already have so many habits and you do them without thinking. One of the ways to discover a good reminder for yourself is to think of all habits you already have that you do each day without fail.
- Brushing your Teeth
- Putting your shoes on
- Eating lunch
- Turning Lights off
- Going to Bed
These existing behaviours can be reminders for new habits. For example, after I wake up, the first thing I do is meditate 5 minutes. Another example, after I turn lights off I use it as a cue to remind myself to say 3 things that I’m grateful for.
Step 2: Start a New habit, and Make It Easy To Start
I know, we all want the perfect body, million dollars and we all want it right now. If you want these things, I like the enthusiasm, but it’s important to remember that change happens in result of daily habits.
If you want to start a successful new habit, I highly recommend starting as easy as possible. Leo Babauta emphasises: “Make it so easy you can’t say no.”
How small? Smaller than you think. For example, Dr. BJ Fogg suggests that if you want to start a habit of flossing, you should start by only flossing on tooth each day.
So, if you want to get started, simply decide on your new habit and ask yourself: “How can I make the new behaviour as easy as possible so I can’t say no?”
As in life and with habits, it’s important to celebrate and reward yourself. For example, every time you go to the gym, at the end of the work you could tell yourself “Good job” or “That was a great day”.
Even though it’s a small thing, it’s important to give yourself credit and enjoy each small success.
The Recipe for long-term success
Changing your beliefs and becoming more successful, healthier, happier, it’s not as hard as you might think. You simply need to decide what type of person you want to become and then prove it to yourself with small wins.
It’s so important to remember that the goal is not to achieve results at first, but just take small steps and developing the identity of a person who can achieve these things.
Let’s see some real-life examples that you could pursue.
Example 1: Loosing weight
You want to become a type of person who is healthy and moves every day.
Small win: Buy a pedometer. Walk 100 steps when you get home from work. Tomorrow, walk 150. The day after, that walk 200 steps. If you this 5 days a week, and add 50 steps a day, at the end of the year, you’ll be walking more than 10,000 steps each day.
Example 2: Becoming a better writer
You want to become a type of person who writes 500 words a day.
Small win: Writer 100 words each day this week. Next week, write 150 words. A week after that 200 words every day. After few months you’ll be writing 500 words a day.
Example 3: Meditating
You want to become a person who is more mindful.
Small win: Start with 60 seconds a day. Next week, meditate for 2 minutes. A week after that 3 minutes a day. Soon you’ll be able to meditate 15 minutes each day.
If you are serious about making a change, stop worrying about the end result and think more about your identity. You want to become a person who can achieve the things you put your mind to. Start building your habit and results will follow.
Making Big Changes Without Overwhelming Yourself
I’m a big believer, that if you want to make a change, you should focus on a single goal. Luckily there are those things called “keystone habits”, that if you focus on one keystone habit, it will automatically improve your life in many other areas as well.
For example, when I work out I want to eat better and I don’t even grave unhealthy foods. When I exercise I feel more productive afterwards, and my writing process is crisper. Finally, at the end of the day, I sleep better and feel fresh when I wake up. On the other hand, when I don’t workout, I tend to eat more junk food, feel stress, go to bed late and often feel tired when waking up.
There are probably many habits you’d like to pick up, but imagine if you would discover one or two keystone habits that would naturally put your life back on track.
Remember, keystone habits are different for everyone. For some, it’s waking up early, for the others, it’s working out. For many entrepreneurs it’s meditation. You probably already know what keystone habit would bring you the most success. Whatever it is, if you do it constantly, it can impact your life in so many ways.
Getting back on Track when Missing a day or two
We’ve all been there. We start a new habit, we follow through for a week or two and then something comes up and we miss a day. After that somehow the habit falls apart, and we quit. It’s important to realize, that if there’s a small hiccup, that doesn’t make you a failure, it makes you a human.
Most successful people in the world have slipped up on their habits, but what separates them is that is their ability to get on track as quickly as possible.
You shouldn’t avoid failure, you should plan for it. Here are some ideas you can use to get back on track before you get off course.
Have an Accountability partner
Have you ever been on a sport team, and everybody expects you to show up at the practice? Even if you didn’t feel like going sometimes, you still showed up because your teammates and coaches expected you to.
You don’t need to be on a team to make this work, simply have someone who holds you accountable. It could be a gym buddy, your friend or even a spouse. Talk to them, and tell about your habit. Ask them to check on with you once a week over a phone call or in person.
I had a friend succeeding with his working out habit by having a partner who he would call every time before he would hit the gym and he would tell him in detail what he exercises he would be doing that day. It worked like magic.
Stick to your Schedule
Let’s say that your habit is to go to gym 5 days a week, but something comes up on a Friday and you just can’t make it. It has happened to all of us. If you think about it rationally, if you only miss one workout you won’t be out of shape. If you miss 3 weeks in a row, then you can see a difference.
If you don’t have time to do a full workout, just do 10 pushups in your office.
If you don’t have time to write 500 words, write one paragraph.
If you don’t have time to do your full 15-minute meditation, take 30-second to breathe.
Yes, on a daily basis following through with your habits in such small ways won’t make that big of a difference, but the cumulative impact that you’re on schedule will.
Besides that, this strategy will guarantee long-term success and little successes become lifetime habits.
Put your habits on a Calender
If you treat your new habit like an important meeting you scheduled on your calendar, you won’t miss one. Let’s say that you are starting with a new habit, and you are planning to write 100 words every day. Put it on your calendar with a certain time and place.
If you are a type of person who tends to forget things (like me), I have my phone automatically reminding me 15 minutes before a meeting that something is coming up. This way I won’t forget, and if it’s on a calendar, it must be important, right?
Breaking Bad Habits
You should have a good understanding about creating new habits, but what about breaking bad ones? Bad habits make us not accomplish our goals and often jeopardize our health.
I agree with James Clear, who says that bad habits are caused because of stress and boredom. Everything from smoking, biting nails, drinking every weekend to procrastinating on Facebook.
The first step is to recognize what are your bad habits, and then you can start overcoming them.
Maybe you’ve tried to give up smoking for years but it hasn’t worked for you. Instead of eliminating bad habit you could replace it. So, when you feel stressed and want to have a cigarette, you could to find a different way to cope with the stress and start pursuing new behaviour instead of smoking. Cut out as many triggers as possible. If you smoke when you consume alcohol, then don’t go to the bar. If you eat junk food when you are at home, throw them all away.
Another thing is to cut out as many triggers as possible that make you pursue a bad habit. If you smoke when you drink alcohol, then don’t go to the bar. If you eat junk food when you’re at home, throw it all away before you eat it. It’s crucial to make it as easy as possible for you to avoid bad habits by eliminating the things that cause them in the first place.
One of the things you could do is to track how many times to pursue a bad habit each day. You could use your phone or pen and paper, and make a note every time bad habit happens. The goal isn’t to make yourself feel guilty, the goal is to be aware.
My Personal Habits
Writing is something I’ve been pursuing for years, and believe me, I’ve failed with the writing habit several times. When I first got started with blogging 4 years ago, I tried to write 7 blog posts a week. I managed to keep that schedule for 2 weeks and then I failed. Then I tried again, and then I failed after 8 days. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong, and to be honest, I was really frustrated and stressed.
I realized, that once I stopped focusing on results and simply focused on consistent schedule my results would improve. Instead of writing when I was inspired, I started writing every single day, even when I didn’t feel like it, even when I was sick. Since now I wrote more in quantity, the quality improved as well. It’s not all about doing your best work, sometimes it’s doing it on a consistent basis. Some days I write 2 pages of crap. It doesn’t matter because every day I write, and I’m not obligated to hit the “publish” button every time.
This is something that is still in process, but I’ve been intentional about complaining less. I realized that complaining fosters a negative attitude, it impacts people around us, it leaves us in a victim mode and it’s just really unattractive.
Day by day, I’ve been starting to embrace the recognition of an imperfect world. I’ve come to the realization, that it’s important to be mindful and notice my triggers. Usually, I started complaining when I was hungry or didn’t get enough sleep. I started avoiding these situations and in a result, I started complaining less.
I covered a lot of information in this article, and I really hope that it helps you. Most importantly you should remember, that knowledge is useless without action.
You know what to do, and the best time to do it is now. If you want to start a new habit, make it happen. If you want to break a bad habit, I believe in you!
Share in the comments section below what are some habits you are trying to pick up and a habit you are trying to break.
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