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Making good habits stick is one thing many of us struggle with, especially once we reach half way through the month of February.
All those glorious goals and resolutions we laid out for ourselves on the 1st of January seem to lose their sheen in no time, am I right?
With 2020 just around the corner, I figured I’d share some foolproof tips to help those good habits stick, not just for the year, but for life.
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A lot of this comes from my own trial and error when it comes to habit building exercises.
Additionally, I have one book that I really owe everything to, when it comes to good habit formation.
That is Atomic Habits by James Clear. Pick up a copy today. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
Are you based in India? Pick up a copy of the book from Amazon India here.
The idea for this post actually came from an Instagram series of stories that I started on my profile this week.
In a very casual way, I mentioned my top 5 priorities for 2020, as seen below.
Then, I invited my followers to comment by sharing their own goals and priorities for 2020, by giving them a blank version of the above template.
Click here if you’d like a copy of the template to make your own goals.
Incredibly, I had more than 30 people sharing their priorities with me within a few hours.
Each of them were diverse in their lists, but there was a common thread running through them all- the hope to become better at something.
In other words: Building a good habit!
So, I figured this would be a good chance to explain how I made a good habit stick and help them extrapolate it to their own goals.
IDENTIFY YOUR GOALS
This is particularly important if you want to start building and maintain good habits .
Use the template given above and list out the top 5 things you want to focus on, in the coming year. Just go with me on this.
All done? Now comes the prioritising bit.
PICK ONE PRIORITY AT A TIME
Why do most goals and habits fail?
Because they are too broad and too many in number.
From your list, pick any one goal or habit you’d like to focus on.
Here’s the important part: Focus on ONLY that for the next three months.
Why 3 months?
Because it’s perfect in terms of a time frame.
Long enough for you to see progress; short enough for you not to get tired of it.
In my case, I chose ‘Fitness’ for the time frame, October to December.
And I’ve chosen ‘Cook/Eat Healthy food’ for the next quarter.
We now come to 7 Important Tips to help you make good habits actually stick.
For this post, I’ll use fitness as a reference habit. You may, of course, extrapolate it to any goal, habit or priority you’ve chosen.
Take a Fresh Approach
Formation of good habits requires a very important component.
Forget everything you think you know about your chosen goal.
Approach it with fresh eyes.
Even if you’ve tried to take this habit up multiple times in the past and have failed multiple times, this time will be different.
Earlier, whenever I used to start exercising, I’d do it with one goal in mind: Lose weight.
This time, however, I realised that weight loss is a very tough goal for someone who has never worked out consistently.
When I chose fitness, I began to see it as a way to care for my physical body and my mental health.
So, I decided to work out because it would help me feel better.
A simple self-affirmation works, such as , ‘Finish your workout for the day and see how it makes you feel.’
Working out became something I wanted to do; not what I HAD to do in order to achieve weight loss. See the difference?
Believe in a New Identity
I absolutely LOVED this tip that I learnt from James Clear’s book.
You can actually read an extract of this idea here on his website.
In order to truly build good habits and break bad habits, you have to start believing new things about yourself.
For instance, if ‘health’ is one of your priorities, decide that you are going to be a ‘healthy person.’
Then, go ahead and prove it to yourself with daily, consistent wins.
I decided that I would be a healthier person in 2019. To that end I started consciously asking this question any time I faced a choice:
What would a healthy person do?
Would she take the stairs or take the elevator?
Would she whip up a quick meal or order in for the weekend?
Would she sleep in for an extra 30 minutes or head to the gym instead?
The Right Way to use Motivation
This is VERY important.
Motivation and willpower won’t sustain you when it comes to habit building.
Watching other healthy people work out won’t make you healthy.
Sure, it can inspire you to lace up your shoes and head out for a walk, but you know that adage about taking a horse to water, am I right?
Motivation, by itself, is very short lived because it relies on the wrong factors for habit building.
Instead, you have to find the optimum zone where motivation will work.
If you tell yourself, ‘I will walk 10,000 steps every day!’ your motivation will burn out very quickly because it’s too much for you to manage.
If you say, ‘I will walk 50 steps daily’, that’s too little and hardly motivation for you to stick with a habit.
However, if you tell yourself, ‘I will try and walk at least 500 steps each day‘, you’d observe that it is the optimal motivation you need.
The days you can manage more than 500 steps is intrinsic motivation by itself. And that brings us to my most favourite tip of all!
Read about how I built a very interesting habit in 30 days!
Create Systems for your Habits
I absolutely love this about habit building!
When you put a system in place, habits become way easier to maintain.
A system is very simple. It’s the routine you put in place to make your identity a firm one.
For health, decide on a very tiny routine and follow it every single day until it becomes a part of your identity.
Example: Lay out your walking clothes,socks and shoes the night before. Walk for 15 minutes every single day, at the same time. Just 15 minutes.
After a week, make it 20 minutes.
How can you tell when the habit is set? When you feel odd about missing a day in your routine!
Don’t Stress about Outcomes
Why do 90% of habits fail?
Because we don’t see the results we want, when we want them, correct?
You start working out; you keep watching the scales.
You don’t notice anything budging even after 2 weeks of working out.
You get discouraged, throw in the towel and stop working out!
Don’t stress about outcomes and results, because that takes the joy away from the system.
Just focus on showing up every single day. Consistency triumphs over results when it comes to habit building.
I’ve worked out every single day since the 14th of October this year. That’s nearly 60 days in a row.
One of the main reasons I’ve managed to stick with it is because I didn’t worry about weight loss. I just showed up every single day. No excuses.
Change your Environment
Want to focus on health? Ensure that everything you do is related to health.
Read more books on getting healthy, watch and follow YouTube workout videos to improve your endurance and implement tips given by fitness experts when it comes to safe workouts.
Keep workout and fitness gear easily accessible at home.
In other words, fitness should become a daily mantra, not something you can ‘maybe make time for at the end of the day’.
The ‘No Time’ argument is a very weak one, even for working professionals.
If you have 15 minutes to scroll through Instagram daily, you have 15 minutes to work out daily. Trust me.
Fall in love with your habit
This is very crucial: Enjoy your workout!
If you do anything at all with the idea that it is a chore or that it MUST be done, you won’t see it through.
Instead if you learn to enjoy it, you won’t have any trouble sticking to the routine. That’s why you should start with something you already enjoy.
For me, that was badminton followed by swimming.
Once I got into the rhythm, I wanted to mix it up with the elliptical machine.
Then I progressed to weights and strength training.
Today, I LOVE working out for its own sake. I can’t imagine going more than a day without working out in some way or another.
For me, that means I’ve built a habit not for the quarter, but forever.
Habit building takes time and effort, but it isn’t HARD, as you might think.
Follow these simple tips I’ve outlined above and before you know it , you’d be acing every habit that you choose to build over a lifetime.
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*Stock Photo by Dean Drobot via Shutterstock