INSIDE: Have you been struggling and wondering how to create a new habit, or worse – you haven’t even tried because it seems too hard? This article will provide you with a 3-step process to help you create habits that will serve you well.
Let’s face it, we all want to make changes that better our lives.
More often than not, those changes come from creating new habits or eliminating habits that aren’t serving us.
The problem is…
Whether we want to eat healthier, stop smoking, get our business off the ground, or any number of scenarios, changing our habits is often easier said than done.
For some reason, it seems easy to acquire bad habits and harder to bring the good ones into our lives.
That’s why this simple 3-step process for creating new habits is so important…
3 Steps to Creating New Habits
Creating new habits (the good kind at least) requires intention and follow through in order to internalize the new behavior and make it something we do automatically without having to think about it.
This 3-step process is simple enough that it feels doable, yet powerful enough that it will make a positive impact on your life…
1 – Decide What Change You Want To Make With Clarity
Simple enough… The first step is to decide what you want your new habit to be.
The key here is to be as specific as possible. Instead of deciding that you want to exercise more, define that habit as something like, “I will go for a daily 30-minute walk.”
The good news is that choosing and defining your new habit with commitment is half the battle. Now for the other half…
2 – Remind Yourself To Get It Done & Make It Part Of Your Routine
Thankfully, the first few days after defining your new habit should be relatively simple.
At the beginning of any goal, we are typically motivated and excited to accomplish it, so sticking to your new habit isn’t an issue.
Unfortunately, in a few days, you’ll most likely slip back into your old habits.
Perhaps it’s cold outside so getting your daily walk in just doesn’t happen. Or maybe your day just gets away from you and your new habit takes a back burner.
That’s where having a daily reminder already set up can save the day. Since your new habit is not yet a habit, reminders are important in the beginning, so be sure to set an alert on your phone or add the task to your daily to-do list for the next 30 days.
Now, since it takes some time before a new behavior becomes a true habit, it’s important to set up a routine to kick start your new habit into gear.
Before the new behavior becomes automatic, making it part of your daily routine will eliminate the need for a lot of willpower.
So if we look at the example of walking daily, you could make it part of your after dinner routine, or change your routine from grabbing a snack at the vending machine at work to bringing a healthier choice from home.
3 – Change Your Mindset & Stay Motivated
Even if you’ve followed the first two steps in this habit forming process, it’s still easier to fall back into your old ways than it is to make lasting change.
That’s why you have to get your mindset right.
Now, the reason it’s easy to follow your new behavior during the first couple days is because you’re excited about the outcome of the change you want to make, and therefore you are inspired to take action.
The key to creating new habits in your life is maintaining that excitement and motivation.
And the way you do that is to keep your eye on the prize.
When your new habit feels difficult, overwhelming, or inconvenient, you need to instantly change your mindset and think about how great life will be when that new habit is formed.
There are many ways to accomplish this. For example, you might do any of the following:
- Imagine the outcome vividly in your mind until you feel inspired.
- Write your vision down (again vividly) and read it each time you need a boost of inspiration.
- Create a vision board or hang up a photo of a representation of the outcome you desire, and look at it several times a day.
The Relationship Between Habit & Willpower
There is a relationship between habit and willpower that is important to keep in mind as you set out to build a new habit.
The truth is, it can be hard to keep willpower going for any length of time.
Take dieting, for example. Out of the gate, most people go gung-ho at a new diet, but after going hungry for a week or two, that willpower fades.
Exercise is another example. We can make ourselves do exercises that we don’t enjoy for only so long before we run out of the willpower to keep it up.
So why is getting up to go to work every morning, brushing our teeth or taking a shower easy to remember to do? While they may not be our favorite tasks, we do them each day without running out of willpower. Why?
It’s because those things have become habits.
Our daily habits are such a part of us that we do them without even considering skipping a day, even if we don’t want to do them. It’s just what we do because it’s a habit.
Or Is It Responsibility?
And while you could argue that those things are just necessary and it would be irresponsible not to do them, isn’t it also irresponsible to continue eating things we shouldn’t eat or sitting on the couch instead of exercising.
Those things are just as irresponsible, and it is necessary to our health to improve them, yet if they aren’t habits, it won’t happen, at least not on a consistent basis.
The Light At the End of the Tunnel
An inverse relationship exists between habits and willpower.
Int he beginning stages of forming a new habit, it takes a lot of willpower to make it happen each day, but when the habit starts to be automatic, getting it done becomes easier until we get to a point where we don’t even have to think about it anymore.
Just being aware of this process is important because it can help us stick it out.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
By knowing it won’t always take so much effort to go for a run in the morning or pack ourselves a healthy lunch, we can feel better about putting in the extra effort in the beginning.
The Transition From Willpower to Habit
During the transition from willpower to habit, there are several tools you can use to make it easier:
- Set reminders in your phone and commit to doing the new task right when the reminder alarm goes off.
- Work with an accountability partner to motivate each other when the willpower starts to fade.
- Find ways to make the task easier when the time comes to do it, such as laying out your workout clothes and shoes the night before.
When you are striving to form a new habit, it is important to do everything you can to maintain your willpower until you have made the new behavior a true habit. When you get past the willpower stage, it’ll be easier because you’ll be on auto pilot.
How Long Does It Take To Create A New Habit?
It is said that it takes 21 days to form a new habit.
But is that really true?
Why doesn’t it take that long to form a bad habit?
And sometimes no matter how hard we try, it can take a lot longer than 21 days to form a new habit.
So what is the actual length of time needed to form a new habit?
It depends on two things:
- Your mindset
- How different the new habit is from your current habits or lifestyle.
For example, if you currently eat a daily bowl of regular ice cream, switching to frozen yogurt probably won’t take that long for it to become automatic. On the other hand, giving up that bowl of ice cream altogether could take a lot longer.
When we ask the question, “How long does it take to create a new habit?” what we are really wondering is how long we have to tough it out before it gets easier. Right?!!
While the answer will be different from person to person and from habit to habit, there are a few points that tend to be true in all cases:
- It is usually much easier to form a new habit than it is to stop an existing habit.
- Replacing an old habit with a new one can often be a good way to go about making a change. For example, drink tea instead of coffee, or choose a healthier sweetener instead of table sugar.
- We can form habits faster when we do them at the same time and in the same place each day. For instance, scheduling your daily walk for 7:00 every morning or right after dinner will work much better than just planning on going for a walk at some point during the day.
- It can be very helpful to have a constant reminder of why you’re trying to create the new habit. Hang up pictures that remind you of your end result, or writing down your vision for what you are trying to accomplish and reading it each day are great daily reminders.
Simple Tips For How to Create a New Habit
No one considers making new habits easy, but there are some important tips to keep in mind that can bring as much ease as possible into the process.
Here are six simple tips you can use to get you through until the new habit has become automatic.
Sometimes we forget to do that new thing we were trying because it’s second nature to do what we’ve always done. We might forget that we wanted to have a homemade salad for lunch instead of fast food or our daily walk might get forgotten about altogether.
It can really help to schedule your new habits into your daily to-do list until they become more automatic.
By letting loved ones know about the new habit you’re setting out to create, they can help you stick to your plan. It’s natural for setbacks to happen, but being accountable to someone who can lovingly nudge you makes it easier to get back on track.
Depending on your personality, you might even enjoy sharing your goal publicly. For example, you could make a post on Facebook or write a blog. Not wanting to look bad in front of others can be a big motivator.
Make Your New Habit Part of an Existing Habit
It can be a lot easier to form a new habit when that habit is an extension of our existing lifestyle. For example, if you always go for the coffee maker when you come downstairs in the morning and you want to get in the habit of taking a daily walk, grab your coffee and immediately go out for a walk.
Incentivize Yourself Not to Slip Up
Many people enjoy adding a fun element into their habit creation journey that makes it less likely for them to slip up.
You might want to put five dollars into a jar every time you skip your habit, and then donate the money to charity at the end of the month or give it to a loved one to spend on themselves.
Form a Partnership
There is most likely someone in your life who would like to create the same habit for him/herself that you want to create for yourself. You can schedule time together to work on your goal, encourage each other, and be there to keep each other moving forward.
It’s a lot more difficult to skip a walk if someone else is depending on you to walk with them.
Join a Group Challenge
There are so many supportive online groups and local groups that you can join to help keep yourself on track. Typically, these groups challenge each other to stick to a new behavior for the next 30 days or so.
Groups are great because no one wants to be the first one to give up. Plus, there are so many people to offer you encouragement when you need it. Who knows, you might even make a friend for life!
Adding Routines Into Your Day to Improve Your Habits
Having daily routines is essential for knowing how to create a new habit. Habits essentially are a routine in and of themselves.
Routines are also important for helping us make daily decisions. We need to be making good choices in order to accomplish our new habit each day.
But have you ever noticed that as the day goes on, it can get harder and harder to make decisions?
If you’re like most people, figuring out what to have for dinner can do you in after a long day at work. According to Entrepreneur, “our decisions begin to erode during the course of a typical day, as our fixed amount of willpower is used up.”
By knowing this, we can better prioritize our decisions. By implementing habits and routines into our lives, we can cut out a lot of decisions and save them for the important ones.
This also frees up the brain power we need for creativity and productivity. With the help of routines, we can simplify our lives and eliminate unnecessary stress.
You probably already have a morning routine. Perhaps you get up, sip a cup of coffee while reading the paper, check your email, and then take a shower.
But maybe you tend to be late for work because you have trouble choosing what to wear because you’re so stressed trying to get out of the door that you can’t think straight.
You could make yourself more productive by choosing what you’ll wear the night before. Then, you could just get dressed when you get out of the shower without the trouble of deciding what to wear, and you’re off.
The Power of Routines
It pays to implement routines into your day wherever possible. At home, meal planning routines can make meal time less stressful. At work, having a routine for getting marketing done will ensure it will get done instead of always staying on your to-do list.
Ending your day with a bedtime routine can help you fall asleep easier and eliminate the need to make decisions when you are too tired to make smart choices.
For example, you might do a couple chores that would make the morning easier, such as cleaning up the kitchen and getting everything in order for school the next day. Then, doing some things that help you relax, like reading a book or taking a bath, would be a great way to end the routine.
Creating Your Routines
To create routines to improve your life, take a moment to jot down the parts of your day that don’t tend to go smoothly. Brainstorm ideas for how you can create a routine for improvement. Then create a daily to-do list that maps out your routine.
By taking the time to create new habits, your life will become easier, more productive, and more fulfilling, and that’s a beautiful thing!
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