Have you ever wondered why some people seem to get so much done? When they say, ”I’m going to…” start exercising, eat healthier, get organized, read more, etc., you know that they’re going to make it happen.
But when you try to go after similar goals, it’s a different story. You might be able to stick to them for a while, but then, somewhere along the way, you lose your motivation and quit.
When that happens often enough, it’s easy to get frustrated and discouraged. Creating and sustaining good habits, however, doesn’t have to be so difficult and painful. In fact, it can be quite easy. It can even be a lot of fun.
Your habits play an important role in your life. Having good habits leads you to the life that you dream about and wish for. Having bad habits, on the other hand, will lead you to failures. So, it’s essential that you build good habits.
Here is what we all need to understand: habits are an absolute must in our day-to-day actions. Why? because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. In other words, the brain will make almost any routine into a habit because it allows our minds to just take a break and work on autopilot.
Here’s how to develop good habits and make them stick:
- Start Ridiculously Small
Most people want to create big change as quickly as possible. They want to go from zero to four gym sessions every week, switch to a healthy diet overnight, and meditate for 20 minutes every day even though they’ve barely managed 5 minutes in the past.
The problem, of course, is that this requires a tremendous amount of willpower. Research has shown that willpower works a lot like a muscle. If you use it a lot, it will get tired. Plus, when it does, you’ll be very likely to quit.
The solution to this problem is to start so small that it hardly requires any willpower at all:
- Instead of doing 50 pushups per day, start with 5.
- Instead of switching to a new diet, add a vegetable to every lunch.
- Adopt This 3-Step, New Habits Crushing System:
Biting your nails? Eating food that is bad for you late at night in front of the TV? Spending money that you really do not need to spend? Wasting time instead of being focused and productive?
Drop the self-criticism. There is always a way for you to change your habits to those that will serve you best.
So here is the most important thing to know about changing habits to change our lives: you can’t extinguish a bad habit. You can only change it by creating an alternative one. Does that sound complicated? Not at all. New habits are created when we use a very simple, 3-step process. I call it the CRR System:
Let’s take the example of going to the gym every morning.
Cue: sneakers and gym outfit (socks included) by the bed
Routine: get out of bed, drink coffee, leave the house by 6:30 a.m.
Reward: smoothie after a workout
See the 3-steps here? Let’s take another example.
To stop the habit of eating unhealthy snacks at the TV every night.
Cue: a big pot of herb tea and a glass and a small bowl of fruit by the TV every evening
Routine: sit by the TV, relax, drink herb tea, eat fruit
Reward: new pants by the end of each 7-day successful evenings
- Have a Clear Goal
If you’re serious about your new habit, vague intentions like “I’ll try to hit the gym three times this week” won’t cut it.
Research has shown that you’ll be much more likely to follow through if you’ve decided beforehand exactly when and where the behavior is going to take place.
Here is what research says: write down your intention, and then SCHEDULE IT. The clarity here is key because the brain will always look for excuses to go back to old habits and postpone or ignore anything new, especially if it requires effort.
You are working against your brain, so to get these new habits to become a part of your routine, do not leave anything vague or open. Write it down and schedule it, because what you schedule clearly, you are far more likely to actually do.
People, if your habit is truly important to you, let your calendar reflect that. Put it on your schedule like you would an important business meeting.
- Change One Thing in Your Environment
Your environment may manipulate your decision-making more than you think. For example, if you want to lose weight, decide on one change. Pick a smaller plate so you consume less food.
Do you keep missing gym sessions? Put your gym clothes right at the foot of your bed at night, sneakers and socks included.
Do you see where I am going with this? Forget self-control and make your life easier. Manipulate one thing in your environment that will condition you to succeed. Once you change that one thing in your environment, you’ll retrain your brain and create new and healthier habits.
- Surround Yourself With Supporters
The people around us have a surprisingly big impact on our behavior. One study showed that if you have a friend who becomes obese, your risk of obesity increases by 57-percent — even if your friend lives hundreds of miles away!
Other research has shown that we tend to feel the same way, and adopt the same goals, as the people we spend the most time with. So, one way to dramatically increase your chances of success is to make sure you have the right people in your corner.
If you want to create new healthy habits but all your friends are unhealthy, it’s time to make some new friends. If you want to make big things happen in your life but you’re surrounded with pessimists who drag you down, it’s time to create a support group who inspires you and picks you back up when you fail.
You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with, so be selective about them.
When you take small steps to form new habits, you’ll be amazed at the success and accomplishments you’ll be able to enjoy. You can be proud of the many areas of your life. Your finances will improve; relationships will flourish and you’ll feel healthy and energetic.
Simple habits have the most impact, so don’t worry about making life-changing decisions overnight. Change is gradual and it happens through repeated motions that we eventually turn to habits.
What good habits can help contribute to your success? What can you set as a goal for your day today?
Yes, you can change your habits.
And yes, you can absolutely transform your life.
It is in your hands.