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We all have areas in our lives where we want to improve. So we set goals and hope to turn new routines into habits. But many times we fail. We start out on a good foot only to start slacking a few days or weeks later. There has to be a way to creating good habits and making them stick. There is. In this post, I am going to walk you through 7 steps to making good habits stick in your life. Let’s get started.
Creating Good Habits In 7 Steps
#1. Understand Habits
This is basic but there is a lot of wrong information out there about habits. For example, you probably think that it takes 21 days to make a habit. But you would be wrong. The time it takes varies by person. In fact a new study shows it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to create a new habit. The average length of time was 66 days.
While waiting almost a year to form a new habit looks overwhelming, don’t focus on this aspect of it. Just focus on doing your new routine each day and don’t get caught up in reaching a magical number that you think will signify a habit has been formed.
#2. Realize How Habits Work
When looking at a habit, there are three parts that make a habit stick:
- A cue
- A routine
- A reward
The cue is what reminds you to do the habit and the routine is what you do automatically. The reward is the payoff you get by doing the routine.
For example, let’s say you want to exercise after work. You need to set a cue first. This could be something like packing a gym bag and bringing it into your office or leaving it on the passenger seat of your car. It is there remind you of your routine.
The routine is going to the gym and working out. In time, this will become automatic and you won’t have to think about it or use a cue.
The reward is what you use to congratulate yourself for going to the gym or doing the routine. This can be anything that helps you to rewire your brain so that you associate good feelings with going to the gym. Over time, the reward makes it easier to hit the gym because you will subconsciously associate good times with the gym.
#3. Monotony Is The Spice Of Life
When creating good habits, you have to do the same thing over and over. I know it sounds boring, but you have to stick with the same routine if you want to turn the routine into a habit. If you change things up, you will never associate the reward with the routine and therefore the routine will never become a habit.
Think of it like this. If you want to exercise but change up the routine every few days, you will never associate the reward with that routine. It would be like trying to set a record time running a marathon and changing up your pace from a jog to a sprint to a skip to a hop along the way. You will never succeed because you keep changing things up.
#4. Accept Failure
You will fail over the short term at creating good habits. We are human and this is part of the game. If you miss going to the gym once or twice, don’t just quit thinking it will never become a habit. Accept that you had something more important happening and had to skip a workout.
Of course, if you find you are not following through more often than not, then this could be a sign there is an issue. You might want to look over your reward as it might not be as rewarding to you as you originally thought.
#5. Use Visualization As An Aid
I know from experience that visualizing helps me to succeed. So when it comes to habit forming, use visualization to your benefit. To do so, just rehearse the next day in your head before you go to bed. Just close your eyes and picture yourself at the gym going through your workout.
Work to see the detail – like the exact weight you are lifting or the speed at which you are running – to help solidify the images. You can also use this technique to envision your slender body as well.
If doing this the night before doesn’t work for you, then take 5 minutes at work and visualize. The time you do it isn’t as important as doing it. For me, it is most convenient when I lay down for bed.
#6. You Are Your Own Enemy
Our minds are awesome. But they can also be our own worst enemy. There will be times when your mind tries to talk you out of following through with your routine. Maybe you tell yourself you are too tired or you are working out too hard. In order to achieve your goals and set good habits, you have to overcome the self-sabotage.
How do you do this? You have to be present. When you start thinking these thoughts, stop. Question why you are thinking these things. Is it just because the comfortable routine is changing and you don’t like it? In this case, know that in time, this new routine will become the norm and comfortable.
When you take the time to question why you are thinking the things you are and rationalize them, you are improving your odds at overcoming your own self destruction.
#7. Use Technology As Motivation
Finally, since we live in a world of technology, it is smart to use it to our advantage. You can use the reminders on your phone as your cue to get to the gym. Or you can use an app to help keep you motivated during the monotonous times when creating good habits.
This is what I have done personally. I bought a fitness tracker back in 2013. In November that year I started to hit my daily goal for steps. After 3 days, it told me I was on a 3 day streak! That made me feel good and push through the next day when I was feeling lazy. Fast forward to today and my streak is still alive. It’s been almost 2 ½ years since I didn’t hit my step goal. Now, it has become so big that I just can’t not hit my step goal.
But the app doesn’t realize this so to keep me motivated, it tells me when I hit 1 million steps or 5 million steps, etc. As of this writing, I have hit 8 million steps and am excited to get the notification of 10 million steps.
Creating good habits takes work. But it can be done and done with great success. You just have to take the time to better understand how habits are formed and follow through. You also have to realize that you will have setbacks now and then and you can still create a habit even if you miss a day or two.
Don Dulin is the founder and main author on Unfinished Success, a personal development website whose goal is to help you be the best you. By making small changes everyday to how you live life, you can live your best life. You can learn more about him here.