‘First we make our habits. Then our habits make us.’ This quote from Charles Noble pretty much summarizes what will happen the rest of the year—and our lives. We all have New Year’s resolutions: quit smoking, start a business, make more friends. But willpower just gets you started.
The real hero (or villain) is habit. Good habits keep you going when enthusiasm has waned. With small, steady steps, you finally get to where you want. Bad habits, on the other hand, derail you even when your enthusiasm is burning like a forest fire. Here are secrets to creating the habits that will change your life.
life tip # 1: The best habits are simple and concrete
Think of the habits you keep: brushing teeth, checking your email. They’re simple, concrete, and clearly tied to an action. So when you make a resolution, identify the good habit that will contribute to it, and the bad habit that will hold you back. Example: ‘Eat healthy food.’ A good habit would be ‘Have one vegetable serving every lunch and dinner.’ A bad habit would be ‘Order pizza when I’m too tired to cook.’
life tip # 2: Identify the triggers of bad habits
In the earlier example we saw that a bad habit is ‘ordering pizza when I’m too tired to cook.’ What triggers this scenario? ‘I don’t know any simple recipes.’ Or, ‘I don’t have ingredients in my refrigerator for a simple recipe.’ Once you know the triggers you can think of solutions. ‘Research on simple recipes.’ ‘Make a meal plan and buy ingredients ahead of time.’
life tip # 3: Replace a bad with a good one.
The best way to kick a bad habit is to focus on a good habit. For example, your body and even mind will rebel if you just say, ‘Quit smoking.’ Your odds of succeeding dramatically increase when you simultaneously aim for a good habit that makes smoking impossible. For example ‘learn to draw‘ (how can you hold a pen and a cigarette at the same time?) or ‘run everyday’ (the searing chest pains as you overwork your poor lungs will motivate you to cut back, then quit, on cigarettes).
life tip # 4: Take the 21 day challenge
Habits can be our comfort zone. We can be overwhelmed at the thought of giving up something we’ve been doing for a very long time. Lessen the anxiety by saying, ‘I’m only going to try this for 21 days.’ Why 21? Studies show that’s the time it takes to completely stop or create a habit.
It’s also better to tackle one habit at a time. So, look at your New Year’s resolutions and schedule one habit for every month.
life tip # 5: Find your carrot
You know the analogy of the carrot on the stick? Know what motivates you—it should be clear, and come from your gut. For example, many smokers aren’t really affected by health warnings like ‘you can get cancer.’ But they may be emotionally motivated by things like ‘I want to be able to see my kids grow up.’
Also try to establish a good support system: people who can motivate you when even your carrot is starting to lose its luster. Go online and find a forum or a group with the same goal. Or, team up with friends or co-workers.
life tip # 6: Watch your words and thoughts
Stop yourself immediately when you think or say things like ‘This is too hard!’ or ‘I’m such a failure!’ Replace it with a positive thought, like ‘I can do this!’ or ‘It will all be worth it!’ It actually helps to have a mantra, that you can repeat to yourself over and over again. For example, if you want to eat healthy, you can chant ‘I am what I eat, I am what I eat.’ Having a mantra can help you instantly push out negative thoughts.
Photo from zentrader