Making new habits stick is not an easy task. It takes work and time! But there are a few things that we can do to make it easier. I don’t know about you, but I have tried to create various different types of habits over the years. I was very successful with some of them while others fell through really quickly. In this post, I will share with you five things that all my habits that stuck have in common.
KNOW YOUR WHY
The very first thing that will help you make new habits stick is having a deep understanding of why you want to create those habits in the first place.
We are almost half way through February and this is the time where a lot of people forget out the resolutions or goals they have set out for the New Year. One of the main reasons for it is lack of clear why. Having a really good understanding of your reason for creating the new habit will be critical for you when your initial motivation and excitement wear off. Because they will! But your WHY will keep you going.
You really have to ask yourself why you want to adapt the new habit. And you have to dig very deep within you to get the answer. One of the best ways to do that is a method called ‘5-Why’s’. It is something that I used at work all the time as an analyst when I’m trying to find a root cause of a problem.
And it is very simple! You basically, keep asking yourself why, until you cannot ask it anymore.
Let’s say that the new habit you are trying to create is to eat three servings of veggies a day. This is the dialogue you would have with yourself:
I want to eat three servings of veggies each day
WHY do I want to eat three servings of veggies each day?
Because I want to be healthier
WHY do you want to be healthier?
Because I want to have more energy throughout my day
WHY do you want to have more energy?
Because I want to be able to keep up with my kids?
WHY do you want to keep up with your kids?
Because I want them to have memories of a childhood where mom was present and active with their activities
Notice the difference between the first why and the last why. What do you think will make you stick to your habits more: general phrase that you want to be healthier or your wish for your kids to be filled with memories of you being present and active with their activities?
This is why it’s so important to define your why up front.
SUPPORTIVE ENVIRONMENT MAKES NEW HABITS STICK
When you are working in creating new habits you really have to think about your environment. Specifically in terms of whether it is helping or deterring you from making those habits stick.
Let’s say the habit you are working on is drinking half your body-weight in water. Take a look at your environment to see how supportive it is of that habit. If your fridge at home is full of all kinds of sodas and juice, it will create a lot of temptation to drink them. And the more you drink those, the less water you will consume.
You want to make sure that you make some changes and adjustments to what you surround yourself with. Look around your house and workplace. Think about some of the things you should eliminate or substitute in order to make it easier on yourself.
If you are trying to eat healthier, substitute all junk food with healthier options. If you are working on a habit of saving money, avoid stores that tend to make you feel like you need to buy something. And if you are trying to create a habit of picking up your house each night, then don’t turn on your TV or check your phone until after you have done your chores so you don’t get distracted.
You cannot rely on will power. That is setting yourself up for failure. Some days you will be strong but others you will easily give in to temptation. Especially if it is so easily accessible.
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One of the biggest pitfalls when it comes to making new habits stick is being overly ambitious when we create them. We get so excited that we go for the gold right away.
Exercise is a perfect example. How many times did you set a goal for yourself that you will get more fit and make working out your habit? I know in the past this was my thing each January and a couple times throughout the year. We feel so energized to make that habit a reality that instead of starting out small we go all the way. Instead of starting with a habit of working out 2 to 4 times a week for 30 minutes, we go for 5 days a week for 1 hour and 1 day a week for 2 hours.
Of course what often happens next is that after a couple of weeks we get overwhelmed and we quit altogether. It just becomes too much.
The best way to make new habits stick is to make them realistic. You know yourself better than anyone. Therefore, when you create new habits, think about what you can realistically fit into your schedule and your lifestyle.
If you are working on a habit of eating more home cooked meals but you don’t get home until 7 pm don’t plan on cooking when you get home. Instead create a habit of prepping freezer meals on the weekend or setting up your slow cooker before you leave for work.
If you do not make your habits realistic, you will quickly get discouraged and quit. And remember that what is realistic for someone else may not be realistic for you.
When you are working on a new habit it is extremely helpful to have an accountability partner or group. Just like we have talked about the importance of having a supportive environment in the previous point, it is as important to surround yourself with supportive people.
We may not always get the level of support we need from those around us. For example, you might be working on writing a book, and you are trying to develop a habit of writing 5 pages a day. Your family might be supportive in helping you find time by taking on some of the household responsibilities. But they may not be able to offer the support you need when you experience a writer block or when you start questioning your approach for the book.
That is when you will find a lot of value in finding people who are working on the same habit. It could be a local group who meets on a regular basis. It could be a person with whom you check in daily to see the progress each of you have made. Or it could be a group on Facebook where you go in to get support and give support to others.
Choose the one that is most appealing to you and get started. It is always easier to work on habits when you have a supporting section cheering you on.
REWARDS ALONG THE WAY
Lastly, if you want your new habits to stick, you need to reward yourself along the way. There needs to be a way for you to celebrate as you reach small milestones.
The rewards should be small but something that you really enjoy and will look forward to. Perhaps, your new habit was to read a personal development book for 15 minutes each day. You can plan a reward for yourself after 2 weeks for being consistent. Maybe your reward will be going to a coffee shop every two weeks to read your book while you enjoy your favorite coffee.
When we have rewards along the way, it gives us something to look forward to. Instead of getting discouraged because our motivation will come and go, we will get encouraged to keep going because of those small rewards waiting for us.
What habits did you make stick in the past? Or what habits are you working on right now?