11 Ways To Help Make Habits Stick Once & For All
Trying to make room for a new lifestyle and finding a way how to make a habit stick is so hard. The majority of us are so comfortable in our ways that it seems like a lot of effort to shake things up so late in the game, and so good intentions and new ideas get pushed to the side. They get buried next to "New Years Resolutions" and "Diet Fads," with the acknowledgement that it was a valiant effort but what can ya do.
But if we take a moment and become truly honest with ourselves, I think we can admit that the trigger to our failures is laziness. It's hard work introducing something new to our schedules, or tossing something out in order to make room for the new habit. It's hard giving up creature comforts like couch lolling in order to go running, or waking up early when all our bodes want to do is hit the snooze. But while that might be true, there are a couple of handy tricks that could make the process easier and, more importantly, worth it. Below are 11 tips on how to make habits stick, no matter how hard they are.
1. Figure Out Why You Have Been Failing
Say your new habit is going to the gym, but you only manage to go once a week because you're not a fan. How can you make this new habit stick? Well first, figure out why it's failing. Lifestyle writer Celestine Chua from Lifehack explained, "Address the root cause of the issue, not the effect. Desperately battling with yourself every morning to wake up at 5:30 a.m. is to address the effect. Understanding why you keep failing to wake up at 5:30 a.m. is to address the cause." Is your gym too far away? Closes too early? Maybe hunting down your gym clothes discourages you from even trying? Or maybe you're intimidated by the crowds? Once you know your triggers, work on changing them.
2. Prepare For Challenges
You know from experience starting a new habit is never smooth sailing, so instead of being derailed by the inevitable hiccup, prepare for it. Lifestyle writer Naia Goodman from Entreprenuer offered, "As you work toward a goal, you need to prepare for potential problems you'll encounter. To ensure that old habits don't derail your goals, create plans that outline, 'If I am in situation X, then I will respond by X.'" For example, say you want to become a runner — if going for your jog after work is usually derailed by couch sitting, put on your running clothes at work so you don't have an excuse to go right away.
3. Create Reminders For Yourself
Don't rely on your own willpower to stick to a habit. Human behavior writer James Clear said, "Getting motivated and trying to remember to do a new behavior is the exact wrong way to go about it. If you’re a human, then your memory and your motivation will fail you. It’s just a fact." Rather, create reminder triggers through out your day that will make you naturally fall into the next step, which would be your habit. For example, if you want to go running every morning, leave your shoes by the kitchen table and slip them on before you put your dishes in the sink. Or if you want to start flossing every morning, leave the floss next to your toothbrush. These will act as your reminders, and they'll become automated.
4. Start Teeny Tiny
Say you want to start eating healthier. Rather than tossing bags of Cheetos out of your window and promising to only eat kale for the rest of the year, start much, much, much smaller. Clear advised, "How small? BJ Fogg suggests that people who want to start flossing begin by only flossing one tooth. Just one." So in this case, buy just one healthy thing and add it into your usual recipes. Swap out Coco Puffs for oatmeal, or drink water with your popcorn. Just do one tiny thing and build from there.
5. Agree To 30 Days
No matter how many times you mess up, fall back into old ways, or have to fight to stay on track, commit to a 30 day time period. Lifestyle writer Scott H Young from Lifehack offered, "If you can make it through the initial conditioning phase, it becomes much easier to sustain." So pinky promise yourself you'll stick to that 30 no matter what, and you have a chance. Put it on the calendar if it helps you visualize better!
6. Reinforce Your Habits
Wanting to wake up at six every morning isn't going to work if you keep going to bed a one every evening. If you're trying to cultivate a new habit, you're going to have to bookend it with other ones in order to make it work. Chua offered, "If you want to cultivate a habit, identify the other habits that are tied with it and make a holistic change. These habits will reinforce each other to help make the change seamless."
In the early wakeup call example, attach it with the habit of "wanting to read every day," giving you a reason to wake up two hours earlier than usual. Or link "going to sleep earlier" with "running every day" in order to give your body enough rest and recuperation time.
7. Change Your Language
Instead of using negatives, swap them out for positives. For example, instead of saying "Don't eat junk food," say, "Eat lots of veggies and fruits today." Why does that help? Jonathen Alpert, psychotherapist and author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days, told entrepreneur site Inc, "In much the same way if I say, 'Don't think about a zebra with pink and blue stripes.' One has to actually think about what a zebra would look like in order not to think about it." Don't tempt yourself. Use positive language instead.
8. Weave Your Habit Into Small Moments
Say you want to eat healthier or read more, but you're finding carving out a solid hour each day to do that is way too difficult. Instead, weave the habit into smaller portions of your day. Alpert offered, "Set up a new, healthy behavior while watching TV — maybe it's eating carrots, or stretching. This new, healthier behavior will soon become habit." Or do five squats every time you go to the bathroom, grab something healthy every time you go use your laptop, or read your book every time there are commercials. Weave it in there.
9. Get Specific On Why You're Doing It
Alpert recommended asking yourself, "What's your motivation?" Why? Because the effort and commitment will seem more worth it if you have a clear idea as to why you're doing it. For example, maybe you want to start exercising because you want to go hiking or biking in the summer without wanting to keel over. Maybe you want to read more so you can do at least one thing you love every day, making the week less about work and boring routines. Tackle what the root of your new habit is, and keep that in the forefront. It'll keep you more on track.
10. Schedule It Into Your Planner
How annoying is it to see that one thing still hanging out on your planner to-do list, that one thing you dropped the ball on and missed? Seeing a task in your planner gives it more gravity, and so you'll be more likely to do it. According to Chua, "Having a schedule lets you know when you are on or off track for your habits. For the 1st day of my new lifestyle, I did a full-day planning and continued thereafter for all other days." Make it permanent that way.
11. Don't Get Discouraged
No matter how many times you've messed up, don't get discouraged. It takes time and determination to make a new habit stick. Goodman put it into perspective, "Imagine a piece of paper with a very deep crease. Mastering a new habit is like ironing out the old crease and reinforcing a new one — it takes time." So even if you've skipped a couple of days, lapsed into old ways for a week, or ran out of energy to keep trying, don't give up. You're the only one that gets to decide if it's working or not.
Keep these in mind and you'll master your habit in no time!
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