Whether you are aware of it or not, you are your habits.
Habits are not something you possess, like money in the bank; they are an integral part of you. Therefore, it’s not a matter of needing habits; they already exist within you.
The question is: what habits do you want to embody?
With that said, forming new habits can be a challenging and daunting task. Whether starting a new exercise routine or committing to a daily meditation practice, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure where to begin.
Developing new habits is much like living with a new partner; it takes some getting used to.
Fortunately, there are a ton of strategies that can help make habit formation more manageable and enjoyable.
This article provides some of the strategies that most of the clients I coach find helpful for forming and maintaining new habits.
When it comes to forming new habits, starting small is key. Instead of overhauling your entire routine overnight, incorporate one new habit at a time until you reach the neutral zone, meaning that most of the friction you felt, in the beginning is gone.
The goal is to become a badass at forming new habits.
Once you have mastered that, you are ready to move on to the next level and confront the big boss: changing your habits.
This could be as simple as drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning or taking a 10-minute walk after lunch.
It deserves to be emphasized again: The aim is to master the art of habit formation first.
Habits are not a destination to reach but a skill to master.
When I first started writing, I committed to writing two sentences in an article; 90% of the time, I would write much more than that. Still, the goal was to master the habit of sitting down at 5 AM to write, which was brutal at first.
Going to the gym can be replaced by just going to the gym and doing your favorite exercise for three reps.
Muscle pain and fatigue often keep people from going to the gym, causing them to break their streak and quickly give up. To avoid this, start small.
A lack of proper recovery often prevents people from running, causing them to break their streak and, as you may have guessed by now, to give up.
Again, start small.
Starting small will make you more likely to stick with your new habit and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Set a reminder on your phone so it goes off simultaneously every day.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Rewarding yourself for practicing good habits can be a powerful motivator. Whether you treat yourself to a favorite healthy snack or take a relaxing bath, finding ways to celebrate your successes along the way can help keep you motivated.
This positive reinforcement helps train your brain to associate good habits with positive feelings, making it easier to stick with them over time.
If you enjoy socializing, try coupling the new habit with social interaction.
Focus on daily progress – Not goals
Having goals is not bad, but once you reach them, you realize that it wasn’t the goals that motivated you but rather the progress you made.
To stay motivated, set specific, measurable, and achievable daily goals and focus 100% on progressing towards them.
If you aim to read more, you could read for 5 minutes daily.
Focusing on progress will give you an immediate sense of accomplishment, which can help keep you motivated.
Use Visualization Techniques
Visualization can be a powerful tool for forming new habits when combined with action.
Take some time each day to imagine yourself successfully practicing your new habit.
Visualize the benefits of this habit how it will make you feel, and how it will change your life.
Doing this will make you more likely to stay motivated and committed to your new habit.
NOTE TO SELF: Don’t forget to incorporate action!
Create a Morning Routine
Creating a small but powerful morning routine with healthy habits such as exercise or 5-minute meditation sets the tone for your day.
Find what works for you.
By starting your day with positive habits, you signal to yourself that you are a person who gets things done. This, in turn, makes it more likely that you will continue practicing good habits throughout the day.
Mindfulness can help you stay present and aware of your daily habits.
Focusing on the present moment, you’ll be more likely to notice when you’re triggered to engage in harmful habits and be able to make a conscious effort to change them.
Use Habit Stacking
Habit stacking involves adding new habits to existing daily routines.
If you want to start practicing yoga daily, you could do it immediately after an existing morning routine.
Stacking new habits onto existing routines, you’ll be more likely to remember to practice them consistently.
- Take a moment to organize your workspace before starting work each day
- Practice gratitude by writing down three things you’re thankful for before going to bed at night
- If you see a friend on a regular basis, suggest that you both do some exercise together on a regular basis
Use the 30/90 Rule
The 30/90 rule involves practicing a new habit for 30 days straight to form a habit and then continuing to practice it for 90+ days to make it a lifestyle.
Committing to practicing a new habit consistently for this amount of time, you’ll be more likely to make it a permanent part of your routine and, later on, a part of your identity.
Implement Habit Triggers
Habit triggers saved my life. No further discussion there!
Without a solid reminder to practice a new habit, we are granted to drift
- Set a reminder on your phone to take a stretch break every hour during work
- Place your running shoes by the door to remind you to go for a run after work
- Keep a book by your bed to remind you to read before going to sleep
When you implement habit triggers, you’ll be more likely to remember to practice your new habits consistently.
Sharing your habit goals with a friend or joining a support group can help you stay motivated and accountable. Having someone to share your progress with will make you more likely to stick with your new habits.
Think of AA meetings for forming better habits.
Use Habit Reflection
Tracking your progress and identifying any challenges hindering your success can help you stay motivated and adjust as needed.
Regularly reflecting on your habits will identify what’s working and what’s not.
Track, measure, and evaluate your progress every day.
Incorporate Self-Care Habits
When we first start a new habit, the brain interprets it as learning something new. This can feel physically, cognitively, and emotionally draining.
Incorporating self-care habits into your routine, such as taking daily breaks.
Taking a 15-minute power nap or going for a short walk can help you stay energized and focused.
By prioritizing self-care and focusing on physical, cognitive, and emotional recovery, you’ll be better equipped to stick with your new habits.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
Technology can be a powerful tool to form and maintain new habits. Setting reminders or using apps to track your progress helps you stay on track and motivated.
Make your progress list as visual as possible, or go crazy with the numbers if you are into that. It is important to track your progress and check off the habit as you complete it. The brain will reward you with that sweet dopamine.
Celebrate Your Successes
Celebrating your successes, no matter how small they may seem, can help you stay motivated and committed to your new habits. Yes, this is because celebrating releases more dopamine in your brain.
So, set 2 min every day to acknowledge your progress and credit yourself for your hard work.
Keep a Journal to track your wins for the days you feel like giving up.
A habit is like a relationship you have with yourself. The more invested you are in that habit, the harder it becomes to abandon it.
Be Patient with Yourself
Forming new habits takes time and effort; as I mentioned, there is a lot of friction in the beginning.
Be kind and patient with yourself.
You are not a failure because of a couple of mistakes along the way. It’s a long game.
The most important thing is not to miss twice. Stay committed and persistent, and you will eventually establish your habit.
Consistency always wins in the long run.
Identify Potential Obstacles
Identifying obstacles that may prevent you from forming new habits and creating a plan to overcome them can help you stay on track.
Where are you most vulnerable to triggers and setbacks?
By anticipating internal and external challenges and having a plan, you’ll be more likely to succeed.
Experiment with Different Strategies
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to forming new habits; you must find what works for you.
There is much room for experimentation within the habit loop (cue, craving, response, and reward).
Experiment with different strategies in every stage of the habit loop to find what works best for you.
Focus on learning everything about habit formation and your underlying needs, particularly self-defeating habits.
Create a Supportive Environment
Create a personal environment that supports the behavior you want to embody.
Surrounding yourself with people who encourage and support your habits will help you stay motivated and committed to your goals.
If you are a loner like me, find a tribe of mentors online. They don’t even have to know that you exist.
Fill your head with everything there is to know about a subject, and the output will follow.
Taking notes is crucial, as it is during this process that the information you are consuming is transformed into knowledge, and when you apply it in practice, it becomes second nature.
How many of the books you have read do you remember successfully applying the information in the book to your own life?
Information is transformed into knowledge through note-taking, and practice is transformed into mastery through continued effort.
Here are some questions to help identify any beliefs that may be limiting your ability to form habits:
- What beliefs do you currently hold about your ability to form new habits?
- What past experiences have shaped your thoughts and feelings about how to quit or start a new habit?
- What specific challenges have you faced in your attempts to quit or form new habits, and how have these experiences affected your beliefs about your ability to quit or form new habits?
- What would be possible without these limiting beliefs?
Books on habits
- Atomic Habits by James Clear
- The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
- Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything by BJ Fogg
- Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits by Gretchen Rubin
- Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick by Wendy Wood
- The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
The Two Buckets: Balancing Emotions and Actions for Personal Growth