The start of a new year usually means sitting down to write your resolutions. Some of those might include ditching old habits and creating new routines. But, as you have probably experienced before, that can be challenging.
Meditation, running and creating a morning routine are all habits that I have tried to incorporate into my life over and over again without success. Changing your behavior or creating a new habit takes a lot of willpower. Maybe I wasn’t motivated enough, didn’t followed the right strategies or that habit simply wasn’t for me.
But there is a habit I was able to stick to for the past two months and that is the practice of gratitude.
First, let’s get clear on what a habit actually means. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a habit is “something that you do often and regularly, sometimes without knowing that you are doing it”. Simply put, it’s something you do over and over again until it becomes automatic. Just like brushing your teeth.
How To Create A New Habit & Actually Stick To It
There is no strategy-fits-all.
We are all unique individuals with different goals and different ways to achieve it, so there is no strategy-fits-all. It’s up to you to try different strategies to see what works and what doesn’t work for you.
Build identity-based habits.
James Clear talks about the layers of behavior change:
- your identity – who you believe you are
- your performance – your actions
- your appearance – how the world perceives you
We tend to set goals centered around our performance or appearance – like “I want to lose weight“. What we need to understand is that first, we have to work on our identity.
A habit reflects your identity, the person you believe you are (either consciously or subconsciously). And your current habits reflect your current identity. To create a new habit, you need to start believing new things about yourself. If you keep thinking and doing the same things, you will set yourself up for failure.
If you don’t believe you can achieve a goal or create a new habit that means you need to work on your identity. Believe you are the person you want to become. Or fake it ’till you make it. Then it will become easier to change your actions and actually stick to your new habit.
Stop the productive procrastination.
One of the most popular excuses for not sticking to a new habit is lack of time.But it isn’t about finding the time. You need to choose to make time. For instance, I love the feeling after a yoga class but more often than not I don’t want to go because it means getting out of the house in the cold and making an effort to do the exercises. So for the past weeks, I’ve been giving myself the excuse that I have other things to do instead. More “productive” stuff. The truth is, I’m just procrastinating.
Work on one habit at a time.
If you think about it, it’s a lot harder to attempt starting five different habits at the same time than focusing on just one. You are much more likely to succeed at a new habit if you give it all your attention.
If it’s on your calendar, you’re most likely to get it done. Schedule time for the habit you are trying to incorporate into your life and then you can’t use the excuse “I don’t have time”. Another tip is to do it at the same time every day.
Monitor your progress.
Checking something off my to-do list is super satisfying and motivating. Is it just me? It means you completed a task and are moving on to the next one. So that is why I find it’s important to monitor your progress. Why don’t you create a calendar solely for your new habit and check every day as you go? It’s empowering to look back and see how far you’ve come. It will surely motivate you to keep going.
Keep yourself accountable.
Have someone hold you accountable. Telling someone about your plans, goals, and habits will help you keep on track and motivated to not disappoint (not only yourself but others). That is why I like to share my monthly goals on the blog. I don’t want to show up at the end of the month and tell you I did nothing to accomplish those goals. So that
usually keeps me motivated.
The cue and the reward.
Charles Duhigg talks about the habit loop in his book The Power of Habit which consists in cue – routine – reward. When creating a habit, we shouldn’t be giving all our attention to the routine itself but to the cue and the reward. Simply put, a cue is a trigger for a behavior to start and it can be a person, time, a place, etc. For me, it is having my gratitude journal on my nightstand so I can easily see it and grab it before bed.
The reward is something that motivates you to stick to your habit. When it comes to writing in my gratitude journal it is feeling thankful afterward. But, if your goal is going for a run three times a week, the good feeling afterward might not be enough to make you want to go next time. Think about something you love and have it as soon as you finish your run. Reward yourself after you completed one more day.
It’s okay to fall off the track.
When creating a new habit you must prepare yourself not only for feeling discomfort and resistance but also for failure. I’m sure you have tried and failed before. And if you are a perfectionist like me, it is even harder to accept that. You’re doing fine for the first five days but, for some reason, you miss a day and suddenly want to give up. I’m a failure, you think. But please, don’t beat yourself up over it. Setbacks are going to happen and that is okay. Just keep going.
These are the things that have worked for me as I created the habit of gratitude. As I’ve said, nothing guarantees that if you do all these steps you will be successful. It’s all about trying different methods and seeing what works best for you.
Made it to the end and still feel discouraged to create a new habit and stick to it? My blogging friend Sam from Smart-Twenties is re-launching her course Dream Habit: a 28-day habit boot camp for perfectionists and it might be exactly what you needed. It is perfect for those who struggle with motivation and want to achieve their goals & stick to healthy habits.
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