Choosing the habits you want to build isn’t always the hard part; it’s about choosing new habits that stick. Understanding how to build new habits is essential for making progress in your health, your happiness, and your life in general. So what steps can you take to make sure your new habits will last long-term?
1. Shape your environment for success
In many ways, your environment drives your behavior. Have you ever walked into a room, spotted a plate of goodies, and eaten them just because they were there, not because you were actually hungry?
Professor of psychology and bestselling author, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, provides an excellent framework to shape your environment to support your desired habits.
The idea is that each one of your habits requires a certain amount of energy to get done. And the more activation energy it needs, the less likely you'll be to follow through and do it.
Let’s say you want to read more books, but you usually find yourself watching TV instead. What you need to do is:
Decrease the activation energy of your desired habit (reading books). Make it easy for yourself to follow through with this. For example, put a great book next to your living room couch or on your bedside table. And then increase the activation energy of your undesired habit (watching TV) by making it harder to do. For example, hide the remote, so that you must get up to turn on the TV and even change the channel. This makes it easier and more appealing to just lean over and grab the book you have conveniently placed on the table next to you.
By changing the activation energy of your behaviors, you can nudge yourself in the right direction.
2. Find your tribe
We have all heard the term “your vibe attracts your tribe”, and it is so true. The people around us have a big impact on our behavior.
There’s evidence to show that the people around us influence how we perform and behave. For example, studies suggest that we’re more likely to achieve our fitness goals if we surround ourselves with people who’ve already crushed those goals. Here’s why.
- Accountability - Remember, top performers don’t slack off when the going gets tough. Why? Because they have a powerful tribe motivating and pushing them toward their performance goals.
- Fulfillment - When you’re part of a tribe, you feel loved, wanted, and nurtured, because someone always has your back. Finding your tribe makes you feel fulfilled like never before - this is the perfect mindset to help you exceed your limits and smash your goals.
- Achievement - When you find your tribe, it feels like anything is possible. They push us in ways that others can’t because they genuinely care about our success. They want us to excel just as badly as we do.
So, one way to dramatically increase your chances of success is to make sure you have the right people in your corner. The people around us should support us, motivate us, and, most importantly, inspire us to improve ourselves.
3. Be specific and realistic
When most people set out to form a new habit, their motivation for it is at an all-time high and they go BIG. They set the bar so high that they burn out before they even have a chance at reaching it, and then quickly fall back into their old ways. When you are setting your new habits, make sure they can reasonably fit within your already-busy life. Be clear about what you want to achieve and how you are going achieve it.
It may seem counter-intuitive to set small goals when you want big results, but it is important to keep each habit reasonable, so that you can maintain momentum. The small goals are ones that you will continue to achieve, and the more you continue to progress forward, your willpower and motivation will increase, making it easier to stick to your habit for good.
For example, if you want to make going to the gym a regular part of your routine, start by going three days a week versus six. If you want to read more, start by reading just 10 pages a day versus jumping right in to the whole book. Small wins equal big results!
4. One mistake doesn’t always mean FAILURE
We all do it. We all make mistakes and get off track at some point. The difference between successful people and the average Joe is that the successful ones get back on track as quickly as possible. They recognize what went wrong and they learn from it to make sure it doesn’t happen again. One mess-up has been proven to have no measurable impact on the long-term progress of your work. When working toward a goal you must rid yourself of the “all or nothing” mentality because we should be striving for progress, not perfection. You just need to be consistent, not perfect. Focus on building the identity of someone who never misses a habit twice. Over time, progress is how you will earn that result you have been craving.
5. Patience and consistency are key
We have all been told that patience is a virtue and, in this case, learning to be patient is perhaps the most important step of all. Good things do not happen overnight; good things take both time and effort. Do things you can sustain, and you will be shocked at the incredible progress you make when you are both consistent and patient.
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