Updated: October 4, 2020
Who you are today can be defined as a sum of your habits. What you repeatedly do forms the kind of person that you are, and will be.
That’s why it’s essential to have a sense of self-awareness; for you to see which habits are doing you good; and which ones are bringing you harm.
More importantly, with the desire to become a better person, you should learn how to effectively form good habits, and similarly, break bad ones.
Below are five practical and proven ways that will help you create new habits that stick and last a lifetime.
1. Commit to 3 months.
The moment you decide to form a new habit, we feel hopeful and motivated. But also, there’s that dread and fear of failure.
To avoid or minimize that negative thought, it greatly helps to just commit to doing the habit for only 3 months. You’ll feel less pressure, and the chance for success is higher.
For example, if you want to start eating healthier, then instead of looking at it as a permanent change in your lifestyle, you can consider it as just a 3-month challenge.
In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, a health psychology researcher, Phillippa Lally found out that on average, it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic.
Thus, committing to a 3-month challenge can really help you make that new habit stick for life. And if ever it hasn’t yet become an automatic habit after 3 months, then you can just renew the challenge for another 3 months until it does.
2. Transform it into a mini-habit.
According to best-selling author, Stephen Guise, the easier it is to do something, then the easier it is to sustain. Thus, if the new habit that you’re forming is easy to do, then the chances that it will stick is higher.
To accomplish this, you can transform your goal into a mini-habit. This means making it quick, simple, and painless — a task that requires very little time and almost zero willpower to do.
I discussed this strategy in a previous post. I shared that if you want to learn the habit of saving, then commit to saving just P1 each day.
Putting a peso into a piggy bank every day is quick, simple, and painless. But doing this task daily will eventually become a habit. Later on, you can scale up by saving more. You can learn more about this strategy in the book, Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results.
3. Have a commitment buddy.
Doing self-improvement can be difficult if you’re doing it alone. That’s why people join clubs, organizations, or form support groups, which helps them find others whom they can learn from or get motivated.
If you’re trying to form a new habit, it will likewise help to have someone willing to go along with your journey. Or at the very least, someone who can occasionally check up on your progress.
A friend wanted to read more, so he joined a book club. More than having people whom he can discuss books with, he also met friends who’d now and then, ask him which chapter is he already in the book that they’re reading.
The desire to not disappoint the expectations of others can be a strong motivation to do what’s needed and instill discipline in ourselves.
4. Edit a habit loop.
James Clear is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Atomic Habits. In the book, he mentions the habit loop, which describes the process of building a habit. This is similar to what Charles Duhigg wrote in The Power of Habits.
According to the book, a habit can be divided into four simple steps: (1) cue, (2) craving, (3) response, and (4) reward.
Let’s take the habit of drinking coffee in the morning. The cue is waking up. This cue triggers a craving, which in this case is wanting to feel more alert.
That craving will motivate a response, which is drinking coffee. This response eventually provides a reward, which is becoming more alert, and feeling that energy to go on with your day.
As this happens more often, your mind will eventually associate drinking coffee with waking up in the morning. Thus, a habit is formed and ultimately, becomes automatic.
The key to changing a bad habit with a good one is to change your response step in the habit loop. For example, if you want to quit drinking coffee, then you can change the response above with let’s say, doing “10 jumping jacks”.
The cue, craving, and reward remain the same. It’s just your response that differs now, which will need some willpower and discipline at first, but eventually — the urge to drink coffee to wake yourself up in the morning would be replaced with the habit of doing jumping jacks.
5. Have a specific goal.
If you simply want to save, then you’ll be susceptible to impulse purchases. Without a specific goal, it will be harder to fight the emotional response of buying something that you like.
What if you decide that you’re saving up to buy a new smartphone by next summer? You can visualize yourself enjoying your new phone, and taking better photos with its great camera.
The next time you’re at the mall, and there’s a shoe SALE. You can simply ask yourself, which one is your priority? Is it owning a new pair of shoes or getting yourself a new and better smartphone?
Having a specific goal provides a stronger motivation to stick to your good habits.
Furthermore, visualizing a future reward also works very well with the previous tip of editing a habit loop. That is, you can set a goal related to your chosen response.
In our jumping jacks example, perhaps you can tell yourself that you want to eventually be able to do 100 jumping jacks in the morning.
That’s the goal, and aside from the immediate reward of becoming more alert in the morning, you can look forward to that long-term reward of having stronger stamina, and never running out of breathe ever again whenever you go up a flight of stairs.
Continue reading and learning: How To Form Positive Habits That Will Help You Achieve Your Goals