Creating good habits is key for all success and results in life. Right now, the end of the first quarter of the year is a time when around 88% of New Year’s Resolutions have gone by the wayside. Most people start out with the best of intentions, then life happens. It might be an overly social weekend when the drinking and food goals went out the window. It could be a day when work took more of your time and energy than you anticipated?. Maybe you slept in one morning and didn’t get to the gym again? When this occurs, most people are hard on themselves, feel like they have failed and never get back on track. It just feels too hard work, and as we are motivated towards pleasure and away from pain, guess what happens? So how can we stick to the art of creating good habits?
The key is not to feel you have failed, but to be resourceful enough to get back on track. Getting back up despite falling is what separates the winners from the losers and the super successful from the mediocrity. Plans and strategy are critical to creating good habits.
Here are five ways to help you in the art of creating good habits
1. Why do you want this?
- Get clear as to why you want this goal and who you want to become by achieving it. Now, decide on the behaviours that are required to achieve your goal. These behaviours need to become habits.
- Commit to one small action step and schedule it in your diary. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Put the exact time you will exercise on your calendar. Then it becomes visible, and you are likely to treat it with greater importance.
- Have a backup plan. If you know you don’t have a lot of time, it’s still better to put your shoes on and go for a ten-minute walk than not going at all. Otherwise, you risk losing momentum and will never discover the art of creating healthy habits.
- What we are aiming at is making it a habit sticking to your new behaviour. It’s not so much about intensity or duration, just the habitual act of doing it. If you stick to walking a few minutes every day whether or not you feel like it, it becomes easier.
That is how you form a habit. It’s not about perfection, just progress. Ultimately you need to create keystone habits.
2. Tie your new behaviours to a current action
- To make it easier on yourself, tack the new onto something that you already do. The current behaviour then becomes a trigger for your new behaviour.
- Let’s imagine you want to exercise first thing in the morning. Put your shoes by your bed, so you trip over them when you get up. If you wish to increase your confidence, commit to saying your mantras in the shower every day. If you want to plan your morning better, place a sticky on your computer to remind you. That way it is the first thing you see when entering your office. The more you use the trigger, the more you create a habit of your behaviour.
- Examples of typical triggers are seeing a red traffic light and stopping; seeing a police car and slowing down; hearing the doorbell ring and going to answer it. This is precisely what you are aiming to create in your new routine. Doing it on instinct because you have done it frequently after the first behaviour, your trigger.
3. Be aware of the enemy that sabotages your goals of creating healthy habits
- Your environment is a key part of your success in creating healthy habits and sticking to your helpful behaviours. Have you ever hit snooze on the alarm clock, rolled over and gone back to sleep? It’s because your bed feels more comfortable than the thought of getting out of it!
- What about eating the rest of the chocolate because it was staring you in the face every time you opened the fridge? Set your environment up differently. Hide the chocolate so it is hard to access.
- Put your alarm clock on the other side of the room, so you have to get out of bed to turn it off.
- Cut up some carrot sticks, make hummus and put them in the top drawer of the fridge if you want to eat healthier. Put biscuits and tempting snacks in a hard to open container in a tall cupboard, out of reach. That way you will have a few moments to be more conscious of your decision, and more chance of interrupting your usual pattern. The one where habit takes over.
4. Be careful what you say to yourself
- While I am a fan of using words that focus on what we want and not negatives (like I can’t or I won’t), there are times when they can be powerful. For instance, if you are on a healthy eating regime (yes I use that not a diet) it can be way more empowering to say ‘I don’t eat chocolate cake’ rather than ‘I can’t eat chocolate cake.’ Try it for yourself and notice how you feel. This shifts your focus and aid in creating healthy habits and sticking to them.
- Pick your words carefully. Remove words that create obligation, deprivation, pain or hardship. These are warning bells to your brain which is designed to keep you safe and comfortable. Furthermore, this pulls you away from success. Working on your mindset and your thoughts is critical.
5. Creating good habits – Find someone to keep you accountable
- Share your goals. Countless research has shown that when you share a goal, you are instantly more committed. Most people don’t like to let other people down.
- Find a coach. Being a competitive sports person all my life I know 100% the importance of a coach and the results possible. Ask most Olympians or elite athletes how they feel about engaging a coach.
So, if you have fallen off the path and feel your goals have become a distant thing, please be assured it’s not all over. You still have over eight months of the year left to perfect the skill of creating healthy habits.
Pick yourself back up, dust off the sloth. Set a plan, get clear as to why you want your goal, take small steps and encourage yourself as you go. Lastly, never, ever ever give up on yourself!