The thought of incorporating new health habits into one’s life can feel so daunting to some that they avoid starting altogether.
But what if I told you there is a formula for building new habits that would allow you to create the healthy changes in your life that you desire without all the resistance, overuse of willpower, and subsequent setbacks.
4 Steps To Building New Habits
The reason for most people’s failure to adopt new health habits in their lives, is that they don’t understand that the programming of their current habits is stronger than the motivation to implement the new habits.
You see, your brain will not lead you to what is best for you. Not even towards what will make you happy. It will lead you towards whatever is comfortable and familiar, whatever is automatic. This is why you must introduce new habits progressively and not in the complete life overhaul fashion that we usually take. This all or nothing approach requires that we rely on motivation to keep us going and when that inevitably wanes, we are then forced to fall back on willpower which is a finite resource. So when that doesn’t work and we fall off the proverbial wagon we feel discouraged and like a failure.
Feeling like a failure is not an emotion most people like to feel which is why we avoid trying again in the future.
It doesn’t have to be this way, all you have to do is go about it a different way. So next time you’re thinking of starting a meditation practice or taking up running for exmample, how about trying this approach instead.
1. Start Small…really small.
Take whatever practice you want to incorporate into your life and break it down into a tiny action. In the case of meditating it might mean starting with one minute a day. Anyone can manage one minute right? In the case of taking up running it might mean putting on your running shoes and stepping out the front door, walking to the curb and then going back in the house. Surely you can manage that.
The point is to make it so easy that it would be ridiculous for you not to follow through. A lot of the time you’ll end up doing more than your prescribed tiny habit which is great! But if all you do is the tiny habit that’s great too and you should count it as a win.
Wins build self-confidence, and self-confidence is a great way to naturally enhance motivation and motivation as we all know makes taking action a lot easier and more fun. I feel it’s important to note though, that feeling motivated is not the goal, and we really should not be relying on it or seeking it out because in the long run motivation is a fickle friend that can vanish as quickly as it showed up. However, I think understanding motivation and what causes it can be empowering compared to just sitting around wondering when it will hit next.
2. Decide when you will perform the new tiny habit.
Stacking it with another habit that you already have is helpful because then you have a built in trigger for performing your new habit. For example you might decide to do your one minute of meditation right after getting out of the shower in the morning. Or putting on your running shoes and walking to the curb as soon as you walk in the door from work.
3. Create an environment that makes it easy to perform your habit.
For example, even if all you’re doing is putting on your running shoes and walking to the curb, have your running shoes ready by the door. If you are doing your one minute of meditation after your shower than ensure there is quiet time after your shower and not household of people making noise, with kids who will come in and interrupt you asking you to help them find their socks. It may be wiser in that case to do the meditation once everyone is in bed. It really has to be easy otherwise your clever little brain might find a “valid” reason to talk you out it.
4. ALWAYS celebrate your win.
Formally acknowledge yourself. Positive reinforcement is not just for kids and pets. It works for everyone including when you are using it on yourself. This is the glue that helps make the habit stick overtime and thus a very important part of the formula. You can even animate it, do a little happy dance if you want.
Seeing oursevles succeed with the tiny habits is what motivates us to progress the habit into something more. I know I said above not to rely on motivation, and that still stands. What I mean is that there will be a natural motivation to progress that develops after seeing yourself consistently win at the tiny habits, but day to day you simply work on the process (the habits) whether you feel motivated or not.
If you’re interested in rewring your brain so that taking on a new habit doesn’t feel overwhelming, and where you won’t be using a whole lot of willpower and self-condemnation than I highly suggest you read Tiny Habits : The Small Changes That Change Everything By BJ Fogg and Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way To Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear.
Until then be easy on your self and take it slow.