Have you ever tried to implement something new in your life, but failed quickly?
How many times have you said to yourself:
- I’m going to start eating healthier
- I’m going to start working out
- This year, I’m going to write a book
- I’m going to stop biting my nails
- I’m going to start my own side business
How often have you accomplished those goals?
If you answered, I always start them, but rarely finish…it’s ok! You are not alone!
According to research by the University of Scranton, 92% of people who set New Year’s goals never achieve them.
The problem, for most people, isn’t setting a goal. In fact, that is the easy the part. After all, you know what you want.
The problem is understanding how to implement systems to ensure you create the proper habits to accomplish your goal.
In this post, you’ll learn the exact steps (backed by science) to help you create habits.
Before we discuss how to properly create habits, there are two things to understand.
1) Focus on One Habit at a Time
One of the biggest problems we tend to have is trying to accomplish too much at once.
Instead of focusing on exercising daily or eating healthier; we try to workout, drink 2 gallons water daily, eliminate carbs, and meditate for 20 minutes every day.
Use the logic of Leo Babauta from Zen Habits; if you want to start a flossing habit then start by flossing one tooth.
When you implement everything at once, it makes it difficult to accomplish anything. You can get easily discouraged, and when you get discouraged, you abandon your goals.
If your goal is to lose weight, then start with eating a healthy breakfast. Then move on to lunch and dinner.
It’s a lot easier to focus on one new habit at a time than five!
2) Give it 66 Days
As Americans, we wanted everything yesterday. We have a tendency to laugh at delayed gratification.
Unfortunately, habits aren’t formed overnight. They typically aren’t even built within a month.
According to a study by Phillippa Lally in the Journal of Social Psychology, it takes on average 66 days to create a new habit.
When you are setting out to accomplish a new goal, understand you probably aren’t going to create your habit for at least 66 days.
This means if your goal is to read 25 books this year, then maybe your new habit should be to read at least 20 pages every day.
Be diligent about trying to accomplish your new practice every day and at the same time don’t get discourage if you miss a day. If you forget once or twice, it won’t kill the habit formation. Just pick up a book and read the next day.
Three Steps of a Habit
Who knew there were steps to a creating a habit? Luckily a lot of smart people have studied habits and created a formula to make our lives easier.
The first step to creating a habit is to develop a trigger or anchor. You can think of this as a reminder for your new habit.
Almost all of our habits include a trigger. If you are like most hygiene conscious people, then you probably brush your teeth every day (sometimes even twice a day). Maybe you don’t realize you do it in a specific order, but there is usually something that reminds (subconsciously) to do it.
When I first started studying my triggers, I realized my trigger was using the restroom after I woke up. It was the same thing: wake up – use the restroom – brush teeth.
If you are trying to create a new habit, try to piggyback off of an existing trigger. Last year I wanted to start exercising more often.
Since I make coffee every morning (with butter and coconut oil), I decided to work out right after drinking that delicious drink. Now I automatically head downstairs to our homemade gym or go for a run.
I created an anchor (coffee), and a new habit was in its infancy.
Setting the anchor or trigger is easy. Now the real work begins.
Once you determine what you want your new habit to be and the desired trigger; now you have to create a routine.
Again for me, it was exercising in the morning right after my coffee. So I had to wake up earlier. It was difficult at first, but after a few months, it was a habit.
Now I don’t even think about exercising after my coffee.
If you want your new habit to write 500 words a day, your trigger and routine may look a little different. Let’s say you wake up every morning and have a routine of making coffee and then checking your email.
To write 500 words a day, start writing after checking your email. You are piggybacking off checking email, and your routine is writing.
In the beginning, building a routine is difficult. This is why you need to be diligent and do everything you can to create your new habit.
Some things that help ensure success to create your new routine are:
- Set reminders on your phone
- Pre-plan. If your desired habit is exercise then get everything ready the night before
- Believe you can accomplish this new habit
- Enlist the help of friends
The only way a habit will stick is if you get a reward from doing it and this is why we have so many bad habits. We get immediate rewards for them.
One of my bad habits comes right after I put my kids to bed. Many times, I like to go downstairs “relax” and watch my favorite shows.
The trigger is putting kids to bed. The routine is watching tv. The reward is instant entertainment.
What is the reward going to be for your desired habit?
When I exercise, I get a few rewards. 1) I feel good and 2) I post my workouts on instagram.
Without a reward, you will not create a lasting habit. Determine what your reward will be to ensure your success. Here are a few examples of rewards:
- Posting your accomplishment on social media
- Sharing your daily routine
- A sense of pride
Recap of the Habit Formula
All of us have habits – both good and bad. The problem many of us have is creating new habits that will improve our lives.
Luckily there is a formula most of us can use to create new habits. 1) Create a trigger or anchor 2) Implement the routine 3) Make sure our new habit rewards us.
If you are diligent in using this formula, then you will have a new lasting habit in just over two months.
Hopefully, this article helps you develop some life changing habits. If you found this post helpful, please share.