Octavia Butler said, “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not.” When it comes to living a positive lifestyle, our habits either make or break us, influencing our physical health, emotional well being and even our outlook on life.
But when you’re trying to begin a new habit, it can be difficult to make it sticky. Here are five tips to get you started.
1. Use a trigger.
All habits, positive or negative, are derived from a trigger. A trigger automatically initiates a behavior that leads you to do something else. Using cues like time of day, place and circumstance with your trigger will increase the likelihood that your habit will stick.
Use the trigger process to remind yourself when a new habit is in development. A quality reminder encodes your new behavior in something that you already do. By incorporating your new habit into behaviors you already practice, it will be easier to remember and participate in.
2. Start small.
Lasting change is a product of daily habits, not once-in-a-lifetime transformations. Don’t start too large. You won’t stick to the habits if they’re too difficult to manage. It’s important to start small so they’re easier and can grow over time. The first step is to decide what you want your new habit to be.
If you want 6-pack abs (don’t we all), it’s not going to happen in a week. Start by committing to a 10-minute ab workout every day, then increase gradually from there. Stick to a pace that is sustainable and be patient; big changes take time and commitment.
3. Focus on the bigger picture.
Your immediate goals should remain small, but don’t forget to dream big for your future. What is your ultimate larger goal? Take the time to develop your plan with smaller steps to get there. You can make bigger goals a reality by doing a minimal amount of work each day to achieve them.
When you establish a larger goal, you will have something concrete in your mind to focus on every day while working on the small steps. For example, if your dream goal is to run a full marathon, start by jogging short distances every day, followed by increasing your speed and distance.
4. Reward yourself.
Even personal goals need to have rewards. It’s important to remain in a positive mindset when creating new habits. The best way to accomplish this is to reward yourself, even for the smallest of victories. If you accomplish something that is followed by a reward, you’re more likely to repeat the action and form a routine. Once a routine is repeated regularly, it will become a habit.
Reward yourself whenever you practice your habit. Even simply telling yourself “Good job!”, “You did amazing!” or “I did great today!”
5. Fight the hurdles.
Nobody’s perfect. We all know that, and you won’t be perfect when you’re developing a habit. You will make mistakes, several sometimes, but it’s important to get back on track quickly to avoid falling back to the beginning. Ditch the all-or-nothing mentality. Rather, plan for the inevitable slip-ups that will take place. Missing a habit once or twice is okay, but it is important to remain consistent enough to not slip up repeatedly. Your habit won’t stick if you don’t return to the behavior as soon as possible.
Here’s where you can put your acting chops to the test. Create an identity of someone who never misses a habit twice. If you’re worried that you’ll become discouraged and fall into the “screw it” mentality, have a Plan B in the works and how you’ll get back in the zone. The “if-then” scenario can be very helpful here by examining the habit and where it breaks down.
You’re not going to develop a habit overnight, unless you’re a super human of some sort (in which case, please share the secret). On average, a new habit takes approximately 30 days to develop, so don’t get discouraged if you struggle at first. Remain positive and focused on the goal. Soon enough, it’ll stick like super glue.