4 Secrets to Form Constructive Habits
Forming new habits can be extremely difficult, especially if you have failed in past attempts. Breaking bad habits can be even more difficult, if you have been doing them for a long time or they have become comfortable. You’ve probably had certain behaviors for a long time. Firmly entrenched patterns are not easy to change. That’s the reason they’re called “habits.”
Attempting to change those patterns of behavior is not always easy, but is definitely possible. Your chance of success is much better if you know the secrets to creating better habits — or breaking harmful ones. The most common reason that New Year’s resolutions aren’t usually successful is because we have a tendency to want to attempt a whole list of drastic life-altering changes all at once without a solid strategy.
One habit at a time: Choose just one habit and tackle that first. You’ll get the best results if you focus on only trying to cultivate one habit at a time. We only have limited amounts of willpower and determination so if we try to change too much at once we are setting ourselves up for failure. The secret is to cultivate habits in a way that builds one on top of the other using one success as a foundation for cultivating the next and the next and so on.
Make it simple and specific: Be very specific when choosing the habit that you want to change. Make sure the behavior is clearly defined and doable. I want to train for a marathon or I want to lose 10 pounds or I want to make more money are all goals and while they are worthy goals they aren’t habits. They aren’t specific behaviors that can be done consistently to form a pattern. Take a walk every day, do my most important task before I check email, go to bed by 10, make my bed every morning, be on time for appointments, those are all habits. Those are behaviors that if done regularly and consistently will form a pattern that will make significant changes in your life.
Make it bite-size: In this case the smaller the change the greater likelihood of success. It’s much better to successfully make a tiny change that to fail in an attempt to make sweeping change. Better to begin with small changes and continue building. They all add up to massive change over time. Try exercising for 20 minutes a day, then gradually increaseing the time. Start getting up 30 minutes earlier, then slowly push the time back if necessary. Try substituting a piece of fruit for a candy bar instead of cutting out sugar entirely.
It’s important to note that we’re not talking about dangerous habits here. When it comes to addictions, risky behaviors or serious health concerns, you may need to make drastic and immediate change and you probably will need outside help or support in one form or another.
Carve it in stone: To cement your habit, you need to carve it in stone, cement in your brain, make a total commitment, and be accountable. Write it down and choose some way to track progress – either on paper or in electronic format. In order to be accountable and keep you on the straight and narrow tell someone and ask him or her to check in with you periodically. Documenting, tracking, and being accountable, all help you to make a firm commitment to creating beneficial habits and also serve as an incentive to succeed.
Most of us have a list of habits that we want to break, biting our nails, being late, oversleeping, eating too much sugar, spending too much time on the internet, or watching television, not making time for exercise, and the list goes on. We also have a wish list of habits that we want to create, going to bed earlier, calling our mother (had to sneak that one in there), reading every day, taking a walk at lunchtime, or balancing our checkbooks. We know what habits would be good for us, we sincerely and earnestly want to change, but we just haven’t been able to do it. That’s generally not because we’re lazy or weak or don’t have enough willpower, it simply because we haven’t had a successful strategy.