How to create a habit and stick to it
We all have something that we want to achieve, maybe short term or long term goals. And we have a purpose for doing it. We may even have every resource imaginable that we need for achieving it. However, we still can’t do it or we give up very quickly.
For example, you probably often read or hear that you should move more and be more active during the day. That is very true and good advice. And when you hear it you think yes, I absolutely agree with that statement, and you decide to take action. You tell yourself you are going to do it and yet the day goes on and you forget your goal. Because if you don’t have a strategy or game plan, which means if you are not specific on your action and on the steps that you need to take, then most likely you are setting yourself up for failure.
Having an active lifestyle and doing regular activity has many benefits, including longevity, weight loss, improved cognitive function, mental health, and much more. You can easily find many reasons for why you need to do exercise but it’s still not really helpful to just know all the benefits of physical activities. We start to think that we need motivation, however motivation comes and goes so unless we create habits and keep everything simple and achievable it will be really hard to stick to it.
Creating a new habit can be tough, we think that it requires repetitive patterns, however repetition just correlate with habits, it does not actually create them. A habit means that we do something automatically, almost unconsciously, without thinking about it. So if you want to go for a workout and you find you are asking yourself whether or not you should go then probably you don’t really want to do it. You’ll be asking yourself the same question every time, and often looking for an excuse not to do it, until you have created a habit that helps you just do it without questioning.
So what if we were to create a system, like a game plan, that is fun and achievable and helps in creating tiny habits in very small steps? Stanford University professor BJ Fogg has created a method which has helped thousands of people create new habits and stick to them. He explains it with three steps.
The first step, anchor moment, will remind you what you need to do to in a specific time and place. For example, if you want to get in the habit of stretching in the morning just after you wake up then you put your stretching mat just next to your table or sofa so you can see it first thing in the morning and easily grab it. Or if you want to regularly floss your teeth then you put your floss right next to your toothbrush.
In the second step, tiny behavior, you find one thing you want to do and you keep it so small and easy that you just can’t say no. For example, if you want to go for a walk every day for 20 minutes then how about you just put on your walking shoes, which will take you maybe 30 seconds. That’s all. But after you do that you may want to go for a very short walk for a few minutes, which he describes as “extra credit”.
The third step is celebration. After doing what you plan to do make sure that you celebrate, which means creating positive feelings that make you feel good about yourself. Professor Fogg also stresses that emotions will create habits. Feeling successful will create a good feeling, and that good feeling will motivate you to do more of whatever it is which in turn will also create momentum and improve your confidence too. Over time, this can become your identity.
Think about creating new habits as if it were a game. If it doesn’t work for you then you can change your anchor moment or tiny habits to make it work perfectly. Here are some examples:
- When you are waiting for the kettle to boil, do two push-ups or squats.
- Every night before going to sleep read one sentence.
- Every morning when you wake up immediately use positive affirmations, such as “today is a beautiful day” or something that you are grateful for.
- When you are waiting for your coffee or tea to brew do one minute of meditation.
- If you want to go to walk for 30 minutes three times a week, then start off by walking just 2 minutes three times, maybe just down to your mailbox.
It’s important to know not to increase the bar very quickly, as adding more will give you extra credit however it can also lead to you getting stuck quickly. Remember, take it just one thing at a time in the tiniest and easiest way possible so you can create your new habit and stick to it. Everyone does their own best, so don’t be too hard on yourself.
1 — Tiny Habits; https://tinyhabits.com/
2 — BJ Fogg, PhD; https://www.bjfogg.com/
3 — “How To Start New Habits That Actually Stick”; James Clear; https://jamesclear.com/three-steps-habit-change