11 Tips for Forming Habits that Stick

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Your audacious life goals are fabulous. We’re proud of you for having them. But it’s possible that those goals are designed to distract you from the thing that’s really frightening you—the shift in daily habits that would mean a re–invention of how you see yourself.
— Seth Godin

Today we've got the next post in my personal development series called "Nerd Necessities." This post covers HABITS! One of the best things you can do for yourself is to develop healthy, productive habits. Habits that not only promote health physically, but mentally and emotionally. When we implement habits into our lives, we're taking some of the pressure off our already over-taxed brain by making certain actions second-nature. But good habits are often the most difficult thing to form, especially if you're simultaneously trying to break some bad ones!

 Here, I've provided with a list of the 11 things I personally have found to be the most beneficial in enabling me to form healthy, productive habits! Whether you're trying to implement a new habit, or trying to get rid of a bad habit, here are some easy things to try to make your habits stick!

1. Find your motivation. If you're going to start the process of forming a new habit, you really need to know what you want and why you want it. Visualize that new habit in your head, and make a list of the benefits that forming that habit will have. This can be something that you can refer back to in times where your motivation is lacking.

2. Commit to 30 Days. If you give yourself a solid 3-4 weeks to implement a new habit, after that initial phase your habit will become automatic. At least 3 weeks is necessary, but if you really want to make the habit stick, commit to the full 30 days - plus this timeline easily fits into your calendar! If you're feeling really ambitious - shoot for 90 days! The longer you keep a habit up, the more likely it is to stick long-term!

3. First thing in the morning. No matter what, if you're trying to implement something and you get it done first thing in the morning you're much less likely to skip out on your new habit. This is great when you're trying to make a habit of exercising, meal prepping, meditating, journaling, etc. I get my workouts in first thing every morning! Not only is this great for building a new habit into your routine, but with things like working out, for example, getting it done first thing means you won't have to worry about it the rest of the day! And, BONUS, you'll have gotten more done within the first hour of your day then most people get done by 10am. That's what I call productive!

Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simple a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.
— Jim Rohn

4. Start simple and be consistent. Similarly to what I suggested in the goal-setting post, don't try to change your whole life in one day. It's easy to get overly motivated, take on too much, and end up burning yourself out. I know - I unfortunately do it all the time still (this is one of my problem areas). If you want to get healthy, start by going for a walk 30 mins a day. If you want to study, instead of trying to cram in two hours, start in 30 minute blocks. If you want to lose weight, start by drinking more water. If you want to publish a book, start by emailing book agents each day. If you want to earn more money, work an extra 5 hours a week freelance. If you want to run a marathon, starting running 3 days per week.  Focus on lifestyle changes, not life changes. Start small, be consistent, and you will see big changes.

5. Increase your habit incrementally. In the same way that you shouldn't start with something big and amazing as you're trying to implement new habits, you shouldn't settle for stagnation either. Small 1% improvements can add up very fast, just like 1% declines can accumulate. Gradually improve and gradually challenge yourself as your habits start to take shape. If you're looking for additional motivation and evidence of this, check out the book "The Compound Effect" By: Darren Hardy...

6. Set up triggers (Also called if-then planning). Triggers are something that you do right before you execute your new habit. If you're trying to be more positive, then every hour on the hour express gratitude. If you're trying to become more confident, then develop a power phrase and every time you look in the mirror recite it to yourself. If you want to wake up earlier, then wake up the exact same way every morning. Your trigger can be whatever you want - a number, time of day, action, etc. Whatever works to facilitate you to then undertake your new habit.

7. Pair similar tasks together. This is also called "piggybacking." If you already have habits or routines in place, coupling your new habit with that old routine will help you stay consistent. For example, most of us don't floss enough. But, if we just made a habit of flossing even with a quick run through every time we brushed our teeth, we would floss so much more. The same can be said for taking our vitamins or our medication. Stick your vitamin/medication bottles next to your coffee mug and take it every morning with your beverage of choice. If you're trying to meditate more, pair your meditation with your workout! After completing every workout, spend 10 minutes meditating in silence! I've actually started implementing this because I knew I wanted to try to meditate more, but my brain was always so all over the place! So, I took the 10 minutes following my workout when I was sweaty and mentally tired to plug into the App "Headspace" and meditate for 10 mins. Piggybacking my meditation with my workout has totally helped me stick to it.

8. Practice replacement. If you're trying to give something up, you'll need to find a replacement, at least temporarily while you adjust to living without what you've given up. If you have vices like alcohol or cigarettes, maybe you're doing these things to relax you. Instead, try taking up meditation, reading, or allowing yourself a hot bath to relax. If you're trying to give up sweets to eat healthier, stock up on fruit and when you would typically reach for a sweet, instead reach for some berries! 

9. Sustainability is key. In any new habit, there is a sweet spot between sustainability and effort. If you're lazy, and putting in low effort than you will not make sufficient progress and you will ultimately lose motivation, kind of like you see in the red dot. However, if you get to over-zealous and over-exert yourself in pursuit of your new habit, that type of enthusiasm isn't sustainable and you'll burn yourself out. That's the red dot. And this is a very easy place to find yourself when you're starting a new habit! The ultimate goal is to find the happy medium where you have sustainable effort that is providing just enough result to keep you motivated, but little enough effort that you're not burned out. This is the green dot! Green means go, so shoot for this type of balance between sustainability and effort.

10. Get a Buddy. When you're trying to do some that you know will challenge you, find some company! Ask around if someone will go along with you in the journey. Whether it's a gym buddy or someone to join you in giving up alcohol or sugar for 30 days, find a friend to keep you motivated. Or if you can't find a friend, tell somebody of your new habit and ask them to keep you accountable!

My Insanity Max 30 calendar - I may have missed some days on this calendar, but I've never missed two days in a row and that's a good way to help my healthy habits stick! 

My Insanity Max 30 calendar - I may have missed some days on this calendar, but I've never missed two days in a row and that's a good way to help my healthy habits stick! 

11. Expect to be human, and plan to recover quickly. Don't expect to be perfect. Even the best among us commit errors and fall off track. But the difference between us and them is that we don't dwell on the speed bump. We accept it, and continue moving forward by getting back on track ASAP.  Habit-forming is not all-or-nothing.  And you will falter on occasion. The best you can do is to try to anticipate those obstacles so that you can work around them. Instead of focusing on being perfect, focus on never missing twice! That way you can maintain your consistency and thus your new habit! 

That's all for now! Test out these new tricks and see how they work for helping your form better habits! Do you have any big suggestions or tips that help you in your habit-forming? 

Post them in the comments below! :-)