Ever hoped to turn a desired behavior into a habit? Maybe you worked hard to lose 20 pounds and now you want your new, healthier way of eating to become habit. Perhaps you’re striving to keep a cleaner and more organized home or office, and so you’d like to develop new habits to uphold this better way of being.
What’s a habit? Something we do all the time without thinking about it, right? At the start of each New Year, millions of people set goals or resolutions for self improvement. In support of those goals, we design actionable behaviors for ourselves that we intend to carry out as a means of achieving the goal or upholding the resolution. Ultimately, what we want is to develop new and positive habits.
However, how many of us can say with certainty that the new, better behaviors we instilled in our lives became habit, and changed us as people for the better?
Getting into the habit of doing something is often easier said than done. We seem to acquire bad habits without any effort, but getting into a “good” habit can be a little more challenging.
A habit is actually an internalized new behavior – something we have trained ourselves to do automatically without having to think about it, like brushing our teeth.
Below, three simple steps to guide you in your effort to change purposeful behavior into habit.
Step 1: Establish your goal.
A goal should always be as specific as possible. It’s not enough to say, “I’m going to exercise more.” The commitment that you make for yourself should be quantifiable and actionable. “I will take a 30-minute walk with my dog every day.”
Step 2: Set reminders.
In the beginning, establishing a habit will seem easy. You’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment, which tends to spur us on to perform. Then, as with most of us, inertia slowly creeps in, or some circumstance derails us. “I was going to walk the dog, but I have a head cold and I don’t feel up to it.” “It’s raining out today.” Most of the excuses we make don’t really fly if we’re being totally honest with ourselves. This is where reminders come in handy – that little angel sitting on your shoulder, urging you to do the right thing. A reminder can be a whimsical sticky note post in the kitchen… a text to yourself… or even a daily journal that you make a few quick motivational notes in to keep you going with your plan.
Step 3: Add it to your routine.
Set aside time each day to ensure that you do what you promised yourself that you’d do. This is another way to keep motivation high and excuses at bay. Not having enough time is a frequent excuse for many people to quit their newly formed habits… but not if the habitual behavior is penciled into your planner along with all of your other obligations and duties.
Step 4: Say it out loud to make it real.
Have you ever noticed that successful individuals often state their intentions aloud? It’s a way to stay accountable, so that no person or circumstance can get in your way. Just imagine sitting at the dinner table, saying to your family, “We can all watch that movie together right after I walk the dog.” Now everyone knows exactly what you’re going to do next, including yourself!
Once you’ve repeated the above steps long enough, you’ll find that nothing can stop you from following through on that routine behavior you set out to do, which is no longer a behavior, but a habit!
And once you realize how great you are at creating good habits in your life… you’ll be far more likely to plan and develop even more really excellent habits in the future.