So what’s the secret to building great habits? In short, there isn’t one. Every person, every situation is unique. What I can give you, though, is a better understanding of what habits are and a few tips to help you maintain a level head throughout the integration process.
What is a habit?
According to Merriam-Webster, a habit is a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior. Many habits, such as when you feel hungry or tired, come naturally. Those that don’t rely on instinct, however, can be a little trickier to integrate in our daily routines.
Dig a little deeper down this habit-hole, and see that all habits are composed of three main parts: Trigger, Action, and Reward.
Triggers are your body’s natural reaction to the thing it wants you to do. It’s your stomach rumbling when you’re hungry, or a yawn close to bedtime. From there, it’s up to you to consciously act upon your craving.
What you receive in return for that action is your reward. After a strenuous workout, for example, you should feel a rush of endorphins. It’s your body’s way of providing motivation for you to repeat the process again.
I went to the gym once, and it just hurt. A lot. What am I doing wrong?
The trick here is consistency. You need to condition yourself mentally and physically to create that instinctual craving to repeat the same action, the same habit, over and over again. But how?
If you have a specific habit in mind that you’re trying to create, the first step is to set a goal. I struggled in my early 20s with converting my conceptual ideas to concrete plans, but then I was introduced to the SMART goal setting method. This line of thinking should encourage you to ask yourself the following questions:
Specific – “What is it I’m trying to achieve?”
Measurable – “How will I track my progress?”
Assignable – “What logical steps will I need to take to build this new habit?”
Realistic – “Is this a habit I can realistically achieve? Or should I start smaller?”
Time-related – “How long should I initially challenge myself?” (This article suggests a 30-day commitment, and I agree)
Once you are able to answer all of those questions, the path to how you will build this habit will become clear. With a plan established, you are left with one final hurdle: motivation.
Keeping up with Accountability
Although building this new habit may be something you’re doing for yourself, don’t feel like you have to do it alone. In fact, the success rate of forming a new habit will be far higher if you have supporters there to keep rooting you on!
In this digital age, the easiest way to hold yourself accountable is to go public. Whether you join a dedicated Facebook Group, or share updates on your Instagram story, find an outlet to share your progress on a platform you feel comfortable using.
You don’t have to go digital to share your story, and the size of the community you wish to share your journey with solely depends on you. Just be sure that you have someone to push you on the days you don’t feel your best!
You’re going to mess up; It’s inevitable. In a near-perfect world we’d be able to say, “Hey, I’m going to establish this habit,” and BAM, it’s done. But…let’s be honest. There’s a good chance a number of factors- time, the weather, finances, and even self-esteem- that can work against achieving your specific goal for the day.
The is to acknowledge these possibilities and have a plan for if, or more realistically, when something gets in your way. Give yourself some compromises, but in return, don’t allow yourself to use the same pass twice.
A Parting Gift to you, from you
One final nugget of advice is to remember to celebrate the small victories and grow from there. I touch on this in one of my more recent blogs, and I won’t be surprised mini-celebrations are brought up again in a future post. This concept is what truly brings a habit full circle.
Your reward doesn’t have to be a huge item or to-do. It can be something small, like a small piece of dark chocolate after completing a workout, or a new book once you hit a month of consistency. Trust me when I say that a little bit can go a long way. Find a way to enjoy your task, and it won’t feel like work for long.
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