“I really should start working out.” “I should start saving more money.” “I should eat healthier.”
You should. But you don’t and you won’t unless you find a systematic way to change.
Habits are powerful. They’re a main reason for your success (or failure) in life. Building positive habits turn you into a happier and healthier person. But sometimes it seems like forming good habits is nearly impossible.
You sign up for that new gym membership every year and you don’t make it back after January.
You tell yourself you’re going to save money and after a year you still have zilch in the bank.
You’re dedicated to eating healthier.. for like 5 minutes.
There’s a large disconnect between the way we know we should behave and the way we actually behave. What gives?
What if I told you there was a way to build positive habits in your life without having to use superhuman willpower? What if there were some simple, proven techniques that could help you finally follow through with forming these habits?
Today I’m going to share some ways to build positive habits in your life without having to over exert yourself.
Use Success Triggers
Success triggers are gentle nudges that aid your decision making. You put success triggers in place to make yourself more likely to follow through with those new habits you want to form. Let’s say you want to work out more. Instead of waiting until you’re about to leave the house to gather your gym gear, do it the night before. Get your stuff together and have it sitting right in front of your door for the morning. The next day you’ll have to literally kick your gym back out of your way to avoid going to the gym. Odds are, you’ll see your gym clothes sitting there and you’ll decide to go to the gym.
The Keystone Habit
The term “keystone habit,” was coined by Charle’s Duhigg in his book, The Power Of Habit. When you focus on forming one keystone habit, other positive habits will start to form as a result. I like to get an 80/20 result from my efforts — what’s one habit that would have a disproportionate impact on the rest of your life? Pick something you can tackle — maybe it’s drinking 8 glasses of water. Maybe it’s working out two days a week. Be realistic and don’t try to overdo it. You might have many areas in your life you want to work on, but focus on one. If you’re successful in forming a keystone habit you’ll notice other ones start to form as well.
Environment Is Everything
Resisting temptation is hard. If you’re environment doesn’t support the habit you’re trying to form it will be hard to develop. If you’re looking to eat healthier, you can’t have junk food in your home period. So if you’re deciding you want to eat healthier, step number one is to throw away all of your unhealthy food. You may think you can use willpower to simply avoid eating the junk, but you can’t.
The environment you create is twice as important as the willpower you exhibit.
Willpower Is A Depleting Resource
Willpower acts like a gas tank. At the beginning of the day you’re full, but by the end of the day you’re running on E. You’re also likely to make bad decisions as the day goes on. Roy Baumeister discusses the idea of “decision fatigue,” in his book, Willpower.
Have you ever wondered why they place junk food and tabloid magazines at the check out line? When you’re shopping you have to make multiple decisions on what to buy. By the time you reach the check out line, your ability to make good decisions has decreased, and you’re much more likely to pick up that snickers bar or that magazine with a Kardashian on the cover.
Decision fatigue is why Steve Jobs wore the same outfit every day – he didn’t want to waste any brain power on choosing an outfit.
If you can, seek to form a positive habit early on in the day. Eat a good breakfast. Work out in the morning. Write your blog posts when you first wake up (like I do.) If you work on developing your habits when you have the most willpower, chances are you’ll be more successful.
Make Short Term Commitments (Repeatedly)
Re-framing long term commitments into a series of short term commitments builds confidence. Instead of proclaiming you’re going to become a gym rat, start by setting a goal for going to the gym that day. Then you can proceed to dedicating yourself to go to the gym 3 times this week. Not per week – just this week.
Peering off too far into the future can make building positive habits seem too daunting. I heard a great analogy for this way of thinking — When you’re building a brick house, start by laying the first brick perfectly. Then the second. Then the third. You never take your focus off of laying each individual brick. Before you know it, you have an entire house.
Find A Way To Keep Yourself Accountable
Maybe you workout with a friend and you guys hold each other accountable for making it to the gym. There are apps that allow you to deposit cash into an account and if you fail to follow through with your goal the money is sent to charity.
Alcoholics anonymous uses a group setting to keep it’s members accountable — and they have a high success rate. Without accountability it’s much harder to follow through.
Building a strong why helps you stay on track when you’re forming new habits. Maybe you want to be healthier so you can live longer and enjoy your family. Maybe you want to save because you want to put your child through college. A strong why behind what you do motivates you. You can always go back to your why when you’re feeling like giving up.
Habits aren’t easy to form, but they’re well worth the effort. What are you going to do to form positive habits in your life?