The worst part about creating good habits is that you have to keep doing them.
If only I could just do a “habit” once, be done with it, celebrate my amazing accomplishment, and move on with my life.
Everything would be so much easier if repetition didn’t matter.
Habits are those things that you’re supposed to do every day or every week or what have you, because they’re supposed to make your life better.
And if they’re supposed to make your life better, the most impactful habits usually don’t come with an ultimate expiry date, even after you’ve hit the major goal you originally set out to achieve.
Think about it.
- You’re not supposed to just commit to exercising and eating healthy for three months and then go back to couch potato mode — you reach your fitness goals, and then adjust your habits accordingly so you don’t get out of shape again.
- You shouldn’t spend years putting a certain amount of money away for savings, then blow it all on a bunch of expensive and luxurious things all at once — you can obviously buy something you’ve been saving up for, but you have to keep managing your finances until the day you die (or at least have someone do it for you).
- You can’t make a promise to reconnect with your spouse by having a weekly date night and then stop scheduling time together when the relationship gets back to where you want it to be — you work to keep the fire going by exploring other ways to continuously build and maintain your relationship.
These are the big, life changing habits of success that are not really meant to end, ever.
Let’s face it.
We all need to create successful habits that stick with us throughout our lives to get to where we want to be.
The details and efforts are ultimately left up to you, but you can start with the framework below to enhance your chances of success, and strengthen the stickiness of the habits you set out to develop.
Start with making a habit out of writing down exactly what you’re trying to accomplish.
I’ve personally found that good habits are pretty hard to stick with over the long run if I don’t have a goal in mind that I’m working toward.
It doesn’t have to be anything huge, it just needs to be clearly defined so that when you lose track of why you set out to develop good habits in the first place, you can look back on the goals you set, and say, “oh yeah — that’s where I’m headed, and this is why it matters.”
So, figure out your goals, and write them down.
One of the biggest differences between people who fail and succeed in achieving their dreams is that the ones who succeed are the ones who wrote everything down.
There’s real power in putting pen to paper, even if you’re the type of person who claims to hate writing.
Do it anyway.
Work on setting clear and measurable goals, and then try to break them down into smaller, less daunting goals that will help get you to your big ones.
Ask yourself “how?” and then do the research to create a system.
Seeing your goals in black and white right in front of you is great, but it means nothing until to take action.
You might have a goal to lose 20 pounds by the summer, but you also need a system for implementing proper nutrition and exercise into your life in order to get you there.
This part takes research.
Ask yourself, “how can I achieve this?” — and then go figure it out.
Don’t stop asking how? until you’ve answered every question you have about what you’re trying to achieve.
Based on all your findings, you can then develop the daily habits you need to put into your system in order to get yourself to your goal.
Make your habits stick by training your brain to recognize them as normal, everyday tasks.
Can you commit to your habits for months or years on end, day in and day out?
Most people can’t, because they never do the real work that’s involved with making them stick.
Here’s what you need to do.
A trigger is something that signals you to take action.
It could be something like an alarm you set at the same time every day, a Fitbit you wear around your wrist, a sticker you put on the back of your phone, or a photo you carry around in your wallet.
Whatever it is — it’s got to be something clear that acts as a reminder for you to stay on track with your habit.
Don’t be such a big perfectionist.
A perfectionist isn’t someone who is perfect — it’s a person who is obsessed with trying to do everything perfectly.
Perfectionists can fall victim to really putting off the process of implementing good habits because they’re always waiting for the “right time” or “right mood” to do it.
And when they do finally get started, they beat themselves up or throw in the towel completely when something goes wrong.
You have to break free from perfectionism for habits to stick, because at some point or another, I can guarantee you that life will get in the way that will challenge your ability to keep implementing your habits day in and day out.
View it as a learning process, a journey that welcomes mistakes, and the opportunity to grow into a better person.
Forgive yourself when you get sidetracked or thrown off course — just make a promise to get back up on the horse and continue moving forward.
Set a weekly or monthly reminder to reevaluate your progress and results, and make changes where necessary.
Sometimes, the struggle to maintain your habits means that it’s time to switch things up.
Don’t think that you have to keep doing the same thing over and over and over again because that’s what you decided on the first day you decided to do it.
You have to constantly tweak your habits, experiment with new methods, and build on what’s currently working.
Try setting aside some time at the end of every week to reflect on your progress over the past week.
Make adjustments to anything that isn’t working for you, and keep adjusting every week until you start seeing the progress and results that you want.
Never stop setting new goals.
Goals are important.
They give you a clearly defined destination that you can work toward.
If you don’t know where you’re going, then why go at all?
As you continue to cross each goal off of your list, add new ones that build on what you’ve already achieved.
Reward yourself for your achievements.
Achieving one of your goals is a reward in itself, but instead of just moving on to tackle the next one, why not stop and celebrate?
Giving yourself small rewards for your achievements keep it fun and act as a good source of motivation.
Just be careful that your rewards don’t end up setting you back — you wouldn’t go buy yourself a huge yacht after finally getting a raise at work, or eat an entire cake after losing 10 pounds.
Celebrate your success with something that supports your entire journey.
Find an accountability partner or group.
Going it alone can be rough, and when the only person you’re counting on is you, even the most self-disciplined people can veer off track.
Tell your family and friends about the good habits you’ve established, make it all public, invite someone to do it along with you, or join a related online community.
Getting support from others can make a huge difference.
Start a journal to track your progress.
Remember that thing about writing stuff down?
You need to get used to doing that.
Even if you just jot down a few bullet point notes every week so you at least have a record of how you’re doing, then that’s at least something you can refer back to when you need to make adjustments or reflect upon your progress to re-motivate yourself.
Personally, I like to go full-blown essay writer on this stuff.
I use the Day One app for Mac and iPad to keep a journal of the good habits that I’m trying to make a permanent part of my own life.
Believe in yourself. (Seriously.)
Here’s the sad truth…
So many people never end up establishing lifelong habits that lead them to their goals because they never believed in themselves in the first place.
Self-doubt, fear of failure, perfectionism, and all those other crippling feelings of hopelessness can sabotage your efforts before you even start.
That’s why it’s extremely important to work on yourself first, and develop the genuine belief that you can become the person that you want to be.
Anyone can commit to a new habit for a few of days, a couple of weeks, or even several months — but it takes a consistent positive attitude and confidence in oneself to truly make it a lifelong thing.
Photo #1 via bhmpics
Photo #2 John O’Nolan
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