At some point in our lives we’ve all set a goal to achieve a new habit, whether it’s eating healthier, quitting smoking, returning important calls sooner or spending more quality time with the family at the end of the day. Perhaps at the beginning, you made great strides in building your new habit for the first couple days - or maybe the first week - but then it all went wrong and you stopped doing it altogether! Starting a new habit is easy. Getting that habit to stick is the challenge.
With some initial discipline, you can create a new habit that requires little effort to maintain. Here are some tips for creating good habits and making them stick:
1. Commit to 30 Days of Consistent Action – Three to four weeks is all you need to make a habit automatic. If you can make it through the initial conditioning phase with consistency, it becomes much easier to sustain. The more consistent your habit, the easier it will be to stick to it. If you wanted to start exercising each day, try doing it at the same time and the same place for 30 days. When cues like time of day, place and circumstances are the same in each case, it is easier to stick.
2. Set Up Reminders for Yourself – Around two weeks into your commitment it can be easy to forget. Set up reminders for yourself to execute your habit, whether it’s a sticky note on your bathroom mirror or car dashboard, or an alarm you set on your cell phone. Setting up reminders for yourself throughout the day is a powerful technique to help you sustain a new habit.
3. Surround Yourself with Positive Role-Models – It is important to surround yourself with people who model the habits you want to mirror. Recent studies show that those who spend most of their time with people who are overweight, are likely to be overweight as well. Likewise, people who spend time with other people who are passionate about health, exercise daily, or are working toward the same goals as they are, will most likely mirror their good habits and lifestyle.
4. Remove Temptation – Restructure your environment so it won’t tempt you in the first thirty days. Clear out your kitchen of all the junk food, put your cell phone away as soon as you get home, cancel your cable subscription if you’re spending too much time in front of the TV, or throw out the cigarettes so you won’t need to struggle with willpower later.
5. Be Imperfect – Finally, don’t expect to successfully make a new habit stick immediately on your first couple of attempts. Try your best, but if you experience a few bumps along the way, just recommit and do better the next time.
Adapted from a blog posted on Lifehack.org, 18 Tricks to Make New Habits Stick by Scott H. Young.