5 ways to form new habits

April 17, 2019

5 ways to form a new habit

“Habits are the compound interest in self-improvement.”
James Clear

Humans are creatures of habit and our habits dictate how we think, act and feel in various aspects of our lives. Habits are personality traits that are learned through repetition either by conscious application or unconsciously. Over time, these repetitive actions become ingrained in us. It’s important to recognize when our habits have led us down a path of disruption. Most of the personal turmoil we go through is a manifestation of bad habits leading us astray and not an indication that there's something wrong with us. Imposter syndrome, for example, is a habit, not a trait, limiting self-beliefs is a habit, not a trait, and negative self-talk is a habit, not a trait. If it’s possible to learn habits that hinder our personal growth and self-improvement, then it’s possible to retrain our minds and ourselves to develop long lasting and fruitful behaviors.

How do we develop new habits and replace bad behaviors with good/fruitful ones? Here are 5 tips to get you started in the right direction.

  1. Start with Why.
  2. Before committing yourself to any new venture, it’s crucial that you clearly define and understand your WHY. Take a moment to ask yourself “Why do I want to do this?” and don’t be afraid to be open and honest with yourself. Identify where your motivation behind these actions lies. It’s best if your WHY is based on fulfilling yourself in ways you hadn’t before, upholds your values, and is centered around being the best version of yourself. Recognizing your WHY will serve as the motivation you’ll need to steer you in the right direction.


  3. Give Yourself Space.
  4. One thing that will sabotage your will to create new habits is not giving yourself the right environment to thrive. Our physical environment is one of the most overlooked drivers of habits. You can design your environment to promote the good behaviors you want to keep up. For example, if you’re a writer, dedicate a space in your surroundings that serve as your go-to place to write, one that is free from distraction or anything that you know is a trigger. If you’re trying to quit smoking, make your friends and family aware of your intentions and ask of them to be supportive by not smoking around you. By making sure your environment can adhere to your desired outcome, you increase your odds of sticking with these good behaviors.


  5. Be Specific.
  6. As said by financial expert Dave Ramsey “a goal without a plan is just a dream.” A goal with no specific plans for success creates a lack of clarity and adds to more confusion. You should be specific about WHAT you want and clarify HOW you plan to accomplish it. One of the reasons why people find it difficult to cross things off their to-do list is because there are no specific actions assigned to those goals. If your goal is to be more physically active, rather than writing “workout” on your calendar, assign clear and defined actions for that goal. Those specifications should include Day, Time, and Place. For example, "I will work out on Monday (day) at 2:30pm (time) at home (place)". By setting standards such as these, you are making detailed appointments with yourself and have created the time and space for goals to take shape on a consistent basis.


  7. Have A Backup.
  8. No matter how much we plan, life is still very unpredictable. There will be moments when things are simply out of our control, however, you can sustain a sense of control when obstacles arise. Create a plan for what you’ll do in moments when things don’t go as planned but set restrictions as to what those plans entails. Your backup should not be an excuse to be lazy or give up on yourself but should serve as a safety net to catch you when you fall and help you bounce back. Since you already understand your WHY for these new behaviors, give yourself an opportunity to stay on track by prepping for the unexpected. By doing so, you allow room for mistakes if it happens and already have a plan in place as a backup. 

  9. Stay Consistent!
  10. This is the most important rule of them all. As previously stated, we are creatures of habits, the longer you stick with something the easier and more natural it becomes. Repetition leads to habits, therefore, learning how to start and sticking with your momentum is important. James Clear author of Atomic Habits suggests the “Seinfeld Strategy” as a tool to stop procrastinating and help you achieve your goals. The strategy focuses on a simple method that involves “not breaking the chain” meaning don’t go 2 days without doing what you need to do. The only requirement to apply this strategy is to pick up a calendar and start your chain. Chose a task that is sustainable enough to do consistently and build on that as you progress.
Remember, small actions build up over time and it’s better to take it one step at a time, and one day at a time. Learning a new habit is not easy especially when trying to break bad habits that you’ve become accustomed to over the years. Be gentle, open, and honest with yourself and be prepared to call yourself out if you fall back on your commitments. Overall do not give up! It may be tough at first but once you've picked up steam do your best to stay on course. Your future self will thank you later in life. 

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