How To Make Your New Habits Last
Small steps lead to big changes
Habits define our lives. Without realising it, we all have numerous little habits that we practice from day-to-day.
It could be going on your mobile phone first thing in the morning when you wake up.
It could be chewing your fingernails when you’re nervous.
Or, it could be smoking cigarettes.
Whatever your habits, they impact us more than we like to think.
Because these habits are second nature, we often do them without thinking. We are essentially running on auto-pilot when we do this.
When I reach for my phone in the morning, it’s not out of some urge to discover the latest news, it’s because I have become accustomed to doing so. It is now a reflex action, it takes more mental energy to not reach for my phone than to reach for it.
This is what you are battling when you try and change your habits and establish new ones. You are working against existing neural pathways in your brain. You are going against the very nature of your ways, it’s not going to be easy.
We like to try and make dramatic changes in an effort to eliminate bad habits, but this very rarely works. Drastic, sweeping changes are often hard to keep up with.
If you have ever stopped smoking or drinking alcohol all of a sudden one day, you’ll know what I mean. It’s difficult to turn off the valve straight away.
Well, if this isn’t the way to change your habits, then what is? Fortunately, there is a simpler way that will allow you to make your new habits stick and not relapse into your old habits.
One Step At A Time
When it comes to developing new and better habits, less is more. If you try to do too much at once, you won’t succeed. It’s tempting to try and do as much as you can in one go, but this is a surefire way to fail.
It requires a lot of focus just to change one bad habit into a good one. If you are trying to change five at once, it will quickly become overwhelming. Starting a habit isn’t difficult, it’s keeping to them that is the hard part.
The best way to change your habits is to change one habit at a time and take it slow. Apply the principle of improving by 1% every day.
The principle is very simple. Whatever it is you’re trying to improve you should take it slowly. Small incremental gains may not seem like much and it will feel like you’re not making any progress early on.
However, over time, these gains began to build up. Before you know it, the changes will have become almost routine and you will have replaced your bad habit with a good one.
It’s important not to think of the results while you are trying to establish your new habit. Results are not important at the initial stage. What is important is the fact that you have started.
That is often the hardest part. Simply getting started is a struggle for most people. We put numerous barriers in our way of getting started. Once you have started you have won half the battle.
In the game of changing your habits, little by little is often better than going in all guns blazing.
Whatever habit you are trying to develop or trying to change you want to take it slow at first. One of the habits I developed a few years ago was to drink a glass of water every time I woke up.
While this sounds like an easy one to accomplish, it wasn’t easy at the start. I wasn’t accustomed to drinking water in the morning at first, so unless I had the water to hand when I woke up, I tended to forget.
I made sure I had a glass of water by my bed to ensure that I wouldn’t forget to drink water when I woke up. This one little change was what made the habit stick for me.
If I hadn’t implemented this tiny change, I doubt I would have been able to stick to the habit. Now, whenever I wake up, my first thought is to reach for the water and drink it. Even if I’m travelling, I still think to drink a glass of water first thing in the morning.
This is the way you need to approach your habits. You need to make it as easy as possible for them to stick. You need to do whatever it takes to make the habit successful.
We are what we repeatedly do. Our habits our what defines us as people. They are instinctive acts that we have developed over a long period of time. We do them throughout the day without even thinking.
That’s why it’s so hard to change your habits, half of the time we don’t even realise what we are doing. To change them, we have to be aware of what we are doing and what we want to change.
We cannot accomplish this by trying to change too much at once. We are bound to fail, it takes a lot of effort to change one habit, never mind multiple ones.
Smart off small instead. Introduce habits that cannot fail. Make it as easy as possible for yourself to succeed. You are fighting your instincts when it comes to developing new habits. Your mind does not want to adapt, it wants to carry on as normal.
By aiming to get a little bit better every day, you are moving slowly towards your end goal. It may seem slow, but over time these gains will accrue and before you know it, the new habit will have become second nature.