“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” -Aristotle
Do you want to achieve a goal, switch careers, or develop a new relationship? It all starts with creating new behaviors in the form of habits that support your objective. A habit is a routine of behavior that is repeated so often and regularly that it becomes almost automatic and part of our unconscious.
Many of our daily behaviors are habits that we perform without much thought or decision-making, like brushing our teeth, getting undressed, and going to work. When we want to change our behavior and/or perfect a behavior, we need to develop new habits that support our goal and help to turn it into an automatic part of our day.
Repetition Repetition Repetition – it’s the only way to form a new habit. There are 3 essential parts to creating a new habit:
- the Trigger which reminds you
- the Behavior,
- and the Reward which motivates you to continue
If you want to develop a habit to meditate each day, you could set the alarm 30 minutes earlier in the morning so that you have time to meditate (the trigger), commence your meditation (the behavior), and enjoy the positive feelings you get from the meditation (the reward). This behavior loop needs to be repeated over and over again until it become a habit.
It may seem simple, but is often quite difficult, as you know if you have tried to create a new habit. Yet these habits can have powerful, transformative effects on what we can achieve and who we want to be. Below are 7 ways to help you achieve the change you want.
7 ways to successfully create and sustain a new habit:
Understand the WHY
Why do you want this change to occur? How will this habit impact your life? Who will you become? When you connect emotionally to how your life will be better with this new habit, you will stay more motivated to continue. If you want to meet a partner, ask yourself what you want from a relationship, how will your life be different, and who will you be in this partnership. When you hit a bump (as you surely will) and want to quit, remind yourself how your life will be improved with this new behavior/habit.
Setting big goals is exciting, but starting with a small one is more likely to lead to success. A small goal for researching new career paths, for example, would be to spend 30 minutes a day researching online or networking with one person/event a week. Change is hard, and the bigger the change the more challenging it can be. However, incorporating 20-30 minutes of something new is doable and will more likely develop into a habit. Once the behavior feels more routine, you can increase the time and activity level.
As mentioned above, a trigger is something that leads you to automatically do something else. People often think of triggers as leading to an undesired behavior and therefore something to avoid. The smell and association of eating popcorn at the movies can be a trigger to buy popcorn. Create positive triggers for your new behavior. Lay out your gym clothes the night before if you want to work out in the morning, or program your coffee maker for your morning coffee if you don’t want to buy Starbucks. Basically you are forming a mini habit to help with your main one.
Make it Convenient
The more difficult and time consuming it is to take an action, the less likely it is that you will do it. Design your environment and schedule to allow for the new habit/behavior. If you want to eat better and bring lunch to work, in addition to packing it the night before, make sure that you schedule a weekly grocery visit and stock up on plenty of healthy choices for lunch. You can also cook extra food for dinner and bring in leftovers. If you want to work out, join a gym that is close by to your home or work, or you just won’t go.
Make it Social
Having a friend or accountability partner will help you stay on track with your new behavior and make it more fun. Attending a meetup group with a friend to meet like-minded people or joining a social/business group to network are all ways to keep you engaged and motivated to continue your new behavior.
Habits take a while to form, and you may have times that you need to take a break. That’s ok! An all or nothing attitude is not helpful; it’s more important to stay focused what you are trying to achieve. If you can’t walk for 15 minutes, walk around the block. If you take a week off, start again the following week. Remind yourself why you are developing this habit and how good you have been feeling. You may also want to think of new ways to make it easier to maintain the habit, whether it is eliminating negative triggers or creating more positive ones, changing your environment, or inviting a friend to help.
Enjoy the Reward
You’re creating this habit for a reason. Perhaps you have a goal you want to achieve, a life change you want to implement, or maybe you want to create a new habit to replace a bad one. Praise yourself for the intention, the execution and the new behavior. Be mindful of the good feelings that the new habit creates. Soon the new behavior will become a habit and you will have created sustainable change!
You will be amazed at what you can accomplish one small habit at a time. You will create routines of behavior that support the goals you want to accomplish and the vision you have for yourself.
Kim Sonnabend is a certified Ace-up Life & Money coach for those seeking financial security and wellbeing during times of transition. She loves helping her clients discover new visions and possibilities for themselves and take action steps to lead more authentic lives. She has a deep understanding of issues around money and enjoys empowering her clients to make better decisions on how to spend their time and money that honors their values and priorities. Her Money Money Money session package is a hit with clients looking to further explore and understand their relationship to money that goes beyond simple money saving tips. Book a free consultation with her and see how she can help you better yourself today.