[Author’s Note: I love this post and still feel it is helpful so I encourage you to read on and enjoy. However since I wrote this article I’ve discovered a far more direct way of building a habit that lasts that doesn’t involve discipline and mental gymnastics to keep in place. I outline this approach in my more recent posts, videos, and programs. If you are interested in learning more click here.]
Whenever I attempt to build a new habit into my life, the doubting voice inside my head shouts,
“Who do you think you are, Wonder Woman? You’re never going to keep that up.”
This voice pipes up whether I feel the itch to start a new yoga practice or get out of bed 30 minutes earlier. She is there if I commit to ending work by 6:00pm or to taking more walking breaks throughout my day.
It can be a bit defeating.
And I’ll be honest with you. Sometimes this voice wins. OK lots of times she does.
And yet looking back, I’ve occasionally managed to overcome this little gremlin and been successful in building a habit that lasts.
So why does this work sometimes and not others?
This question spawned an epic quest (that I am still on today) to better understand what it takes to make habits stick over the long haul.
Here is what I have come up with so far, in no particular order.
5 Secrets to Building a Habit that Lasts
1. Get clear on your why. This is a critical first step. What is driving you to want to undertake this new habit? Is it long-term health and well-being? The chance to see your grandkids graduate from high school? The power to design a life of your choosing?
Get to the heart of why this habit is essential to fulfilling the goals you are committed to and watch your motivation soar.
2. Start small. With any new habit it is best to start with small, conscious steps that build incrementally over time. What is the most laughably doable step you can take right now towards building this new habit? Always go with what feels doable and not stressful.
For example, if your new habit is to run three miles every day, start with a 10-minute walk twice a week or one run just once a week. The key is to pick something that stretches you but is something you can easily commit to. By doing this you are maintaining integrity with your word each week, which builds a powerful momentum to stick to your goals moving forward.
3. Pre-load your decisions. I got this concept from this amazing book. Try and visualize exactly what your habit will look like inside of your day. When and where are you going to implement this habit? How will it work with your other routines? Do you need additional support to achieve this goal? Get an image in your mind before you start.
4. Celebrate your wins. Science is proving that celebrating the wins you achieve on the way toward your larger goal is critical to maintaining motivation and a desire to continue your journey. The key is to be kind to yourself. Take the time to appreciate your progress and reward yourself for the many steps you make along the way.
5. Commit to the practice not perfection. Get clear inside yourself that you are committed to practicing a habit– be it running, meditation, or leaving work before 6pm– rather than perfecting a habit. There is no end zone. There is no perfect goal to finalize. Wake up every morning and recommit to to this gradual, incremental, and transformative journey.
Are You Ready To Upgrade Your Time Management Systems?
If you are ready to put ALL the pieces together of your time and task management system I encourage you to check out my digital workbook on Amazon.com called True For You Time Management. It walks you through the process of building a time and task system that really and truly works for you. Click here to check it out.
If you’d prefer to have immediate feedback as you build your system click here to learn about my productivity coaching programs.