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“Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.”
― Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit
I’ve talked about this before, but for me, the way to achieve success and get your goal isn’t to do with what you might think. It has nothing to do with willpower, determination or how many degrees you’ve got. It’s actually got nothing to do with talent. It is about the daily discipline of habits.
Now, I know you’re probably thinking, “God, that’s boring,” but the simple truth is habits are what gets you success. So, I’m going to teach you four insanely easy ways to start creating good habits.
I’ve done a lot of reading in this area because I’m so passionate about this, and one of my absolute all-time favourite books is ‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg. What I love about Duhigg’s book, is that he goes into real detail about HOW a habit works. In a nutshell, the way it works is that there’s a cue, a routine and a reward.
In order to switch up your habits you don’t just take them away, but you replace them so that you’ve still got the cue. You implement a new routine and get a (new) reward. For example, a lot of people, myself included, can be a bit of a stress eater. So, your cue might be stress. Something difficult has happened, so your routine is, “Oh well, I’ve had a difficult day at work, so I deserve that mammoth chocolate bar (routine) and then the reward is instant gratification.
So, the next time a stressful situation occurs, the routine is going to kick in, and this is often automatic because you have had the same response to your cue (=stressful situation) over and over again. This is habit.
The way to implement good habits is to switch out that routine and put something that’s going to be more beneficial for you. For example, now when I’ve had a stressful day, I find going to the gym is a better routine for me because I still get that reward of, “Ahhhhh!” having that gratification at the end. So, it’s about switching out the routine.
But sorry for the bad news. This is easier said than done though, I’m afraid, because as Charles Duhigg says in his book, there are unfortunately no specific set of steps that are going to help everybody. However, some good news… I’m going to share with you my four insanely easy ways to implement good habits, because these are what have worked for me. Whether your goals are health related or professional, personal or relationship focused, these will help. Remember, it’s the simple little daily acts that will help you rather than big grand gestures.
Now, I don’t want you thinking, “Oh God, well that’s never going to work. It’s too simple.” It absolutely will. It’s the little, simple acts that work.
Habit tip number one is all about having reminders. When we’re trying to implement something new, we need to remind ourselves of it to help us get to that stage of doing it so often that it becomes a habit. You may have heard before that creating a habit can take anywhere from 21-60 days (depending on what research you’re looking at). So, you’ve got to remind yourself to do it. And I don’t mean just mentally reminding yourself, but visually remind yourself.
I was chatting to a client once who just casually mentioned the fact that she always forgot to take her tablets and vitamins in the morning, and I asked her where they were. She said, “they’re in my bathroom cabinet.” I asked, “How often do you go into that cabinet?” “Never really”, she said. Well, there’s the problem!
You’re not seeing the vitamins; you’re not remembering to take them. You don’t take them every day consistently for 20 plus days, it’s not going to become a habit.
What did I do to implement that as a habit for me? I’ve put them by my kettle. Every morning when I go downstairs, I make myself a cup of green tea, my vitamins are there. I don’t need to remember to take my vitamins, they’re visually there.
Now, there will become a point where something does become so ingrained you don’t need to remind yourself anymore, so use that visual cue for something else, but whilst you’re trying to implement a habit you need a visual reminder.
How are you going to remember and record the fact that you were on track to implementing that habit? Habit tip tumber 2 is about developing good habit tracking. Again, it’s not going to happen overnight and will take anywhere from 20 to 60 days.
The key is to visibly track your habits. Don’t just have it stored in your head, because either:
This can look like anything. It could be an app, like My Fitness Pal to track calories, water or exercise, or it could be your Fitbit for tracking your sleep. What about a good old fashioned pen and paper! That works as well. It doesn’t have to be fancy; you just need to track whatever it is you’re aiming for.
At the moment, I’m going to Japan, so I’ve upped my Japanese learning self-study to 40 minutes a day. I track that, because even if I don’t quite make my 40 minutes a day, which at the moment is not really happening, at least I know and I’m tracking how many minutes I’m doing a day, and this is now making it a daily habit for me.
Remember to make sure you make habit tracking one of your non-negotiables when you do your weekly time management planning.
Another way to create good habits is to identify what has stopped you in the past. We repeatedly make the same mistakes again and again, and then we just get more frustrated with ourselves because we can’t understand why we’re not reaching our goal, even though we keep trying and trying and trying. And this is because we’re making the same mistakes because we’re not understanding what’s stopped us in the past.
Identify what was stopping you reaching that goal in the past so you can now overcome it to form a good habit. I’m going to the classic example of getting to gym because I hear this from people all the time, telling me how they don’t have enough time to exercise and think that it is “discipline” that gets people to the gym. No! It’s because they make it a habit!
So, try to think what has stopped you from making it a habit in the past.
Finally, number 4. My fourth insanely easy way to create a good habit – you’ve got to start seeing it as a choice. So many times, I talk to clients and they’re using language like ‘must’ and ‘should’ and ‘have to’. The problem with that is you’ve got no control over that.
Where is your sense of desire and control to create that good habit? Start to put the choice back into it. See it as your choice. You want to do this. It’s not something you have to do.
No one’s holding a gun to your head (well hopefully not!) when you are making that choice. So, whatever that good habit you want to implement is, whether it is going to bed early, getting up early, exercising, being more patient, working on your drawings, or speaking up at work, you have to see it as a choice you’re making.
So, there you have it! Four insanely easy ways to start creating good habits.
Remember, it’s the habits that are going to get you success and move you towards your goal, it’s not willpower or education or anything like that. It just simply is good daily habits.
Work towards you goals in easy bit by bit using the compound-effect of the Law of the Slight Edge. In a nutshell, the Slight Edge is the law that everything adds up bit by bit. The actions we take will move us either towards our goals or away from them. Learn more about the Law of the Slight Edge in my ground-breaking article 5 Essential tips to achieve your goals in 2020.
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If you are serious about wanting to make life-long changes and positively transform your life, then I would love to hear from you to see how I can support you.
I have helped a range of people on a huge variety of goals – from suffering with confidence loss, to publishing a book, to enabling a change of direction in life, to small business owners struggling with staff – but my main focus is to support the busy professional who is trying to juggle it all.
Other Blog Articles on My Web Site
Below are links to other blog articles that you might be interested to read.
Tony Robbins’ world famous “Unleash the Power Within” seminar… here are my three key take homes from the four-day extravaganza.
Are you a secret self-sabotger? Me too! Here are my tips for how to stop self-sabotaging today
If you asked me what was one of the things I was most proud about in my corporate career, apart from moving up the ladder fairly quickly, it would also probably be my work-life balance.
When it comes to goal setting, you’ll have heard about SMART goals. But if SMART goals are the way to do it, then why do so many of us not achieve our goals? Here is why SMART goals are stupid and some top tips how you can improve your goal setting!
This article is written by Alice Dartnell, life and success coach of Alice Dartnell Limited. Alice empowers busy professionals to be successful, transform their lives and achieve more by improving their confidence, mindset and time management.
For more information please see www.alicedartnell.com.
Copyright 2020 Alice Dartnell Limited