You feel confused because important habits just won’t stick with you.
What does stick are those pesky unproductive and unhealthy habits.
They certainly do stick, like… well, like goo, let’s say.
You’re thinking: “There must be some way; it can’t be that hard.”
I can’t wave my magic wand and make those habits stick for you. It’s not that easy either.
But when you know the right steps, it’s almost as easy. I’m speaking from experience.
I invite you to experiment with me. For the sake of this experiment, forget what you think you know about habit formation. Don’t clutter your mind.
The clarity gained from simplicity gives you the power to make significant changes.
Think of a healthy habit you’d like to establish, and let’s go.
Step 1: What Really Drives Our Behavior?
Our core motivators are our emotions: positive and negative. This is what shapes our behavior.
What is your most potent WHY for establishing this new habit?
- Think of 3 benefits this new habit will bring you.
- Next, think about 3 drawbacks you will incur from not taking action.
Take a minute or two to do this.
Step 2: Size Isn’t Everything
This tip will sound counter-intuitive, especially if you don’t know the extensive research BJ. Fogg, Behavior Scientist at Stanford University, has done on this.
You want your new habit to “wire in your amygdala” so that it becomes an automatic “gut-level response.” The fastest way to do this is to create a TINY HABIT at first before ramping it up later (once the habit has formed).
With tiny, I really mean tiny. So small, it’s almost impossible to fail at it.
Jogging? Just put your sneakers on.
Reading? 1 page a day.
Push-ups? 1 push up.
If you don’t believe this makes sense, try it out of desperation.
If you were satisfied with your approach to habits, you probably wouldn’t be reading this post.
- Chunk your desired habit down into a tiny one.
Step 3: Use Your Calendar To Conquer All Obstacles
Your calendar can be your most powerful productivity tool if you use it right.
It can also help you with habit formation. By scheduling your desired habit at a specific time of the day, you’ll give yourself accountability.
Putting the habit in your calendar is an affirmation to yourself that you will do it.
Not to mention that it will show up when you look over your day, and you’ll be sure to remember it.
If you think your “little habits” aren’t important enough for your calendar, think again.
Consider the far-reaching implications of establishing a healthy habit. Six months from now. Two years from now.
- Commit to a suitable time-span (I suggest 30 days) and enter the TINY habit into your calendar.
If you feel like you need additional accountability, tell someone important to you about your commitment.
Alternatively, check out a tool called Beeminder.
An Inspiring Story
Your goal is to make daily exercise a habit.
You start with step 1. First, the positive:
- You’ll eventually be able to shed that excess body fat.
- You’ll feel much better and more confident about yourself.
- You’ll be healthier and are more likely to see your grand-children grow up.
Now the negative:
- You’ll continue putting on MORE body fat and might actually get high blood pressure.
- You’ll not only feel lousy in your own skin, but you’ll feel bad about not doing anything about it.
- You might not be able to see your grand-children grow up.
Next step 2, you small-chunk your goal:
- I’ll do 1 push up a day. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I’m going to give this a shot.
- You put this in your calendar — right after waking up. It’s only one push-up. And because it’s such a ridiculously small amount, you even bet some money on it.
You wake up on your first day while it’s still dark outside. Everyone else is asleep. You pick up your phone, and it says: “6:30 do one push-up”. It feels weird, but you are committed to it, so you get down on the floor.
You get up. You feel kind of good.
But you shrug it off. “Come on; it’s just one push-up.”
But it DID feel good, and it was some measurable progress towards your goal. It’s certainly better than doing nothing.
On day four, it happens.
You have a hectic day, lots of random stuff happens. In the evening, when you’re about to hop into bed, it hits you: “I didn’t do my push-up.”
A thought crosses your mind: “Never mind…” But:
- You’ve committed to 30 days.
- It’s all over your calendar.
- You even told your partner about it (who likes the idea).
So you hop out of bed and get it done.
Again you feel a strange sense of accomplishment.
What you don’t know is that this feeling is your brain gently rewiring itself.
Fast forward two months.
You’ve added 3 more push-ups by now. You can feel that your arms have grown a little firmer already.
You also missed a day, here or two. But it’s no longer such a big deal because exercising isn’t this big, scary phantom anymore.
Go ahead; you can finish the story in your own head.
You Can Do It Too
Remember why you came to this article. It’s a nagging emotion to feel “helpless” when it comes to our behavior.
Choose a habit and follow the 3 steps. This only works if you actually do it.
When you see it working in your own life, you’ll be amazed at all the new changes that will be creeping into your life before you know it.
You’ll be able to smile at yourself and feel a strange sense of accomplishment, which will grow more and more familiar as the days go by.