13 Mar How to Build Good Habits
We all struggle to create new habits in our life. We jump into with excitement and vigor, only to see the enthusiasm fade away when we realize the struggle. Even though we know how beneficial the new habit would be, our protective mechanisms kick in when things start getting hard.
Therefore, my intention is to give you a methodology to help you build new habits that are relevant to the person you want to be and the goals you want to achieve.
What is a habit?
We all know what a habit is, and it’s good to ground the conversation with a definition so we are all on the same page. I particularly liked the way this definition is worded – “a habit is a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up”. It reminds us that we can have both good and bad ones.
When we think of good habits, things, like exercising, brushing your teeth twice a day, or eating healthy foods, come to mind. Bad habits make us think of smoking, drinking, or overeating.
The secret to building new habits starts with being conscious and intentional of what we want to create and own, and why it’s important to us. We know that building new good habits isn’t always easy and yet, ridding ourselves of bad habits can be just as hard. Either way, there are ways to take control of our habits instead of having them take control of us. Having a framework to do that is important.
Why are habits important?
Let’s face it, our brain is lazy. It doesn’t want to work hard. Habits help reduce the amount of work our brain needs to do for us to accomplish a task. Remember when you were learning to drive a car? Your brain was actively engaged in every process – what pedal to step on; how to signal a turn; when to check your mirrors, etc. Over time, you built the habits needed to drive. Imagine if you had to go through the mental strain learning to drive every time you got in the car? It would be exhausting and wouldn’t leave you much mental capacity to learn other things. Our brain doesn’t like to work so hard, therefore it processes behaviors into habits.
Building a new habit – The Process
When working on new behaviors to build habits, we tend to bite off more than we can chew. True success comes from small steps over time. The more we can build new small habits that will help us have the patterns we need to handle bigger habits, the more successful we will be. Having a process to follow gives us a framework to help.
First, I’d like you to consider – have you always been someone who formed habits easily? Growing up, my siblings and I always made fun of my brother. He formed habits around what he would wear to work, what he would take for lunch, and what time he would wake up. We called him rigid, but in hindsight, he was creating small habits like this gave him the mental capacity for more important things.
For some people, creating habits is in their nature. You’re probably saying, “nope, that’s not me” because you’re taking the time to read this blog. So, let’s jump into the process.
Start by writing down a habit you want to create.
Step 1 – Dig down to find the root cause that may impede the success of forming this habit
Level 1 – consider what may get in the way of you doing this activity or behavior on a regular basis. I’m going to use an example of exercising first thing in the morning as the habit I want to create. When I think of what may get in the way of me doing this, I might write down:
- I can’t get up early enough in the morning
- I have no energy in the morning
- I have to get the kids ready for school
- I have early networking meetings on some days of the week
Level 2 – for each of the Level 1 impediments write down the underlying cause.
In my example, I would start with “I can’t get up early enough”. What impedes me from getting up early is:
- I’m working late
- I fall asleep after 1 am because I’m binge-watching tv
- I’m watching the news and my mind starts racing about all the bad things
- I give myself permission to hit the snooze button 3 times before I get up.
Continue this process for each of the points in level 1. You may see trends and consistencies. This may give you insights as to smaller behaviors you need to start working on.
You may feel like you need to dive further or possibly have tapped into a clear starting place. Remember, you want to start building new behaviors that are relevant, but manageable. When we try to stretch ourselves too far from our norm, we fail. Working to build new but easier habits are what set us up for success.
I’m going to go another level down on my example and look at the fact that I work till midnight at night. What causes me to do this? When I look at my day, I might start noticing how inefficiently I am using my time. I’m doing networking events that haven’t generated a nickel of revenue, so I might consider that a new habit in analyzing each networking event before committing to it would be a habit that would serve me. I may see that I spend too much time on social media and get distracted from my work. And so on, and so on.
By thinking about how I can be more productive in my day and not have to work at night I can find an easier behavior to start to change. You’ll know when you’ve reached that point. Trust yourself and keep in mind you’re looking for a small shift that you’re able to stay committed to with awareness.
Step 2 – Write down why building the new smaller habit is important to you. Consider things like – who do you want to be and how this would help you be that person; how the habit ties into achieving the larger goal; how the smaller habit would positively impact your life; and how it helps you to honor your core values and beliefs.
Step 3 – Set out how often you want to practice this new behavior.
Create a habit tracking sheet (or contact me and I’ll send you one) to note each day of the week you practiced this new behavior. Keep this chart front and center as a reminder. At the end of the week, tally up the number of days you practiced the new behavior and compare it to your goal. Not any discrepancy. Repeat practicing the behavior for 4 – 5 weeks until it becomes ingrained as a habit.
Step 4 – Celebrate your achievements.
This is probably just as, if not more important than tracking. Celebrating our achievements helps to keep us motivated. Consider having an accountability partner to cheer you on and join in on the celebration.
Once you have worked through the process and have built the habit of the behavior, go through the exercise again to find the next small behavior you need to work on. Creating new habits takes patience, practice, and commitment. By starting off with small and achievable behaviors, you’ll increase the likelihood of success and stay motivated over the long run.
Reflection Friday is the opportunity for women to invest in their personal development and to be a part of a caring community. Please join me for our next call on March 27th when we’ll be discussing “What is your relationship with money?” To register for this free virtual community, visit BusinessRescueCoaching.com/events and click on the Reflection Friday link.