In a recent post, I talked about the value of habits and behaviors in helping me reach my fitness goals. Without the right habits and behaviors, hitting your goal is almost impossible. Not exactly a newsflash, right?
The sad part is, many of us already know what to do. We even know the habits and behaviors that we should be doing in order to reach our goals. So then why is it so difficult for us to stick to them?
I believe that it’s because there is a real disconnect between the two. Behaviors are nothing more than activities. Habits are repeated behaviors. That repetition takes the shape of a pattern in our lives.
Turning a behavior into a habit requires a level of discipline. And that’s where things begin to break down. We choose the familiar and the comfortable because these new behaviors require change.
If our children emulate what they see in us, then you can quickly conclude that our habits have generational implications. As we improve our habits, what our children see begins to change as well. I believe it’s as important for them to see how to change a habit or introduce a new one as it is for them to observe good habits. If they can learn a strategy on how to adapt, then they learn what continuous improvement is all about. In the remainder of this post I’ll teach some tips you can use to develop a strategy for success.
We all know about good habits and bad habits. The goal is to either eliminate the bad, or replace the bad with the good.
Charles Duhigg, author of the book The Power of Habit (Amazon affiliate link), provides a simple formula, shown at right. The routine is the habit itself. The secret lies in the cue – what starts the routine? What puts our brain into automatic mode to do these habits without thinking?
If we can identify the cues for good, healthy habits, we can eliminate the ones for the bad habits. Simple enough, right? But I think there’s more to it, and Duhigg hits on several of these in his book.
Have a clear picture of your goal. If you don’t know where you want to go, it’s almost impossible to identify the right habits to get there. Goals should follow the SMARTY rule – specific, measurable, active, realistic, time-based, and YOUR goal. Find pictures, images, or whatever helps you envision what life will be like when you reach the goal. This makes the goal seem more attainable.
Take away temptation. Temptations are cues that entice you to perform bad habits. For example, if you are working on a book but have a hard time focusing, shut off your internet connection to remove that distraction.
Remove the obstacles. Identify what causes you to slip into the old habits and take those away. If having chips in the pantry makes you eat them, then get rid of the chips. Don’t wait till the bag is empty, do it now!
Put it in your face. Decide what you need in advance to perform the habit and put it where you can’t miss it. If your habit is to go walking every day, put your walking shoes where you can’t miss them. This also means putting reminders on your calendar, sticky notes on your mirror and visual triggers in places where you can’t miss them.
Get some accountability. Almost nothing is as powerul as having to answer to someone. Get a partner who’s working on the same goal that you are. Then, schedule and keep regular accountability sessions. Better yet, use that time to perform the habit or behavior together. This works great for exercise habits. Duhigg talks about the power of group accountability in meeting goals.
Measure progress. Keeping a simple calendar where you check the days that you did the behavior is great. It becomes another visual cue that you’re making progress. The more you do it, and the more check boxes that you fill in, the more powerful the effect.
Reward yourself. It’s very easy to give up on big goals, especially if you plan to deprive yourself of something the whole way through. Give yourself little bonuses for making progress.
All of these steps are ways to set yourself up for success. By nature, we all follow the laws of inertia. We get comfortable with what we know and are reluctant to change. That’s how habits are created in the first place. These tips make things happen because it makes the new behaviors more convenient. Because we tend to follow the path of least resistance, we have to remove any resistance to our desired goals. Make the paths to your success straight and wide through implementation of these tips.
Discussion Question – What steps have you taken to make success easier in your life?
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