Did you know that habits are life-changing and very powerful?
Me neither, until I tried out 3 habits myself.
For the first habit, I got into the routine of making a timetable every 2 weeks.
For the second habit, I trained myself to study after every 15 mins of rest, no matter whether I feel rested or not.
As for the last habit, I followed my sleep schedule of waking up at 7.30 am every morning and sleeping at 11.30 pm every night.
Day by day, the more I completed my habits, the more automated and easy the habits seemed.
The best of all, studying became easier. I procrastinated so little and my productivity shot up massively.
That was when I realised what Aristotle meant when he said that we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
The more you do something, the more you become better at it. When you have become so good at that skill, it becomes automatic and close to flawless. No matter what you do, it is difficult to be lousy at that skill anymore. That is how excellence becomes a habit itself!
Isn’t it amazing to constantly excel at a skill?
If you are excited, let me show you not only how I build habits, but also how I build habits that last.
Here are the 10 steps I take in order to make habits stick.
1. Ask yourself why you want to make this a habit
Knowing your purpose to do something makes it significantly easier because you have an aim in mind. This doesn’t just apply to building habits. It applies to everything that you are doing and will be doing in future.
An aim not only tells you what direction you should go to build your habit, but it also provides the motivation needed to keep you going.
Building a habit is not easy. According to a 2012 study by a group of psychology experts, a habit takes around 10 weeks to form.
That is a long time!
And although being eager to build a motivation in the initial few days helps, the excitement will most likely not last for 2.5 months.
That is why you need to get your “Why” clear. Why am I building this habit? What am I trying to achieve here?
This way, your motivation and eagerness can continuously sustain and keep you moving forward towards building your habit.
2. Make a timetable for your habits
Next, you should construct a timetable to plan how you are going to build your habits.
With a timetable, you will be able to track your progress and know what is the next step forward.
For example, the habit you want to build is to be a good listener. Then, do you want to practise being a good listener once a day or twice or even more? Is there a time of the day you want to practise this habit?
A timetable can help you answer all these questions after you construct it. You know what is next on the to-do list for you to build your habit and you are more focused.
Furthermore, when you have maybe practised the habit for 5 weeks, you know you are halfway there. You get to track your progress and even how fast you are building your habit. If you are doing the habit many times a day, you will certainly build that habit quicker than if you are doing it just once a day.
3. Start small with habits
The most difficult part of doing something is always at the start phase. People always procrastinate and hesitate a lot during the initial phase. That is why in many cases, people do not actually start doing something.
However, once they have done it a few times, there is a higher chance they will do it again. This is because once the action has been done before, it becomes a lot easier to do it again.
Make it so easy you can’t say no.
Hence, it is always best to make the start phase easy. Tune down the intensity and difficulty of the habit. Do not go all out when starting out. Instead, start small and slowly.
For instance, if you want to make exercising a habit, it is good to start with a short run where you can feel the cool breeze and breathe in the fresh air. Forcing yourself to run 10 km on the first day is definitely terrible to start off and sustain your habit. Instantly your brain feels stressed out, procrastination sets in and carrying on your habit becomes a whole lot more difficult.
4. Make yourself accountable for your habits
Procrastination and failure to practise your habits will be common throughout your 10-week journey.
I believe that if you want to accomplish something, you have to be answerable for any of these failures.
Why did you not practise your habit as planned? What was the obstacle hindering you? How are you going to move forward after this failure? How can I prevent this from happening again?
These are questions you should be asking yourself to make yourself accountable.
To reduce and even prevent such failures from happening again, I recommend introducing punishments.
Punishments can be anything from washing the dishes to not getting to eat your favourite ice cream. As long as you feel regret and pain for not practising your habit, the punishment is effective.
With a punishment, you are immediately reminded of the consequences of not practising your habit.
In future, whenever you feel like skipping a day of practice, think back to your punishments and you will choose to take action instead of face the consequences again.
5. Do it with your friends
Doing it with my friends is another step you can take to further motivate you to practise your habit.
2 reasons why.
Firstly, with friends you feel that someone else is going on the journey with you. There is support for you and someone that understands what you are going through.
With support and companions, practising your habit becomes much easier.
Secondly, peer pressure may also motivate you to keep going. Seeing your friends practising and in the journey with you could make you more competitive. If you do not want to lose, you will most likely spend more time practising in order to overtake them.
Even if you are not competitive, seeing them try so hard could make you feel bad that you are not putting in the same effort. Or perhaps, the feeling of falling behind could spur you on to practise harder.
Thus, building a habit with your friends helps make the journey seem a lot more supportive and even competitive.
6. Make it fun and enjoyable
What better way to further motivate you than to make the journey a fun and enjoyable one?
Add in surprising, refreshing and exciting moments.
For instance, again going back to the habit of running, you could run at a park with many dogs if you are a dog lover. Or perhaps if you like greenery, you can run in a park with beautiful flowers and trees. This way, while running, you can take in the breathtaking scenery and thoroughly enjoy yourself.
There are many more ways to make the journey to build a habit an enjoyable and fun one. Take some time to think through, be creative and try them out. See which method works best to lift your spirits.
7. Gradually increase the difficulty of your habits
In step 3, I asked you to start small so that it is easier to kickstart your journey to build a habit.
However, always staying at the easiest difficulty is not going to help you build a habit. The actual habit is a lot more difficult and intense. Staying at the easiest difficulty means you will unlikely be able to practise the habit at a normal difficulty.
As such, once you are comfortable with the current intensity, you should increase the difficulty.
Gradually, as you raise the difficulty, you get closer to the normal intensity of the habit. This will then allow you to build a lasting habit that you find comfort in practising.
8. Remind yourself why you started
I find that reminding yourself regularly why you started is a good way to ensure that you are motivated throughout the journey.
This helps keep your motivation constant and ensures you do not get bored and procrastinate more as time goes.
9. Repeat it
Finally, once you have reached the maximum difficulty of a habit, it is time for you to repeat the habit until it becomes automatic.
There is no need to tune the intensity anymore and you can constantly repeat the habit till you become comfortable and used to it.
The more you repeat the habit, the more automatic it becomes. This ensures that the habit you build is a lasting one.
As mentioned in the above, a habit takes 10 weeks to form. Thus, to get the number of days you need to repeat this step, subtract 10 weeks from the number of weeks you take to get to the maximum difficulty.
10. Reward yourself at every break
Ultimately, rewarding yourself is still the most reliable and powerful motivation you can use.
Rewarding yourself after every action is like taking a cool energy drink. Instantaneously, you feel refreshed and recharged. Energy courses through you and you feel in high spirits.
Furthermore, not only do you get the necessary rest you need, but you also become excited for the next break.
Gradually, you will keep looking forward to the next break, and the next one and the next one, almost like a toddler waiting for his/her next sweet.
With something to feel exhilarated about, your motivation soars to push you through the journey to form a habit.
Of course, all this depends on whether the reward is right for you.
What do I mean?
There are two criteria for a reward to be effective.
Firstly, the reward needs to be something you love doing. It can be eating your favourite snacks, cuddling your dog or even a gaming match. As long as you look forward to it, this can be a likely reward for you.
Talking about games as a reward, this brings me to my second point. Games are created to be addictive. One possible issue that could arise from using games as a reward is that you are unable to stop playing. The game becomes too thrilling and you can’t bear to stop. When this happens, a gaming session as your reward becomes an issue.
To solve this, you need to be strategic. Ask yourself whether you can stop playing when the time is up. If you can’t, immediately cross out this game as a potential reward. It doesn’t make sense to have a reward so addictive that you cannot go back to building your habit.
However, if you can, great news! A gaming session can be your reward, but still, exercise caution and do not get addicted!
Overall, the second criteria for a reward is for it to be something you can control. This way, you can leverage the excitement a reward brings while ensuring you can stop when it is time to stop.
In a nutshell…
These are the 10 ways I find most effective in creating, building and strengthening a habit.
A habit has to be lasting for it to be effective. When a habit becomes automated, there is a lot of potential for growth and improvement. If you have not built a habit, you should definitely try building one now! You would not believe how much a habit can elevate your life.
So, what are you waiting for?
Start building your habit and elevate your life now!
When you are done, come back and tell me how your experience went. If you fail, try harder! I believe that you can do it! If you succeed, tell me how has this habit changed your life? I can’t wait to hear about your experiences!