In my recent articles I have been referencing the development of habits and how forming healthy habits in your life can lead to positive changes. I figured this week I would dedicate an article to habit formation. First, I must give credit to the godfathers of habit formation Steven Covey, Charles Duhigg, Robin Sharma, and James Clear. In the past year I have read/listened to each of their books based around habits. These books did not necessarily change what I was trying to do in my life. Although they did give me important information on habit formation.
Here is my list of ways to develop habits. Developing healthy habits is one of the keys to achieving success. Most of the top performers that I have researched develop healthy habits that led to their success. Over a period, you can develop your habits that will lead to your success.
1. Develop a routine.
One of the easiest ways to develop habits is to develop a routine. A routine is something that you follow daily and do not deviated from. One of the most important books that I have read on developing a routine is The 5 AM Club by Robin Sharma. Sharma wrote this book to promote the benefits of rising early and going through a morning routine. I have talked a lot about my morning routine in previous articles. But if you are looking to form habits into your life, this is one of the most effective ways. Sharma promotes the 20/20/20 formula through his writing. This is basically a morning routine that you implement into your life.
• 20 minutes of exercise
• 20 minutes of reflection
• 20 minutes of learning
You do not have to follow his routine perfectly. I do not but following a version of this formula can help you to form healthy habits in your life.
2. Link activities to one another.
As mentioned above about developing a routine. Linking activities to one another is the key to Sharma’s 20/20/20 formula. Activities flow into one another making each of your habits link together.
I have exercise linked with waking up. When I wake up in the morning exercise is the first thing I want to do. Exercise starts my flow of activities. If I do not start my day with exercise then I won’t meditate, journal, and possibly not even write. Everything is linked to one another. In order to have a productive day, I need to start my day off with exercise.
You can link an activity to anything. Even the act of changing your clothes when you get home from work could be linked with going for a run. Or waking up could be linked with meditation. The key is to link your habit with another activity to achieve success.
3. Start small.
I talked a lot about this in my previous article on The Power of One. But it is too important of a concept to not include in habit development. Do not start forming a habit by going for your end goal. Make small incremental steps toward reaching your goal.
If your goal is to run a marathon by the end of the year. Not an easy task. Do not start by trying to run a marathon on your first running session. Start with running one mile then increase that incrementally daily. The end goal of running 26.2 miles, will not seem as hard if you gradually do it.
Trying to reach the end goal on the first day will only set yourself up for failure. And it is almost a guarantee that you will not stick with your running habit. But if you feel success daily, that will make you crave running and it becomes part of your life!
4. Have a realistic goal.
In Stephen King’s book On Writing, King talks about his writing process and how his goal is to write 2000 words daily. If you write 2000 words daily for 60 days, you will have enough for a 400-page book. You will never write 400 pages in one day; you will not even write that in a week. Although by having a realistic goal of writing 2000 words a day. You can easily obtain your end goal of writing a book. Also, if you are an inspiring writer or author, King’s book On Writing is a must read. I would even recommend it be taught in all high school English classes.
5. Stay consistent.
Saying consistent has much the same theme as having a realistic goal. The consistency factor is what ingrains a habit in your life. Doing something daily is the only way to form a habit.
I am approaching this one from an example about a bad habit. Smoking does not become a habit after having one cigarette. It becomes a habit after you smoke daily for a long period of time. There is no doubt that there are addictive components in tobacco that make you become addicted. But the act of smoking day after day is the thing that forms smoking into a habit.
To break this habit, you need to break your consistency. Or make a new habit to replace your old habit. This is the reason the Nicorette gum is effective. When you have a craving, you reach for a piece of gum instead of a cigarette. Although by stringing together a series of days without smoking you are becoming consistent at something else. Not smoking! These concepts are effective in forming good habits and breaking bad habits.
6. Do not miss two days in a row.
I also talked about in my previous article The Power of One. Missing one day of a habit is not a big deal. But by missing two days, you start to fall out of your habit. Earlier this week I missed two days of workouts and writing because I came down with a cold. But on the third day when I started to feel better, I was up going through my morning routine. Getting up on the third day was very difficult. My body wanted to stay in bed for another hour which would have really messed up my routine. When you miss the second day, it is much easier for your mind to give in a miss the third. Which could turn in to a week and then a month. Miss one day, do not miss two.
7. The 66-day mark.
If you have researched any studies on habits, it is known that it takes from 18 to 254 days to form a habit depending on the person. But the average for habit formation is 66 days. There has been many articles and books written on the 66-day mark. Robin Sharma’s The 5 AM Club makes emphasis to the 66-day mark. The 66-day mark is a good place you shoot for if you are trying to develop a habit in your life. Keep in mind that you may need to go longer than 66 days to develop a habit depending on the type of person you are.
8. Know your trigger.
Everyone has a trigger that sets them in motion. It could be a song or place. It could be a quick walk before your run. Knowing what your trigger is can be a major steppingstone to develop habits. I talked about this above but my trigger that sets everything in motion is rising early enough to exercise. The first exercise that puts everything in motion in a set of overhead press using dumbbells.
This starts me in the right direction. Once I finish this exercise, I know everything else will come naturally. The hardest part is getting out of bed and walking into my gym. If you do not have a trigger, develop one. The more your body is automated when you are trying to form a habit the easier it will be to implement that activity in your life.
9. Understand you will have setbacks.
Understand you will have setbacks as you try to form habits. You will have missed days and unexpected interruptions. This is a fact of life; nothing will go perfect. But if you understand this and expect setbacks. They are easier to deal with when they happen. Sometimes the setbacks are half the fun. They let you test your strength and determination. By testing this, you feel accomplished when you finally develop the new habit in your life.
This also applies if you are trying to remove a bad habit from your life. Understand you will have setbacks and missed days. But they are easier to adapt too if you understand this from the beginning. When you mess up, the next day is a new day and you can start over. Every day gives you an opportunity to begin again.
10. Become your habit.
James Clear talks about this in Atomic Habits. This is one of my favourite books that I read this year. I listened to it twice, and I recently bought a physical copy to read. Clear talks about how to form a habit in your life you need to become that habit. If you want to introduce reading into your life, you need to become a reader. If you want to develop a habit of running daily, you need to become a runner.
This goes for any habit that you want to form in your life. I wanted to read 52 books this year. To do this, I had to develop the habit of reading into my life. I have always enjoyed reading and it has always been something I would do occasionally. Some months I might read four books and others I may not read any. To read 52 books in a year, I had to form a habit of reading daily. I had to become a reader, something I always wanted to become. When I became a reader, it was very rewarding. You can apply this too anything! Weightlifting, writing, skydiving, rock climbing, playing the saxophone! Anything you want to do in life you can do if you become your habit!
Like I said in the opening paragraph. I have been thinking about writing this article for some time now. How people develop habits in their lives has become a fascination of mine. I hope this article will inspire you to develop some healthy habits. One of the most rewarding things is introducing a healthy habit in your life. Remember the difference between being a successful person and not being a successful person. Are successful people have better habits!
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