When I want to create some sort of change in my life, whether it is for personal growth or development, I typically start looking at what habits might help. A Habit is an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary, whereas, a goal is a result or achievement to which an effort is directed. While in definition they may seem similar I often think of habits as building blocks in reaching my goals.
When it comes to forming new habits do you cringe or embrace the opportunity? A lot of our internal battles with change have to do with the way we implement new habits. What kind of new habits do you wish you could pick up? Is it the habit of eating healthier and drinking more water (that has been mine for the last couple of months), or is it work related? Do you want to become more spiritual, develop a positive mindset, or find more gratitude? There are so many areas in my life where I could improve by creating a few new habits.
Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.”-Benjamin Franklin
We seem to acquire bad habits without any effort, but getting into a “good” habit is a little more challenging. If you want to be intentional about changing your behavior there are a few practical ways to ensure our success.
How Long Does It Really Take To Create New Habits?
Some studies say it takes 21 days to create a new habit, which seems kind of weird because a few of my bad habits were formed a lot more quickly. So I started wondering how long does it really take to create a positive new habit?
The answer is it depends. It depends on your mindset and it depends on how big the change is that you want to make. If it’s your habit of eating a bowl of ice cream every night and you switch from regular ice cream to a low sugar frozen yogurt version, it’s probably not going to take you very long. But if you are wanting to give up ice cream altogether or cutting out all sugar it might take a lot longer.
When we ask how long it takes, what we really want to know is how long do we have to tough it out before it gets easier. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel where we don’t have to try so hard anymore? In other words, when will this new behavior become automatic?
To help, I thought I’d break it down into a four-step process to make it a little easier to follow and internalize a new behavior until it becomes a true habit – something we do automatically without thinking about it. (
1 | Decide and Define your What and Why
Be as specific as possible. Don’t just tell yourself you want to exercise more. Instead, say something like “I will go for a 30-minute walk every single day.” Deciding “what” your new habit will be and then define your “why” to stay committed.
There are usually two obstacles keeping us from our new habits. One is we try changing too many things at once, and the other is we are a little unclear about why we want to make the change. If you can decide and define these two things, you will be well on your way to making a lasting change.
2 | The Benefits of Routines and Piggybacking
It’s easier to make a new habit than get rid of an old one. It takes time before a new behavior becomes a true habit. Until then, a routine will work to your advantage. Even before the new behavior becomes automatic, a routine will help without spending a lot of willpower or relying on daily reminders.
Be prepared to work a lot harder to give up checking your email every 2 minutes or snacking late at night. Whenever possible, try to replace an old habit with a new one. For example, if you’re wanting to give up sugar, find a healthy substitute to satisfy your sweet tooth. My new favorite sugar substitute is Monk Fruit. 100% natural with no glycemic index or after taste!
Maybe you want to start exercising
3 | Reminders, Schedules, and To-Do Lists
When I’m working on a new habit, the first few days always seem the easiest. I’m motivated and excited so sticking to my new habit isn’t an issue. But after a few days, I often notice how easy it is to slip into old habits.
What if one day it’s raining and you don’t really want to go out and walk? Or what about when your day just gets away from you? Be ready for those unplanned obstacles and use your daily reminder to keep you on track. I set an alert on your phone and add the new habit to my daily to-do list for a while.
A constant reminder of why you’re trying to change your behavior is also helpful. Remind yourself every day that you’re exercising so your body stays strong and you can go play with the kids or grandkids in the yard. Or put up a picture to remind you about making frugal choices so you can save for your dream home. Keep the reason why you’re changing front and center and then be prepared to stick it out. Yes, it will take some time to make new habits and replace old ones, but you can do it!
4 | Find Support
When I decided to create healthier habits this year I teamed up with my husband. Finding someone with the same or similar goal makes a huge difference. You could find a workout partner or a diet buddy. Keep tabs on each other and offer encouragement to keep going. It’s much harder to skip a walk if you know someone else is depending on you to be there.
If one accountability partner is good, a whole group is even better. And they don’t even need to be local. Find a supportive online group and challenge each other to stick to your new habit for the next 30 days. Not wanting to be the first one to give up will keep all of you going until you establish that new habit.
Give these practical little hacks a try. Keep using the ones that you find helpful until your new habits stick.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”-Aristotle
Remember, it’s called learning to think and aim big for a reason. If you already knew how to apply all these principles, then you wouldn’t need any training. You most certainly can retrain your brain. It just takes consistent practice.
The more you practice, the easier it will become. You’ll be on your way to not only learning to think and aim big, but you’ll be on your way to living big. Just stay committed and determined to your end-result, and a little bit of grit doesn’t hurt either.