In the ITAV Mastermind meeting a couple of weeks ago, we talked about forming new habits and you bet your bottom James Clear and his book Atomic Habits came up. We all have times in our lives when we intentionally want to change our behaviour for the better and create new habits for ourselves. This could be getting in the habit of eating healthier and drinking more water. Or it could be moving more and taking the dog for a daily walk. Or it could be work and business related, or spiritual, or… the list goes on and on. In short, so many areas in our lives could be improved and made easier if we created new habits.
Getting into the habit of doing something is often easier said than done. We seem to acquire bad habits without any effort, but getting into a “good” habit can be a little more challenging. In the mastermind, we talked about how a habit is more of who you want to be, rather than what you are doing and how James Clear defines it as part of your identity.
That being said, I want to simplify the starting process into a four-step process that makes it easy to follow until we’ve internalized the new behaviour and made it a true habit – something we do automatically without having to think about, like brushing our teeth.
Decide What You Want To Do
The first step is to decide what you want that new habit to be. 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”. Clarity and definition of your new habit will make committing to it that much easier. Especially when you break it down to how you are going to do it.
Take pride in this new habit.
If you are proud of what you are doing, you will continue doing it. James said it best in his book, so I will let a snippet from the book to the talking…
“The more pride you have in a particular aspect of your identity, the more motivated you will be to maintain the habits associated with it. If you’re proud of how your hair looks, you’ll develop all sorts of habits to care for and maintain it. If you’re proud of the size of your biceps, you’ll make sure you never skip an upper-body workout. If you’re proud of the scarves you knit, you’ll be more likely to spend hours knitting each week. Once your pride gets involved, you’ll fight tooth and nail to maintain your habits.”
― James Clear
Remind Yourself To Get It Done
Once you’ve made the decision to start a new habit, especially if it is one you are proud of, the next few days should be smooth sailing. You’re motivated and excited to get this done. Right now, sticking to your new habit isn’t an issue but a few days in you’ll notice that it’s easy to slip back into old habits.
Maybe it’s raining and you don’t really want to go out and walk. Or maybe your day just gets away from you. This is when it’s important to have a daily reminder to help you keep motivated. If you have to, set an alert on your phone or even schedule the new habit to your daily to-do list for a while.
Make It Part Of Your Routine Until It Becomes A Habit
Which brings us to the last step. It takes some time before a new behavior becomes a true habit. Until then, a routine will work to your best advantage. Even before the new behavior becomes automatic, a routine will help you get it done without having to spend a lot of willpower or relying on daily reminders.
Make that daily walk part of your after dinner routine, or change from grabbing a snack at the vending machine at work at 10:00 in the morning to packing a healthy snack the night before. Find ways to make your new habit easy and for it to be harder to skip it.
I am not an expert by any means but this is my two bits on starting a new habit. Once you’ve decided to create the new habit, be proud of it, practice the routine until it’s second nature and you’ll be well on your way to improving what ever it is you are wanting to improve.