Succeeding at Small Targets Can Help You Bring About Big Habit Changes
Do You Have Bad Habits? You are not alone.
We all have the same problem, failing at habits. It might be biting our nails or eating junk food. Habits are universal to all but also deeply personal to each of us.
One of the habits that many of us share is the habit of failing. You only have to look at the subscription rate in gyms in January and then the attendance in March to know how many people fail at positive habits.
Life is complicated; it is only natural that as we work towards something, time pushes back our habits are the first to suffer.
Not all habits are bad, though, and many are entirely subconscious. For example, do you always tie the same shoe first? Do you associate a certain road with a particular coffee shop? All of these are habits that we act on subconsciously.
A habit is a behaviour that has been repeated enough to be automatic. - James Clear
There are, however, tips and tricks that we can adopt that help build positive habits.
Do not, underestimate the power of tiny changes. When I mean small, I mean so tiny you can not help but achieve them.
Recently, in a group I belong to, someone asked what was the best tip to get back into writing. This lady had some family issues, had not written for months and now could not go back to it.
The advice I gave her caused some to laugh, but I stand by it. I advised her to write for five minutes a day.
It sounds stupid, but it works. Five minutes is such a small amount of time; no one wants to break a habit for that. It is also such a small amount of time that there are very few people who can't find five minutes out of their day.
The other reason it works is that few people stop. Starting is always the most challenging part of any task. Lastly, you get a positive feeling every time you complete your goal.
Winning becomes an addiction; the more days you string together, the harder it gets to break the chain. Small changes help.
Link with another routine
If I go to my parents and I have a coat or something I must remember to leave with, I always put my keys with it. This is because the brain sees my car keys which I have to pick up and I remember to take the item with me.
That is the power of linking routines. So I set myself the challenge to meditate for thirty days. During the middle part of the month, I was struggling to find ten minutes and had missed a couple of days in a row.
So I linked meditation with something I always do. At 7 pm every night, I take my little girl to bed. We do everything the same way every evening, she has ASD and this helps soothe her for sleep.
I linked the meditation with that routine. After we had her tucked up in bed, every blanket in the same order, I went into my room and meditated. Linking the new habit with an almost automatic one established the pattern.
These can also be tiny changes. For example, if you keep forgetting to take your vitamins in the morning, then put them near your morning coffee. If you want to eat healthily, get the fruit out of the fridge and into your eye line.
If you don't want to eat chocolate, don't buy it. Instead, band good habits together and make bad habits harder to achieve.
Adopt one at a time and build from there.
We all fail at New Years' Resolutions because they are too ambitious or there are too many.
I found an old diary last week with my resolutions in. This was the list:
- Go to the gym every weekday
- Drink 2 litres of water a day
- Eat healthy food, no takeaways
- Read 100 books
- Complete my novel
It is any wonder that I failed every one of those resolutions. Of course, some dropped off quicker than others. How I thought I was going to write a novel, whilst reading 100 books at the gym, whilst using the toilet every hour, I don't know.
Adopt one habit at a time. First, get that habit as almost muscle memory, then add another habit to the first.
Build on success, don't set yourself up to fail.
30 days of habits
I have set myself challenges this year all for thirty days because I believe if you do something for thirty days, you are more likely to do it for life.
To date, I have spent a month learning better productivity and a month setting up a second brain. I am coming to the end of thirty days of meditation.
I still use the productivity tools from the first month. My second brain continues to grow; although not every day, I will still meditate; it has changed my life.
Writing is littered with thirty-day challenges. Write for thirty days, post to social media for a month. It is not just me that sees the power of thirty.
Do something for thirty days. I want to bet that the habits will stay. Maybe not every day, but a version of the habit. Once I completed my first thirty-day writing challenge, I never stopped.
Thirty days is a powerful habit-building tool.
We are all human
We are all human, so we should never be too hard on ourselves when we break a good habit; however, if we do not ask difficult questions of ourselves, then who will?
Building positive habits is highly addictive; we owe ourselves never to stop trying. Instead, take one small thing you want to accomplish and set yourself a goal.
If your goal is to read more books, then using the techniques this is how you accomplish it.
You set yourself the goal of reading for five minutes; you place your book near the kettle for your morning cup of coffee; you do this for thirty days. Then, from that success, you might add the habit of writing down one thing you liked about the book.
From these simple habits, you may have the reading and writing habits that make you a successful novelist in a couple of years. If not, you will have read some great books over the years.
Start small, be consistent and add to your existing habits and you can succeed and break the habit of failing.
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