Building a habit is hard. You know what you should be doing, but somehow, you can’t seem to make it stick. Maybe you’ve tried to start a new habit multiple times, but you always seem to fall back into your old ways. The good news is that there are proven strategies for building habits that stick. In this article, we’ll share ten of the best.
1. Start Small and Build Gradually
One of the most common reasons why people fail to build habits that stick is that they try to do too much too soon. Starting small means breaking down your goal into smaller, more manageable steps. For example, if your goal is to exercise more, start with just five or ten minutes a day, and gradually increase your time.
Starting small helps you build momentum gradually, making it easier to stick to your new habit in the long run. It also helps you avoid feeling overwhelmed or burned out, which can be a major obstacle to habit formation.
To start small, begin by setting a goal that’s achievable and measurable. Then, break that goal down into smaller, more manageable steps. For example, if your goal is to read more, start by reading for just five minutes a day. Once you’ve established that habit, gradually increase your reading time by five minutes a week. The key is to focus on progress, not perfection.
2. Be Specific
Make your habits as specific as possible. Instead of saying, “I want to exercise more,” be specific about the type of exercise you want to do and how often you want to do it. This will help you create a clear plan that you can stick to.
Being specific helps you establish a clear goal and a plan to achieve it. It also helps you avoid feeling overwhelmed or confused about what you need to do to form your new habit.
To be specific, start by setting a goal that’s clear and measurable. For example, instead of saying, “I want to eat healthier,” set a goal to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Then, create a plan to achieve that goal. This might include buying more fruits and vegetables, preparing healthy snacks in advance, or tracking your food intake.
3. Create a Trigger
A trigger is a reminder that helps you remember to do your new habit. For example, if you want to establish a habit of meditating every morning, create a trigger by setting an alarm or placing a note on your bathroom mirror.
Creating a trigger helps you establish a routine and makes it easier to remember to do your new habit. It also helps you build a habit by linking it to an existing behavior. Check out the science behind how habits are formed to understand why creating a trigger helps.
To create a trigger, choose a cue that you already do every day. This might be something like brushing your teeth or taking a shower. Then, link your new habit to that cue. For example, if you want to establish a habit of doing push-ups every morning, link it to your existing morning routine by doing your push-ups right after you brush your teeth.
4. Track Your Progress
Tracking your progress means keeping track of how often you do your new habit and how well you’re sticking to your plan.
Tracking your progress helps you stay motivated and see how far you’ve come. It also helps you identify areas where you need to improve and adjust your plan accordingly.
To track your progress, use a habit tracker or a journal to record your progress. This might include tracking how often you do your new habit, how long you do it for, or how well you’re sticking to your plan. Set up a system that works for you, whether it’s a spreadsheet, a bullet journal, or an app. Review your progress regularly to stay motivated and make any necessary adjustments.
5. Focus on the Benefits
Focusing on the benefits means reminding yourself why you’re building this new habit and what you hope to gain from it.
Focusing on the benefits helps you stay motivated and reminds you why this habit is important to you. It can also help you overcome obstacles and stay committed in the long run.
To focus on the benefits, write down why you’re building this new habit and what you hope to gain from it. This might include improved health, increased productivity, or a greater sense of well-being. Keep this list somewhere you can see it every day, such as on your bathroom mirror or in your planner.
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6. Find an Accountability Partner
An accountability partner is someone who helps you stay on track and provides support and encouragement as you build your new habit.
Having an accountability partner helps you stay motivated and provides a sense of community and support. It can also help you overcome obstacles and stay committed in the long run.
To find an accountability partner, look for someone who shares your goal or is also building a new habit. This might be a friend, family member, or coworker. Set up regular check-ins to discuss your progress and offer each other support and encouragement.
7. Make it Enjoyable
Making your new habit enjoyable means finding ways to make it more fun or rewarding.
Making your new habit enjoyable helps you stay motivated and creates a positive association with the habit. It can also make it easier to stick to in the long run.
To make your new habit enjoyable, find ways to add a little fun or reward to the activity. This might include listening to your favorite music while you exercise, treating yourself to a small reward after you complete a task, or finding a social group or community that shares your interest.
8. Plan for Obstacles
Planning for obstacles means anticipating the challenges you might face as you build your new habit and developing a plan to overcome them.
Planning for obstacles helps you prepare for the challenges you might face and creates a sense of resilience and determination. It can also help you stay committed in the face of setbacks or unexpected challenges.
To plan for obstacles, identify the potential challenges you might face as you build your new habit. This might include time constraints, lack of motivation, or unexpected events. Then, develop a plan to overcome each challenge. For example, if you struggle with motivation, you might create a list of motivational quotes or rewards to help you stay focused.
9. Be Patient
Being patient means accepting that building a new habit takes time and allowing yourself the space and grace to make mistakes and learn from them.
Being patient helps you avoid feeling discouraged or overwhelmed and creates a sense of resilience and determination. It can also help you stay committed in the face of setbacks or unexpected challenges.
To be patient, remember that building a new habit takes time and effort. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself the space to make mistakes and learn from them. Celebrate your progress along the way, and remember that every small step counts.
10. Build Self-Compassion
Building self-compassion means treating yourself with kindness and understanding as you build your new habit, even when things don’t go as planned.
Building self-compassion helps you avoid feeling discouraged or overwhelmed and creates a sense of resilience and determination. It can also help you stay committed in the face of setbacks or unexpected challenges.
To build self-compassion, practice treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer a friend. If you make a mistake or encounter a setback, remind yourself that it’s a natural part of the process and that you’re doing the best you can. Offer yourself words of encouragement and support, and remember that building a new habit is a journey, not a destination.
Building new habits can be challenging, but with the right strategies and mindset, you can create lasting change in your life. It’s important to remember that building habits takes time, effort, and patience, but the benefits of a healthier, happier, more productive life are well worth it.
I encourage you to try out these ten proven strategies for building habits that stick. Start small, stay consistent, and focus on the benefits of your new habit. Find support and accountability, make it enjoyable, and plan for obstacles. Be patient and kind to yourself, and above all, keep going.
I would love to hear about your experiences with building new habits. What has worked for you? What challenges have you faced? Please share your thoughts and insights in the comments below, and let’s support each other on our journey towards healthier, happier lives.