Habits are so hot right now. The writer, S.J. Scott has built a career on them, teaching people how to make little changes that will add up to massive shifts. Those seemingly little changes are habits - the rituals that we do daily, usually on a regular basis without even thinking. The tricky part of these automatic behaviours is that sometimes they're not that great for us, or downright destructive. Take smoking - a classic habitual action. Chances are, when you pass a group of people, standing outside an office having a smoke, they're on autopilot - gathering together at a certain time to do their thing. No matter what you think about smoking, this would be a bonding ritual that would leave a big dent in their day, to say the least, if it didn't happen.
The great thing is, just as there are the negative habits that we do without thinking, there are ways of bringing in positive automatic actions into your life so that the change that you want to make will stick.
Here are a few ways to successfully create a new habit.
1. Put your habit through the S.M.A.R.T goal ringer
S.M.A.R.T. goals is an acronym for five words - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. If you have something you're aiming for in life - like a new way of doing something - putting your goal through this check list will ensure you're serious about it.
Specific - Be specific with what you want to achieve with this new habit. Better health? Stronger abs? Improved work ethic? Whatever ritual you're implementing into your life, be very clear with what you are after.
Measurable - For habits, you'll want to be clear on the formula of how you're going to make it happen. How often will you practice this new behaviour? How many times a day? For how many minutes? How many times a week?
Achievable - We have to know that we can achieve what we're after. If you want to run a marathon in 3 months time, will your training habits support that time frame? Will you really commit to this or is what you're going after way past your baseline? If you've aimed to far, adjust the habit.
Realistic - How realistic is your new goal? You'll know in your gut if success is possible even if it seems in the distance. Ask your friends or family how realistic they think your new habit will be if you're unsure. But beyond getting feedback, chances are you'll know.
Time - How long do you intend to turn this habit, ummm, into a habit? There's an old school of thought that it takes 21 days to create one but the general consensus is that this timeframe is a myth. New research is showing it might actually be longer, perhaps on average of 66 days. But that's average. For some it will take less time and others will need longer. So the question to ask yourself is "How long am I willing to practice this new habit.
2. Know your "Big Why"
The "Big Why" is just that. Why do you want to create this new ritual? You will need a very compelling reason to make such a personal change so load it with as many descriptives as you can so you feel it on many levels. For example, I take a break from my daily cup of coffee at least once a year. I do this for health reasons and because I also hate the idea of being addicted to something. Even bigger is that I don't like how it stains my teeth. And even bigger is that if my teeth are stained with coffee, it's a bad look. I don't want a bad look because I want to be attractive to my husband. I continually want to do what I can to be the love of his life (and we've been married for over 30 years so I guess it's working). This makes it worth a month of taking a break from coffee. What's your "Big Why" when it comes to the new habit you want to make part of your life? And by the way, S.J. Scott's reason for his habit of writing bigger word counts than ever is that his words make money. His "Big Why" is income. That's a big incentive.
3. How can you make your new habit attractive and compelling?
Creating a new habit doesn't mean suffering. When I take my break from coffee, I reward myself with new lipstick. I end up drinking more water and my skin looks better. I enjoy not being wired and sleeping better. I figure out ways to make the habit a happy ritual to perform and it works. By the time I finish my month, it usually takes me some time to adjust back into normal life.
So those are three ways to start moving some great, life enhancing strategies into your routine that will eventually, without you having to even think about them, become great habits.
What habit do you want to ditch? What's your "Big Why" for getting rid of it and what can you do to make it fun and attractive to do?
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