Habit. Such a little word. Yet one that often strikes a note of dread in the free-spirited among you, who would rather be caught dead than become enslaved to a habit. But let me posit this: all forward progress in your life will be built upon your habits. As will your character. You will become known for your habits. Are you always late for every appointment you make with friends, family and the professional people in your life? Then that becomes part of your character, doesn’t it? Is that how you want to be known? The good news is that you can change this at any time you choose. How, you might ask? You might notice in the quote, above, that habits fall in the middle of the sequence. You must first change your thoughts. When you decide that you want things to change in your life, that is the beginning. That, my dear reader is why you are reading this little ebook right now. Then you will start talking about the change you desire to your family and friends. Before long, you will start taking some of the actions that you will find here in this ebook. And if you repeat them often enough, they will soon become habitual for you, and you will have succeeded in developing a new habit for yourself. But note that the quote does not stop there. Remember that character issue? As you become known for your habits, you come to possess the values that are embodied by the habits you demonstrate on a daily basis. Are you kind and compassionate to others? Do you treat yourself and others with respect? See how this works? And before long, these values that have arisen from your habits will have become your destiny, for you will have become what you have practiced to be. My goal in writing this book on how to develop positive habits in life is to get you started on the path to your destiny.
1. Dream Big.
This is where all the seeds of positive habit formation are planted – in the fertile ground of the big dreams that you have for yourself and your life. So it is definitely recommended, in the beginning stages of positive habit formation, that you dream as big as your imagination will let you. Once you have identified a reason for forming your new, positive habits, in the form of dreams you want to achieve, staying focused on developing the habit and putting energy into taking the habitual actions will become much easier. Get clear with yourself on why you want to develop the new habit. What would you really like to do, be or have if there were no limits imposed upon you? Capture these dreams on paper and write them out in detail, with input from all of your senses, so that you can visualize them down to the smallest detail. Get to know what that dream would really look like to you, when you have achieved it. How would you feel? What things would be different from the life you are living today? Daydream!
2. Set Macro Goals.
Now that you have set your dreams down on paper and fixed them firmly in your mind, pick one to work on first. You only want to work on one dream at a time so that you don’t scatter your focus and dissipate your energy. These are the two critical factors that you will need to sustain your motivation to keep working on your dream when the going gets tough, and it will. You will need to break your dream down into the main steps along the path toward implementing your chosen dream and developing the habits that will get you there. These will become your macro goals. For each macro goal, there may be one or more supporting habits you need to develop in order to achieve that goal. Again, it is hard to work on changing more than one thing about yourself at a time, so pick one habit to master and start performing micro quotas to establish that habit.
3. Perform Micro Quotas.
These will be small numbers of repetitive actions that will build your habit to the point where it will become something that you do automatically every day, without having to give it any more thought than you give to breathing. Start out truly small – only do one repetition. Walk for one minute. Floss one tooth. Do one sit-up. The point is to make the initial habit-building effort so small that you cannot possibly fail. Its accomplishment will boost your confidence and spur you on to add one additional repetition the next day, until you are soon doing the desired number of repetitons daily, without fail, and your habit is firmly ingrained. There is no “magic number” of repetitions (100) or days (66) that it takes for something to actually become a habit. Habit formation is as unique as the person forming the habit. You will know when you have become so comfortable performing your habit that it has slipped from your conscious thought into the control of your subconscious mind. One morning you will find yourself dressed and out the door in plenty of time to make it to work on time, with absolutely no memory of going through your self-care routines or how you got there. That is when you’ll know all your morning routines have become habits.
4. Create Habit Chains.
Your brain is a strange and delightful organism with, if you’ll pardon the pun, a mind of its own! If left to its own devices, when confronted with a disrupting circumstance to the habit environment, it will lead you astray and off into activities that may be directly counter to the good habit you are trying to establish. This is exactly how, despite all good intentions to follow a weight-loss eating plan, when you come home to an empty refrigerator on a Friday night after a stressful day at work, you may finally find yourself coming to your senses in front of a huge bowl of ice cream at your local ice cream emporium! That was your subconscious mind, sabotaging your good habits with unplanned behavior driven by deep-seated desires for sugar. How can you stop this type of thing? By creating something called a habit chain, which is just a fancy name for a back-up plan for your habit. The key here is that you have to have it clearly in your mind before the need arises, so that your subconscious mind doesn’t take over and run the show and lead you down undesireable paths. Habit chains are built around “if-then” statements because you are programming your brain to recognize a situation and respond: “if” this happens, “then” go ahead and do “that” action. This will make your brain very happy because it will know what to do and won’t have to spend any time lost in confusion, or in a power struggle between the conscious and subconscious mind as they vie for control of your body and what behavior it will exhibit next. In the example above, the habit chain might have been this: If I come home and find no food in the house, then I will go eat at the vegetarian restaurant and then go shopping to replenish supplies.
5. Reduce Variabilty.
Have you ever noticed that, when you go into a retaurant that has a menu with hundreds of options, it is extremely difficult to decide what to order? The same principle holds true with establishing your desired habits. You want these habits to stick, but at the same time, you don’t want your life to be boring. A life full of habits is not necessarily boring! You can develop very exciting habits, after all. But try to keep your decision making about the mundane things in life limited to a small number of options. Remember Steve Jobs, the Apple computer guru? Always dressed in black turtleneck sweaters and black jeans – no choices to take up valuable brain wave activity there! The more choices you have to make throughout your day, the more you are going to deplete your mental energy, and that mental energy could be put to better use focusing on establishing the habits you do want in your life. Economize where you can.
6. Commit To 30 Days.
Although there is no “magic number” of days it takes to establish a habit, a 30-day commitment does something to commit your psyche to the whole process of change. You now have a firm idea in your mind that this is serious stuff and you aren’t going to weasle your way out of it with all the other excuses you used the last time you tried to change something about yourself and develop a positive new habit. So give yourself 30 days to practice your new habit and you should be well on your way by then.
7. Practice Daily.
Trying to eastablish a new habit by doing it once a month or once a week is very ineffectual. You need to practice your new habit daily in order to get it to stick. Remember, just a small quota of your new habit will do the trick. But do it every day, as it will be much harder to form an actual habit out of these small, repetitive actions if they are spread out over a week’s time.
8. Start Simple.
In the beginning of wanting to change anything about yourself, your motivation is going to be running high. In fact, you are going to be overly motivated. And in that state of mind you will tend to take on too much, and therein lie the seeds of discouragement and, ultimately, of failure. That is why it is critical to start by picking the simplest of habits that you would like to establish first, and ignore all the many others you would like to work on to make yourself that “perfect” person. One thing at a time, please! J Then, as you build upon every little succes you have, your motivation levels will stay high and you will have built a motivation-habit-success loop that can serve you well as you go on to accomplish all you dream of in life.
9. Post Reminders.
Somewhere around the two-week mark, your motivation will start to wane and your enthusiasm for developing your habit will plummet. It will be easier and easier to conveniently “forget” to take your habitual action when the time for it rolls around each day. You want that new habit in your life, right? It could be the key to you achieving your dreams and having the lifestyle you have always desired! Then start posting reminders for yourself in conspicuous locations throughout your home and workplace. Try the bathroom mirror and refrigerator and on your computer monitor. And then take action to follow through on those reminders by actually performing your habitual action. Attagirl! Attaboy!
10. Be Consistent.
Consistency of action can be a key factor in getting your new habit to stick. For instance, if you are trying to establish a habit of getting to work in time for the boss’ 9:00 a.m. staff meeting on Monday morning, you could start by always getting your clothes ready Sunday night, going to bed 30 minutes earlier Sunday evening, setting your alarm 30 minutes earlier Monday morning and driving a quicker route to work that morning. And then following that routine every Sunday night and Monday morning in order to ensure that your new habit of always being on time for the staff meeting is established. Hmmm, that might cause you to be aware of critical issues in the workplace and be able to contribute your excellent ideas and earn the company some additional revenue and result in a nice promotion. See how establishing positive habits can benefit your life?