Good habits put you on autopilot for success. When actions become habits, the need for motivation (external or internal) is eliminated. You don’t need to pump yourself up to engage in a habit. This is one of the main things that separates successful individuals from everyone else – successful people habitualize good behavior, so they don’t have to rely on motivation or self-control to engage in those good behaviors.
How do you actually forge a new good habit?
There are 4 tricks to forging habits:
- Change Your Trigger – Your doctor tells you that if you want to prevent urinary track infections you must drink at least two glasses of water every day. But you find it difficult to turn that into a habit. You keep forgetting to drink water. One of the shortcuts to habit change is to find an existing habit you have, good or bad, and add a new habit to it. This is knows as Habit Stacking. What other habits do you have? List them. Let’s say, one habit on your list is coffee. Every day you drink two cups of coffee. To forge the new habit of drinking water, simply put your coffee cup next to the sink, your water filter or the water cooler. When you go searching for the coffee cup you will have to remember where you put it. Ah yes, by the water cooler. That coffee cup then becomes your new trigger. It will remind you to drink a glass of water. With Habit Stacking, it only takes a few days to forge your new dual habit.
- Start Small – New habits are hard to forge. The trick is to make the new habit so easy to perform that you will not require any willpower or self-control to get you started. The brain does not like new habits because new habits, in the very beginning, require conscious effort. Any conscious thinking requires the use of brain fuel (primarily oxygen and glucose). The brain is unable to store oxygen and glucose, so it must send a message to the peripheral nervous system, which then notifies the liver to produce more glucose. This is a pain in the neck for the brain. So, instead, it sends back a message to you that essentially says – don’t engage in the activity. If the activity requires very little brain fuel, however, the brain will not fight you on the activity. It doesn’t send the message – don’t engage in the activity. As an example, let’s say that you want to begin jogging so you can lose weight and be healthy. If you decide to run for, say 30 minutes, the brain will tell you not to. If, however, you commit to only 10 minutes, the brain will not put up a fight. After a few weeks of running for 10 minutes every day, the jogging habit will start to form. Once that habit takes root, that is when you can increase the jog to 15 minutes, then 20 minutes and eventually 30 minutes.
- Create Reminders – Most of us have computers and cell phones that have reminder systems that automatically remind you about something. A trick to help you forge a new habit is to put it on one of your reminder systems. Once you set the reminder task, it will go off and remind you to engage in the habit.
- Associate With Others Who Have Your Desired Habit – Habits are like a virus. We adopt the habits of those within our inner social circle. Find friends who have the habit you want to adopt, such as jogging, and ask them if you can run with them. You new running mates will become your accountability partners. You asked them to run with you, they said yes and now you find yourself committed to jogging with your friends.