How To Make Your Habits Stick
With just a few simple little tweaks
Many of us often fail when we try to introduce a new habit to our routine. Often it’s because the habit we want is too drastic or too disruptive to our current flow.
As a result, we often rely on sheer willpower to make it through.
There is a myth going around that it takes 21 days for a habit to stick. Research from University College London actually shows that it takes on average 66 days for a new habit to stick. Not only that, individual times can range from 18 days to 254 days.
18 to 254 days is quite a massive extreme, especially when we can fall anywhere during that range.
For those of us that falls on the longer end of the spectrum, sheer willpower to make a new habit stick is not going to cut it — for obvious reasons.
We are a collection of habits
Before you try and jump on the 4am train or exercise every day stint, you to first understand that we are a collection of habits.
Our habits is what makes up our identity. In order to transform our habits, we also have to transform ourselves.
If you think of habits like clothes, when we try to do something that is out of character, it’s like wearing something you’re not publicly confident in. It may make us feel pretentious, fake or just outright ridiculous.
To change our habits, we need to change our internalized versions of ourselves. Rather than using habits as a means to reach an end, view them as necessary parts of your existence.
Its sort of like the difference between a runner who is passionate about their health and well being in contrast to someone who just wants to run in order to reach a superficial weight goal in time for summer. The runner has a sustainable habit fueled by their personal identity, whereas the yo-yo dieter may last a few days or perhaps weeks before going back to their old routines.
Make It Positive
Positive reinforcement works more than self depreciation, self doubt, self blame, self everything that is negative.
When we do something that is often against our grain, we tend to talk negatively to ourselves. This creates a cloud of negative emotions which can quick spiral into a state of hopelessness and despair.
Alright. That does sound a little bit melodramatic but it happens. We make promises to ourselves that we’ll go for a run everyday, only eat vegan food, be organized, wake up on time and an assortment of other things that quickly crashes and burn maybe by the second day.
We hype ourselves up then fall to pieces when it gets too hard, then it’s a sweep under the rug and it becomes one of those we shall never speak of it again moments.
Yet we still want those habits. So we talk to ourselves — but in a way that is hardly productive in helping us achieve who we want to become. We become obsessed over the end goal rather than enjoying the process.
For a habit to stick, we have to at least like doing it. When we enjoy doing something, it takes less effort and when something takes less effort, there’s a higher chance of the new habit sticking.
Don’t Big Bang your habits, transform them by adding to the process flow
Many of us try to change or create a new habit by doing something drastic. It’s a complete replacement of your current routines, tendencies and workflow.
In the tech world, a complete migration or replacement of hardware or software is called a Big Bang.
But unlike machines, we cannot mentally and most times physically able to complete such a task without regressing back to our previous selves.
Over the years, I find that if I want to change my habits, I need to slowly transform my processes.
This means that I attach the thing I want to turn into a habit with something I already do on a regular basis. Rather than adding a new habit and having to remember and force myself to do it, I make it part of another established activity or habit.
For example, when the water is boiling for coffee, I clean.
Personally, I’m not the tidiest person. Every now and then the house explodes into complete chaos and looks as if a tornado has passed through. Nowadays that tornado is in the form of a baby entertaining herself.
Because I drink coffee a lot, it also means that I’m cleaning a lot more too. It used to be a chore to clean. But because it’s attached to an activity I quite enjoy, I now look forward to it.
There is a person I want to eventually become. In the past, I’ve tried drastic changes but only found it to be unnecessarily expensive and I quickly revert back to the original version of me.
Over time, I’ve been increment new habits I want to have and slowly phasing out the ones I don’t want. I’ve never been good at the cold turkey approach. Besides, doing something for a longer period of time means that there’s a higher chance of it being ingrained in my brain to a point where it becomes automatic.
Once it reaches that stage, it means that I’ve been successful in turning the activity or task into a proper and true habit.