We all have been there. Trying to start exercising, but giving up on day two. Trying to eat all healthy, but you just ordered french fries on day three. Trying to start studying a new subject, only to realize that you spent the whole of your after-work hours scrolling Instagram.
So how do we start something new and actually stick to it? The key is to form a habit out of it.
Before that, What is a habit?
Habit is a set of automatic things your brain does, without actually making a decision, or without actually thinking. It is what you do when your brain is in autopilot mode. You get up in the morning and brush your teeth. You don’t go thinking – “I got up, what should I do now? Should I brush my teeth?.” A lot of things in your everyday life is automatic, and that is what is habit.
So I recently read this book The Power of Habit. It helped me a lot in understanding habits. My learnings and experiments with habits will be summed up in two posts. The first one (this one), will be on forming new habits and the next one will be on breaking your current habits that you don’t like.
Ok, let’s get to it. How do we successfully start a new habit?
The idea is to not just start but start with a clear strategy.
The Habit strategy
- Find your ‘Why?’ – Find the reason why you want to do this. And it should be what you really desire on all subconscious and conscious levels. It should come within you and should not be something your mother or your partner or the society wants you to do. And when you know it, write it down. Write it down in big bold letters. And place it somewhere you see every day. Hang it in your room or make it your phone wallpaper. Let it strengthen your desire.
- One at a time – Always concentrate on one small habit at a time. The mistake I made was – I wanted to turn my life around in a one single day. I wanted to do everything – exercise, eating healthy, learning, all in a single day. You don’t have enough willpower for it. You end up failing at everything and then go on a self-loathing trip. Concentrate on one small thing at a time, once that becomes easy and automatic (which usually takes a minimum of 21 days, according to habit experts), move on to the next one. So don’t try all at once.
Start one. Make it a habit. Move on to the next.
- Take it slow – Start it small and make it big. If you plan on exercising, make it 10 minutes on day one, 12 on day two, 15 on day three and so on. Same goes with diet. First maybe focus on eating healthy for dinner. Once that becomes easy for you, move on to lunch and then breakfast.
- Set a goal and time – Write or type down your goal. Tell yourself, I am going to start learning to play guitar from 8 pm to 8:30 pm tomorrow. Or tomorrow, I am going to bathe immediately after coming from work and start cooking ‘this dish.’
- Have a strong reward – You naturally get a reward out of doing each of these activities. The rush of endorphins from exercise or the sense of fulfillment you get from learning. If that is not enough to keep on you going, create your own rewards. Make yourself a tasty smoothie after the workout. Promise yourself an episode of your favorite series after you study for some time. Or create a sense of achievement. It might be in the form of tracking the number of steps you took each day. Or making ticks in the calendar signifying – “Yah! I ate healthy today.”
Finally, we are a generation so primed to expect instant gratifications. So, don’t expect changes right away. But you will surely see a different you in 3-4 months time.
Try out this strategy! And let me know if it worked or not.
What has helped you to start new habits? Mention in the comments below!
The making of new habits is not complete unless you let go of your old harmful habits. Like, if you want to start eating healthy – you should first break your habit of eating junk food. If you want to find time for your side project, you should first give up your smartphone addiction. So, check out the part two of this post –
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