Habits are what determine how you spend your time, how you spend your day, and ultimately how you spend your life.
You can see why building better habits is so important. I’ve previously covered how to break bad habits, but this time I’d like to explore the other end of the spectrum: how to build better ones.
Here are 5 proven ways to build better habits and transform your life.
1. Start Small
Making drastic changes sounds romantic, but its harder than it sounds and often only leads to failure. We all need to realize that we don’t have to build our habits over night. They take time.
A key in being successful is starting small and making things easier. The point isn’t to hit 100 right away, but rather to make progress, build momentum, and keep the habit sustainable.
Instead of working out everyday at that fancy new gym, start with taking walks. Instead of writing thousands of words everyday, just try to write something everyday.
Find ways to make it easy, because building habits is anything but.
2. Act With Intention
Research has shown that acting with intent can make all the difference in reaching your goals. A strategy called Implementation Intention is one such approach that defines the situations in which you must act on a habit.
You essentially define a situation or scenario in which you want to change your behavior, much like an IF-THEN analysis. So instead of saying I want to get in better shape you say, when I first wake up I will go for a walk.
Giving your habits more detail and structure will help you follow them far better, but there’s one catch, which brings us to number three.
3. Focus On One Habit
Habits are hard enough, but trying to take on more than one at a time is a recipe for disaster. When we are trying to build new habits we are essentially trying to change our behavior, which requires willpower.
The problem is we only have so much to go around. If we are trying to build multiple habits at the same time you’ll start to make concessions. Well I don’t want to walk today, but I’ll at least write, so that’s good enough.
Sound familiar? The point is to focus on a single habit and master it, then you can move on to the next one. The amount of time this takes is variable, but the goal is to make that habit a pattern, which will eventually become automatic.
4. Find Accountability
Finding someone or something to hold you accountable is probably one of the more powerful methods for habit change. Especially because it doesn’t rely on your willpower alone.
This can be done in a number of ways. One is social pressure. By telling friends and family you are going to form a habit, you will now have a need to prove it not only to yourself, but them as well.
Other forms of accountability, like financial pain can also make a big difference. Platforms like stickK can allow you to put your money where your mouth is. The goal is to find ways to build accountability outside of yourself.
5. Eliminate Distractions
You know those times when you’re doing so well and then you’re tempted by something you know you shouldn’t do? There are two responses, you hold steady or you say screw it and indulge.
With a little effort we can remove such distractions and temptations from our environment to keep us on track. You want to have an environment that promotes your good habits, rather than derails them.
So if you want to write everyday, give yourself a space that is meant to be only for writing. If you want to walk regularly, keep your shoes by the door and in plain sight to give you a regular reminder. At the same time, hide away anything that may tempt you to do the opposite.
We first make our habits, then our habits make us.John Dryden
Habits act as a building block of our lives, leading us to everything else we do. If we can string together a set of good habits, we can create a foundation to find happiness and success.
Good habits are essential. These 5 methods can help you start building better ones.
Image via flickr