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How to Create a Habit and Stick to It in 6 Steps
You must have heard of these crazy routines famous people use to become either rich, healthy, or muscular. The underlying principle of having a routine is: creating a habit and sticking to it.
Habits take advantage of the compound effect.
The sum of small efforts leads to huge results.
This article will guide you through the process of creating a habit you will easily stick to, thanks to a simple step-by-step process.
1. Define Your Goals and Motivation
You need to define why you want to create a habit, and what are your goals.
First, having a motivation is crucial. If you have none, you will never feel like practicing your habit over and over. Your brain will rationally tell you that creating a habit is nonsensical given the fact that you do it for “nothing”.
Second, goals enable you to track your progress. If you have none, you can neither tell whether your habit is part of your lifestyle nor if you have acquired it. The journey to creating your habit will feel endless if you have no plan to refer to.
Write down the habit you want to acquire, and why you want it.
Set (very) small goals which would make you feel proud of yourself.
2. Set a Reminder
Before a new habit gets processed by your brain, you need to find a way to remember it. Otherwise, you will forget it as if it had never existed.
There are two effective techniques to keep you from forgetting your in-progress habit:
- Set alarms on your phone: How many times per week do you want to practice? At what time of the day? When you know the answer, set alarms on your phone to remind you of your task.
- Use an already-in-place habit: Do you smoke? Do you play sports? Every time you light up your cigarette or go to the gym, practice your new habit. This technique takes advantage of classical conditioning.
I recommend you use both techniques, especially the second one. Associating an existing habit with a new one is straightforward and very effective.
3. Hold Yourself Accountable
You can’t be motivated all the time. For this reason, you need to hold yourself accountable if you want to create a habit you will stick to.
To do so, you are spoiled for choice:
- Tell your friends / relatives / partner you will reach your goal: You will stick to your habit, otherwise you will be mocked and debunked.
- Set a punishment in case you fail: You will do everything to avoid it.
- Take a bet with coworkers: If you don’t succeed at creating your habit and reaching your goal, you lose money or have to do something which puts you on the spot.
- Enroll into an organization to set a good example.
The idea is to fear the consequences of your failure so you make everything to avoid public ashamedness.
4. Make the Smallest Step
The hardest part of creating a long-lasting habit is to make the initial step: the first session. It is hard because you imagine yourself at the top of the mountain while you’re just on the ground.
You can’t go from smoking five cigarettes per day to zero overnight. You start by smoking four per day, then three, then two, and so on.
It goes identical for every practice: meditation, food, exercise, etc.
- Meditate 15 minutes per day: Start with 2 minutes, then increase.
- Eat vegetables only: Eat at least one vegetable per day, then increase.
- Exercise three times per week: Exercise once per week, then increase.
Do not try to go from zero to one overnight.
Gradually increase the difficulty but make the smallest step toward creating your habit. If you go too hard too fast, you will get overwhelmed.
5. Celebrate Small Achievements
Do not be hard on yourself. Instead, celebrate each small achievement no matter what it is. It will keep you motivated through the whole process of integrating a new habit into your lifestyle.
- Every time you run 500 more meters than usual.
- Every time you eat 1 more vegetable than usual.
- Every time you exercise 10 minutes more than usual.
Creating a habit is not a journey you should dislike. It is one you should feel eager to jump in.
There’s no secret. You must be prepared for the fact that creating a new habit can’t be done overnight. It will take days, weeks, months, and maybe ages. Just work it out and practice regularly.
If you follow all the steps detailed above, there’s no way you can fail at creating a habit you will stick to. These steps aim to:
- Keep you from getting overwhelmed.
- Make you like the whole process.
- Help you get rid of your laziness.
Work hard, and eventually, it will happen.
1. Only one habit at a time: Creating one habit is more than enough, given all you have to do on a daily basis. Focus on one and once you have it, move on to another one.
2. Create a positive feedback loop: Never forget to praise yourself and celebrate achievements. The more you like building your habit, the easier it will be to stick to it.
3. Never miss two sessions in a row: It will break the loop and you might forget it. People who go to the gym have one “cheat meal” per week, neither two nor three. One “cheat” is enough, more is absurd.
This process helped many people:
- Stop smoking.
- Start reading.
- Start playing sports.
- Start meditating.
Give it a try!