How to Make Habits Stick
“We become what we repeatedly do.” – Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy
Doing the same thing repetitively and like clockwork becomes a habit. Our daily routines are nothing but a series of habits impressed on us by society, our upbringing, education, and life in general.
Habits form over time. They don’t happen overnight. It takes days and sometimes years for habits to become a way of life. The ability to make habits stick has a significant impact on the quality of our lives.
The Dilemma of Change
A habit is like a commitment. Developing a new habit or getting rid of an existing one requires flexibility. The process of allowing and then embracing change into one’s life takes time, patience, willpower, consistency, and a strong sense of commitment.
Making a habit stick isn’t rocket science but it isn’t a simple walk in the park either especially if the change you’re trying to make is a drastic one. Starting and maintaining a habit pushes us to welcome a new way of things, fosters fresh perspectives, and builds new lifestyle goals. All of these steps require conscious effort. Here are ways to motivate yourself to stick to new habits.
Understand its Purpose
The painstaking process of developing a new habit and then working relentlessly toward making it stick has to be self-motivated. The reason for your new habit must call out to you in a special and unique way, otherwise, it will seem pointless. If you don’t understand why something needs to change, you will never make it happen. If you want to make a habit stick, make sure it makes sense to you holistically, conceptually, and realistically.
For example, you are a coffee drinker and you can’t start your day without a cup of coffee. However, you’re told by your doctor to give up coffee because you have a chronic gastric problem. You cringe at the idea of having to go without coffee. How are you going to let this habit go and welcome a new one?
You are going to do it because it’s going to benefit you and your health. The act of replacing an old habit with a new and purposeful one requires a positive attitude and conscious acknowledgment that the change is good for you.
Understand the Bigger Picture
Whether you live alone or with other people, your lifestyle and habits affect everyone who knows you. Forming new habits doesn’t just benefit you. If you’re trying to make a new habit stick, look at the bigger picture. Include every possible aspect of your life in that picture. Your new habits reflect the kind of person you want to be and what you want to achieve in life.
For example: Making a habit of punctuality will not only help you, but will also simplify the lives of your family members, colleagues, and friends. If you are punctual, you become better at planning for the future. You stop forcing others to wait for you. You begin showing respect for other people’s time. You become dependable and reliable. In the long run, changes in your behavior may even inspire others to make a similar adjustment.
Understand that Habits are Patterns
When you develop a new habit, it creates a ripple effect where the new habit becomes a starting point for other changes in your life. When you’re trying to make a habit stick, it helps to realize that the change you’re trying to institute is going to positively affect other aspects of your life.
When habits stick, they become patterns. Eventually, a lot of things will change because one new habit inevitably inspires another. The tricky part is sticking to one habit in the beginning and learning to embrace it as a much-needed transformation.
Practical Ways to Create Habits That Stick
To create the kind of life patterns we want, we need to start with one habit. As with many things, getting started is usually the hardest part. Here are some things to keep in mind to help you make changes that turn into habits:
- Start small. If you want to get fit, start with five minutes of walking or running.
- Attach the new habit to an existing habit. If taking out the trash is already a habit, you can make walking or running something you do outside after taking out the garbage.
- Share your intentions with an accountability partner, someone who will check up on you and hold you accountable if you don’t stick with your plan.
- Make it fun and/or have a reward system. You can listen to your favorite music while you run and reward yourself with a soak in the tub after.
- Track your progress. Even if it’s just marking the days when you ran, this will help you become invested in the new habit you’re trying to form.
Instead of allowing your habits to unconsciously surface, choose which habits would make the biggest difference to your life. What elements should stay the same? What behaviors need to go? From there, you can start small with one life-changing habit at a time.
Let that one habit start a chain reaction of life-changing experiences that will ultimately lead you to become a better, healthier, kinder person.
Remind yourself every day (and every hour if necessary) why you are making that change. If you can find your “why,” it won’t be long before you find your “how.”
Check out our collection of habit trackers to help you make your habit stick.