In this article, I go over a number of failsafes to build and stay consistent with your habits. These tips are for when your habit gets boring and all your excitement wears off.
Goals inherently signal to the brain that it is a one time achievement. A true habit is a permanent behavior that you do without thinking, such as brushing your teeth. So, first and foremost, you have to shed the mental language that your habit is a goal.
Think of it this way, your desired action isn’t the goal you are trying to reach, building the habit is. The mentality that, for instance stretching for 20 minutes, is the goal you are trying to reach, you are automatically signaling to your brain that this behavior is a finite, temporary desire. In reality, what you want is to incorporate this behavior into your routine, permanently.
You need to be patient with yourself. You need to treat and think of yourself as you would a friend which is probably with much more kindness and leniency than you generally give to yourself.
Even if you miss a day of doing your habit, be gentle and move on realizing that every single day your choice to build a habit is renewed.
Quick tip: Implement the two day rule. I picked it up from Matt D’avella and the principle is simple, never allow yourself to miss a habit two days in a row. So even if that means that in the beginning of your journey if you can only manage to do your habit every other day, that is exponentially better than missing it once and abandoning the quest altogether.
Give yourself a physical indicator of your progress. Each day you do the habit mark it on either a tracker in a physical planner or on a calendar that hangs on the wall. It is incredibly satisfying to not only check a little box, but also look over your accomplishment as the month passes.
You make what you measure. The tracker has the added benefit of keeping your desired habit top of mind. It wasn’t until I put 6 tiny circles at the top of each day in my agenda that I began drinking an adequate amount of water. Every time I looked at my to do list, I was faced with empty circles that I was itching to fill in. The simple addition of a tracker has made drinking 3 liters a day automatic.
Give it its own space in your routine
Do yourself a favor and determine what time and place you will do your habit. Knowing a specific place and time to work out makes you more likely to workout and (as we’ve discussed several times) takes the decision making out of the moment. The less mental load you put on yourself, the easier a habit can be formed. Once you’ve decided this time, schedule it in your calendar. Think of it as an appointment that you can’t miss.
Predetermine your Conditions to Quit
I know this sounds crazy. “Why would I ever plan to quit?!” you shout-think uselessly (I can’t hear you). It is unrealistic to assume building a habit will come to you smoothly without many days where your emotional capacity is low or you are physically spent or you simply don’t feel like doing the damn thing.
It is in precisely those moments that you need to have precommitted to very specific circumstances that are the only reason you would quit. For instance, with my new podcast Nobody Comes Here to Hide I will put out one episode a week for one year. The only things that would make me stop are if I were in a coma or if I died. That’s it, those are the only things that are permitted to stop me.
The benefits of having conditions of quitting is that when you are in the midst of those tough days where you don’t want to follow through, you can’t give yourself the excuse of being too tired or that you are progressing in the way you want to. You will have already agreed with yourself (the most level headed and excited version) what can and cannot halt your actions.
Hope you enjoyed these supplementary tips and tricks. With all the information in the 4-part Building Habits That Stick series, you should be well armed to create and maintain healthy habits.