Getting Your New Habits to Stick

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Anyone who has vowed to turn their New Year’s resolutions, new exercise regimen, or career-advancing practice into a lifelong habit will tell you that, while their intentions may be good, making their new habit stick is the most difficult part. Luckily there are many ways in which you can turn your new habit into a lifelong practice that helps you achieve your wildest goals.

One Month to Victory

The good news is that it only takes three to four weeks for a behavior to become a new habit. Reminding yourself of this shorter-term goal will make the task less daunting. Set yourself a goal of practicing your chosen behavior trait for a full month so that it can become entrenched as a new habit.

Be aware that activities you do every couple of days are harder to nail down as new habits, so try to practice your new activity every day for the first month.

Start Small

Set small, achievable goals that will assure you easy wins along the way. Starting a new habit is too daunting if it means you have to get up an hour earlier and work out. Instead, start with short term goals like exercising for 10 minutes after work every day for a week, and building up from there (every day!) until you reach your goal.

Understanding that you can’t change your whole life in a day will make potential new habits more realistic.

Set Identity-Based Goals

Your current habits and behaviors are a reflection of your view of who you are. If you really want new behaviors to turn into habits, you have to start seeing yourself as someone who already does these things. For example, if your goal is to lose 20 pounds by next summer but you currently think of yourself as a little chubby, you will have to start thinking of yourself as thin. You will have to reimagine yourself as someone who eats well, works out, and takes good care of themself.

You can make new habits stick through identity-based goals by imagining the person you want to be and then behaving like you already are the new, improved you! You can reinforce this image of yourself with small wins along the way. Set small, incremental goals that you know you can achieve and that bring you ever closer to your bigger goals.  

Replace Lost Habits

Forming a new habit often means saying goodbye to an old one. Simply cutting things out of your life will leave a void that, if left unfilled, may lead to regression. For example, if you want to stop eating candy, you need to replace candy with something else. Perhaps every time you crave candy, you can take a walk as a reward for resisting temptation.

Get a New Habits Buddy

When you commit to new habits with a friend, you are accountable to someone other than yourself which helps to motivate you. It also means that you have someone to turn to when temptation strikes or when you are having difficulty sticking to your new habit.

A buddy can help to keep you motivated and on track.

And of course, there’s an app for that too! There are a whole host of mobile apps to help you track the progress you’ve made toward your goals. Author Michael Hyatt shares his list of favorite apps for new habits here.

Get the Facts

You are going to start finding all sorts of reasons why your new habit is not important after all. When the alarm beeps too early or the chocolate cake starts calling your name, your inner voice will debate the merits of your new habit and find it sorely lacking. That’s when your list of benefits comes in.

Before you start on the rocky road to a new habit, make a comprehensive list of all the reasons your new habit will help you to achieve your goals. When your inner voice begins to convince you that one small piece of chocolate cake won’t really matter (will it?), you can remind yourself of the list of reasons you started on this journey and why it’s important to stick to it.

Choose Your Friends

You become like the five people you most spend time with. If the people around you don’t support your new habit, it may be time to find new, more positive role models. Discuss your goals and your ambitions with the people you spend most of your time with so that they can help and support you. You may be surprised at just how much your friends and family get behind new habits that are constructive.

Starting a new habit is a difficult feat, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Set short term goals that you know you can achieve and then forgive yourself any small indiscretions along the way. It is much better to just let small slips go than to allow them to be the reason you completely fall off the wagon.