3 Things That’ll Make You a Master of Forming — and Keeping — Great Habits

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Change is the biggest constant of all our lives now. A health crisis for years and overflowing inflation are changing the way millions of us live every day. People are moving to greener pastures across the U.S., either to find a better climate or to pay less taxes. Many are sitting down to set new goals or resolutions.

However, how many of your past goals have you achieved? If you are like many people, it may be difficult for you to achieve these goals and then maintain them. This is often because many of us try to make our way through pure willpower.

As a result, there is a simpler and easier way. The key to personal and professional change is the ability to establish new and productive habits. The power of a well-formed habit means you don’t have to plan your choices so much. New habits can help you achieve your goals without struggling with yourself every step of the way.

As you continue to build the life you want with healthier, better habits, keep these three things in mind.

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1. Building new habits does not eliminate old ones

Current research shows that the process of creating new habits does not necessarily eliminate previous patterns of thinking and beliefs that drove your previous choices. Continuing to feel the urge to behave the old-fashioned way, that is, the way you are trying to transform, is perfectly normal.

The secret is not to go ahead and force yourself to keep making the new and better choice for a specific period of time. Rather, a better approach is to consciously change your thinking system and beliefs so that you value new behavior and interests more than old habits. Creating meaning and value in the new desired habit will take you far beyond mere willpower.

For any new habits you want to form, clarify your answers to the following questions:

  1. What did you get out of doing things the old-fashioned way? For example, I recently promised to get more exercise. I realized that not exercising meant that I often had more time for enjoyable activities that I enjoyed more.
  2. What pain did you avoid with those old habits? Using the same example, not exercising saved me from physical discomfort.
  3. What do you think you will gain from the new habit? A new daily exercise habit can give you more energy and a better image of yourself.
  4. How will this new habit help you to avoid negative or painful experiences? Exercising regularly helps you avoid accidental injuries and illnesses.

Finding strong and compelling reasons why you want to create a new habit and stop doing things the old-fashioned way is key to successfully achieving your goals.

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2. Get comfortable being uncomfortable

There is no silver bullet to form new habits. The awkward truth is that it’s hard to change. Most of us have a hard time getting out of our way and creating positive change. The rapid pace at which gyms are starting to fade away in February is a positive testament to that.

People often confuse attitude and actions. It would be easier if the right attitude were automatically translated into a permanent and meaningful change. The truth is that action often has to precede attitude. As Kobe Bryant often suggested, the most important time to go to the gym is when you really don’t want to go.

As Charles Duhigg said in his book, The power of habitAny habit you want to make or break contains three specific parts:

  1. A-cue: This is the trigger that starts your usual behavior
  2. A routine: Refers to the usual behavior itself
  3. A reward: This is how you train your brain to remember the whole sequence in the future

Changing this three-part process often inherently means feeling uncomfortable, at least at first. But feeling uncomfortable is a temporary state that eventually transforms into being comfortable with the new way of doing things. Accept it before you start taking steps to form these new habits, and you’ll be more likely to stay in time long enough to get the rewards.

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3. Have compassion for yourself

A common mistake people make is to spend precious mental and emotional energy focused on self-depreciation for a perceived “failure” to succeed in forming a new habit. You may feel that you have made mistakes along the way or that you have not done enough to achieve your goal.

It’s not necessarily bad to have an internal critic. The ability to objectively evaluate and optimize your efforts can help you create these new habits more easily and quickly. However, no one is perfect, and the path to success in creating and optimizing these efforts can be difficult at times. Don’t hit yourself when you make mistakes or fail to reach your goal. Of course, keep the bar high, but be kind to yourself along the way.

In fact, if you’re pushing your limits, then so are you it should fall short sometimes. Otherwise, don’t challenge yourself enough. Spreading a little compassion towards yourself during these times will make your growth much more sustainable.

Change these resolutions to habits

Therefore, as many of us are going through a period of intense change, do not make a long list of goals that you may not be able to achieve. Instead, why not focus on creating healthier, more productive habits? Focus on one or two habits at a time and give yourself enough time to reprogram your automatic behaviors.

Related: Why empathy is a crucial entrepreneurial skill (and how to develop yours)

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