How to Build Powerful Habits

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

One of the unfortunate facts of life is it is much easier to create and stick to a bad habit than it is to create and stick to a good one. The whys of this go back to the origins of human nature. Suffice to say that when it comes to creating healthy habits, it pays to focus on the positive.

As it is extremely difficult to try to change old bad habits, it is far more effective to focus on creating new good ones.  Doing so actually creates healthier pathways in your brain and makes you more creative.

Creating habits helps alleviate decision-making fatigue by decreasing the number of decisions we have to make. Do things regularly and you won’t have to fret about whether you will or you won’t.  One less decision to stress you out.  Not only that, you’re improving your life.

While common wisdom says creating a new habit takes 21-28 days, the UK Health Behavior Research Center recently came out with a study that showed it took 66 days on average to form a new habit.   Habits are hard to create and harder still to maintain.  So what are some effective ways to foster healthy habits that you can implement in the next 66 days

1. Know what you want

Be clear about your goal.  Commit to it.  Make it specific.  Write it down. Make it public.

2. Go for consistency over performance

It matters more how often you do something then how well you do it. So keep doing it.

A great tool to help you get into a routine is to record your progress.  It will keep you honest about doing it and keep you focused on your goal.  In the process, most people discover that tracking progress can be a lot of fun.

3. Stay positive

This is easier said than done but there are definitely some basics that will help.

Get support. Whether it’s a workout buddy, a coach, or just someone who can talk you out of a funk, you need people like this for encouragement and especially when the going gets tough.  And it will. It doesn’t have to be an individual either. Some people like support groups or prefer to join a team.

Use “but” when you start to think negative thoughts or want to give up.  Be aware when your mind is engaging in self-defeating chatter, and find ways to detach from it.

Don’t worry if you slide a little. Everyone does. Just acknowledge the trigger that threw you off then get back on the proverbial horse.  You have a destination.

4. Recommit…Recommit…Recommit…

Finding ways to bring your focus back to your goal will help you to keep that positive mindset and stick to your routine.  Put up post-its or signs in key places. Send yourself email reminders. Set your written goal as your desktop background.

Recommit each Monday.  That way you have 52 chances a year to get remotivated if you get off track or your resolve falters.  Healthy Monday is a non-profit national public health campaign that encourages people to use Monday as the day for all things healthy.

5. Reward yourself in a way that works for you

Although it’s debatable whether external incentives and rewards actually help motivate people to take on healthier habits, the intrinsic rewards do the trick.

When long-term exercisers (who had been working out for an average of 13 years) were asked what motivated them to keep up their workouts, the primary reasons had to do with feeling good. In other words, the reward is the health benefits they reap. Even if you are offering yourself an external or extrinsic reward when you reach a milestone, it’s really the intrinsic rewards that will keep you going.

You can use your tracking method to record where you are in the process and how far you’ve come.  You can track the benefits gained and the pain avoided in addition to the actual quantifiable increases in performance.  Make sure to take note because this knowledge of your success is a reward in and of itself.

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One Response to How to Build Powerful Habits

  1. Will says:

    “Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”
    Warren Buffett

    Make sure that the habits you foster are those that you wish never break.

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