Mon, 20 Mar 2017
How to Build a New Habit: This is Your Strategy Guide
According to researchers, habits account for about 40 percent of our behaviors on any given day. Understanding how to build new habits (and how your current ones work) is essential for making progress in your health, your happiness, and your life in general.
1. Start with an incredibly small habit.
“Make it so easy you can't say no.”
When most people struggle to stick with a new habit, they say something like, “I just need more motivation.” Or, “I wish I had as much willpower as you do.” This is the wrong approach. Research shows that willpower is like a muscle. It gets fatigued as you use it throughout the day. Another way to think of this is that your motivation ebbs and flows. It rises and falls. Solve this problem by picking a new habit that is easy enough that you don't need motivation to do it. Rather than starting with 50 push ups per day, start with 5 push ups per day. Rather than trying to meditate for 10 minutes per day, start by meditating for one minute per day. Make it easy enough that you can get it done without motivation.
2. Increase your habit in very small ways.
“Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.”
One percent improvements add up surprisingly fast. So do one percent declines. Rather than trying to do something amazing from the beginning, start small and gradually improve. Along the way, your willpower and motivation will increase, which will make it easier to stick to your habit for good.
3. As you build up, break habits into chunks.
If you continue adding one percent each day, then you'll find yourself increasing very quickly within two or three months. It is important to keep each habit reasonable, so that you can maintain momentum and make the behavior as easy as possible to accomplish. Building up to 20 minutes of meditation? Split it into two segments of 10 minutes at first. Trying to do 50 push ups per day? Five sets of 10 might be much easier as you make your way there.
4. When you slip, get back on track quickly.
“The best way to improve your self-control is to see how and why you lose control.”
Top performers make mistakes, commit errors, and get off track just like everyone else. The difference is that they get back on track as quickly as possible. Research has shown that missing your habit once, no matter when it occurs, has no measurable impact on your long-term progress. Rather than trying to be perfect, abandon your all-or-nothing mentality.
You shouldn't expect to fail, but you should plan for failure. Take some time to consider what will prevent your habit from happening. What are some things that are likely to get in your way? What are some daily emergencies that are likely to pull you off course? How can you plan to work around these issues? Or, at least, how you can bounce back quickly from them and get back on track? You just need to be consistent, not perfect. Focus on building the identity of someone who never misses a habit twice.
5. Be patient. Stick to a pace you can sustain.
Learning to be patient is perhaps the most critical skill of all. You can make incredible progress if you are consistent and patient. Patience is everything. Do things you can sustain. New habits should feel easy, especially in the beginning. If you stay consistent and continue increasing your habit it will get hard enough, fast enough. It always does.
Most people think that living a healthy lifestyle is a challenge. When you look at the super fit and healthy people out there, it can seem almost impossible to get what they have. But achieving levels of health and fitness is really just about engaging in healthy behaviors on a routine basis.
HabitBull is perfect for people who have flexible habit-building goals. The app doesn’t limit you to one daily reminder – you can customize an alert for certain days of the week and various times. Underneath each habit is a progress bar, which is very motivating. Best of all: you don’t need to register or sign in with Facebook or any other app. You can download the app and start using it right away.
This app separates your goals into three categories: morning, evening, and do any time. It turns your habits into actionable, manageable to-dos. It forces you to incorporate my new habits throughout the day, instead of rushing to get them done before I go to bed. One con is that it’s iPhone only.
Strides allows you to set up a Milestone Tracker to help break down those bigger goals into smaller steps. It’s a website, so you can access it from any device with an Internet connection. The app creates mini monthly or weekly goals for you.
Streaks is a to do list-oriented app that can track a variety of things. It’s unique because of its integration with the iOS Health app. It can automatically track your steps, measure heart rate, or how many miles you ran. Streaks is great for beginners, because the app is simple (only six habits at a time) and very visual.
If you want an app to keep you accountable, try Habitica with a handful of friends. It gamifies all tasks (not just habit building). As you mark each item as complete, you’ll earn achievement badges and currency that can be redeemed for cool gear. You can collaborate with and challenge friends by “battling monsters.” If either of you slack off, everyone gets hurt.
Coach.me’s structured plans (ranging in everything from productivity to fitness) can help. Some of the routines have videos that guide you through different exercises to help you meet your goal. It focuses on motivators like community forums and personal coaching for certain goals to get you through.
Momentum is simple. There aren’t motivational quotes or colorful icons – just your habit list, a calendar, and some stats. The app focuses on “chains” or streaks. The goal is to work at building your habit every day, to keep the green streak going as long as possible. It’s built specifically for Apple users, so there’s a companion Mac and Apple Watch app, too.
The app uses a question format. Each day you report on the previous day. Like Momentum, Habit Streak focuses on streaks and you can easily see how many days you’ve accomplished from the daily view.
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