Forming new habits

New Year – Better Habits

Your habits, the things you do repeatedly without prompting, have a huge impact on who you are and shape your life pattern. They affect health, productivity and happiness. This time of year, I take stock and consider whether I can improve some of my habits.

New Year’s resolutions are often a set-up for failure. Go to the gym, avoid sugar, cut back on caffeine, sleep eight hours… revert to old habits – sound familiar? Real change comes when you can establish new habits and stick to them. Research suggests that it takes at least 21 days to establish a new habit; and longer to break a strong habit and to form solid new ones.

Twenty-one days seems like a reasonable goal for exercising self control. If the experts are right, after those three weeks, your new habits should begin to drive your behavior and your new pattern should be easier to maintain.

Here are some expert tips to help you succeed in forming new habits.

Tiny Habits – Free session, take baby steps

Stanford Professor B.J. Fogg teaches courses on what causes human behaviors and how people can change their behaviors. He also consults on product design. Here is a short version of the Fogg Method:

  1. Get specific about the behavior you want to change
  2. Make it easy – simplicity changes behavior
  3. Trigger the behavior – find a prompt for your new, better behavior

Charles Duhigg, is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, and author of Smarter, Better, Faster, paperback $11.95. He has written a new, best selling book called The Power of Habit. $11.95.

Charles Duhigg offers two online resources to get you started on forming new habits. “Five Tips to Keeping a New Year’s Resolution – The Power of Habit” and “How to Design a New Year’s Resolution That Lasts.”

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James Clear offers his three steps of habit loop – cue, routine, reward.

He calls this reminder, routine, reward. For instance:

  1. You walk by your local Starbuck’s just before you get to work. (Reminder)
  2. You go inside and purchase a latte. (Routine – action)
  3. You sip pleasurably in your office, get caffeinated, avoid the watery office coffee. (Reward)

You enjoy your treat, the reward is positive, you repeat it and it becomes a habit.

Add a new habit to an existing habit. James Clear offers the example that if you are determined to floss your teeth every day, put easy pre-made flossers in a cup next to your toothbrush and floss before you brush – brushing is (hopefully) already a habit.

As an example, if you aspire to make increased gratitude a new habit to boost your mood, find something good to say about the weather in the morning – and say it. Be grateful for a meal and enjoy a flower and a sunset.

James Clear online guide to changing habits.

Don’t confuse life goals with changing habits. Life goals are getting fit and running a marathon, learning Chinese and losing weight. You are more likely to achieve those goals if you begin by changing simple habits. Start small.

Make the new habit, behavior, change so easy that you are sure to succeed. Floss one tooth. Walk up one new flight of stairs. Pay one bill from the pile. Jump rope for two minutes… then celebrate yourself.

People find it reinforcing to keep a daily log to record their success in establishing new habits, just like people who wear a Fitbit to track exercise are more likely to take at least 10,000 steps every day. A Bullet Journal is a useful tool for tracking habits.

See our earlier article,

Bullet Journal – AKA ‘BuJo’

Bullet Journal

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