We all know what we ‘need’ to do, so why don’t we do it? Well, it ‘is’ quite hard – and we usually want instant results. We want the benefits without putting in too much effort. The research is also pretty clear that it takes 66 days of effort (every day!) to develop a new habit. That might sound daunting, but if you want to make a permanent positive change to your life, 66 days is nothing!
We can make it more efficient, and more likely that we’ll be successful if we follow a few simple tips.
1. Start with Foundation Habits, and build on them. Foundation Habits are behaviours that change how you see yourself, and you will then make other changes to match that new perception. For example, if you exercise regularly you will almost certainly create other good habits such as eating better and getting more sleep. These will all accumulate, and before you know it you’ll have a new ‘you’.
2. Use Minimum Valid Effort. That is, take baby steps. Make the first change very small. Even tiny. Maybe even ridiculous. So, if you want to develop the habit of flossing your teeth, start with ‘one’ tooth! When we’re talking about making positive permanent changes, we’re initially talking about consistency, not actual change. We want to guarantee the outcome, so the process of change is developed as well.
3. Make a plan. There’s an old saying that I heard when I was working as an accountant: “If you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter what you do because you’ll always get there.” That definitely applies when it comes to making positive changes. So, just make a simple plan for getting the job done. Write it down, and make sure that you look at it on a regular basis. Remember Point 2, make the steps small, and tick them off as you go.
4. Reward yourself! If you’re making progress – any progress at all – reward yourself for that. It’s best to tie a ‘want’ to a ‘should’. For example, I ‘want’ to go to the footy, but I ‘should’ exercise. So, as soon as you’ve done the ‘should’, give yourself the ‘want’.
5. Use reminders. Bad habits need resistance, but good habits need reminders. The most straight-forward way is to use your phone or a checklist.
6. Get help from friends. Have a think about which one of your friends already has the habit you want. Get in touch with them, and go with them next time they do it. So, not only will you be developing a new habit with advice from someone who already knows how to do it, you’ll also be strengthening your friendship. It’s also true that we tend to behave in the same way as the people around us, so if you surround yourself with people who have good habits, you’re more likely to develop them yourself.
The last thing to consider is ‘failure’. Don’t expect this to be a straight line toward a better you. There will be times when you don’t meet your goals. Don’t see this as an outright failure, though. See them for what they are – just bumps in the road. The important thing is that you forgive yourself and try again. If you have faith in the process, the changes will take care of themselves. We’re really talking about making a habit of making good habits.
So – good luck. Get out there and make your life better!