They say that humans are creatures of habit. So why is it that building a habit is hard—especially good ones, such as eating clean, working out, paying our mortgage on time, and getting to work early?
A study by the European Journal of Social Psychology revealed that humans take 18 to 254 days to form a new habit. That’s a long time, but it explains why we find it difficult to start good habits and change our lives. Creating habits requires repetition and dedication. We have to be pursuing it actively until it becomes an automatic behavior, which can take about 66 days. The problem is, before it starts becoming of second nature to us, we already grow tired and give up. We become overwhelmed with too many responsibilities that forming habits is often neglected and set aside.
But building good habits is important. Simple decisions lead to bigger things. Stay on that workout and diet plan—you become healthier and get to spend more time with your family. Follow your work schedule—you become more efficient and productive and you get closer to your dream career and life. So how does one build a habit?
Always take small steps and start with something attainable. There’s a saying that goes: “Don’t aim to go from 0 to 100. Instead, aim to go from 0 to 10, and then 10 to 20, and so on.” If you start with something big, it will be too overwhelming. It will take you too long to get there, and from that point of view, it’s easy to choose the easier road and to just quit. Whereas if you start small, you can immediately see which steps to take next and your small accomplishments will motivate you to keep going.
You have to know what you want to attain to figure out which path to take. Set specific goals, and at the same time, be specific when it comes to tracking your progress. You can’t improve what you don’t measure. So as much as possible, make sure that your improvements are trackable and measurable.
Why do you have to make this change? Make sure that you want it because you really do, not because you think it’s what you should be going after. Finding your “why” can help keep you on track. Whenever you feel like giving up, just remember why you’re making this change in the first place. That should be enough to keep you grounded and motivated.
Make a commitment strategy
The most important part of forming a habit is staying committed to it. Otherwise, you will backslide and never reach your end goal. Consider making a commitment strategy such as
having a “swear jar” where you pay money for returning to an old habit.
Find something that will keep you moving forward. Explore and have fun with it. But not too much fun to the point that you would enjoy breaking habits!
Ask for support
You don’t have to be alone in this. Ask your family and friends to support you in your journey. Get them to strictly implement your commitment strategy! It’s easy to break the rules when no one’s watching, but if you ask someone else to do it, you’ll be more conscious about breaking your habit cycle.
Habits may be difficult to form. That’s a scientifically proven fact. But nobody ever said that it was impossible. Stay dedicated and motivated in forming your new habit until it becomes second nature to you.