7 STEP GUIDE TO BUILD A NEW HABIT
It is good news to everyone who lay on the bed every night and plans to build a new habit of waking up early, working out in the morning, or avoiding junk food but have not started even one of those. We all have bad habits or habits that we need to drop and many good habits that we want to create to make our life better.
Personal development obviously comes with self-awareness when you will understand your weaknesses and strive to improve them. We are strong at identifying our flaws but where we fail is in our attempts to build new habits to fix those weaknesses. Failure to build a new habit is not a problem faced by a few and you should not feel guilty about it. We are built to continue the good old habits rather than practicing a new one which is a difficult task for our brain.
Even though it is not easy to build a new habit, we cannot make it an excuse to give up on personal development. I know all of you have New Year resolutions and birthday resolutions that lasted for a week and then went to the trash but there are ways to make them happen. Let us talk about a proven way to build a new habit so we can do justice for all those ignored New Year resolutions and birthday resolutions. Your desired new habit can be a social, mental or physical activity but these steps will ensure that you will stick to it and build a habit.
1. SELECT ONE HABIT TO FOCUS ON.
Yes, you have got a long list of habits that you want to form. Given that no person is perfect, we all have plenty of areas for improvement. But you cannot focus on each and every one of them at once. Our brains need time to process a new habit that we want them to absorb and follow. When you demand too much from your mind, nothing will happen as it is beyond your capacity to focus on multiple goals at one time.
Take a moment and list down the changes you want to make in your life. They can be a habit you want to drop or a habit that you want to add to your life. Go through the list and prioritize them according to their importance. If you have an upcoming test and you want to build a habit of studying two hours each day, that should be your priority rather than the habit of hitting the gym thrice a week. Select the most important habit you want to build first and focus on it. This will avoid confusion and allow you to put your best efforts to build the new habit.
2. MAKE A PLAN
Imagine there is a splendid hotel that you always wanted to visit and you leave home without knowing the exact location of it. You are already on the way but you have no clear idea how you will reach the place. In some way, you might reach the place, but it will take much more time and cost you extra money. Trying to build a habit without a plan will also have the same effect. There is a chance that you will build a habit but it will take longer to form the habit and cost you extra effort. That is why you need to start with a plan.
Note down your desired habit and your current situation. Brainstorm for the ideas to fill in the gap between your current level of performance and the planned level of performance. What will you need to start working on this habit? What will be the obstacles you might face in building this habit? How will you overcome them? Ask yourself such questions and put them on paper. Being prepared will help you stay on track without confusion arising in the middle of your mission. You can also write down your reasons to start this habit so you can read them and motivate yourself when you feel like giving up.
3. SET ACHIEVABLE GOALS
You already know the steps you are going to follow in achieving your target. Now you should break down those steps into achievable goals. Your ultimate expected outcome is obviously a significant improvement from your current situation. But can we jump that high at once? One of the common reasons people give up on their habit-building process is their unrealistic goals. You set a goal you cannot reach in one day or two only to demotivate yourself and give up.
Let us assume the habit that you want to create is working out an hour a day. Now you do not work out daily. It is not achievable if you try to work out one hour from day one as your body and mind are not ready for that. Workout for fifteen minutes on day one increases the time duration gradually so you will not be overtired and hate the thought of working out on the next day.
We need to climb one step at a time in the ladder of habit building as it will ensure steady growth without discouragements and complications. Setting realistic goals is something you should do while planning but I have highlighted it as a separate step because of its importance.
4. START IT NOW
Start it right now, there is no better day than today. If you are confident that it is the change that you need in your life and you are ready to work for it, what are you waiting for? Grab everything that you need to do that task which you want to make a habit, healthy food if you are planning to cut off junk food, or few good books if it is about building a habit to read. For anyone who wants to achieve a goal, there is not another enemy as procrastination.
The easiest way to fight procrastination is to start your work right now. Think about why you need to make this change and motivate yourself. Step to the game today with the confidence that you are going to get what you want. Tomorrow is not a magical moment where things will happen effortlessly, so the best option is to initiate it now. Once you begin it, your desire for the outcome will grow which will further motivate you to stick to the new habit.
5. MAINTAIN A RECORD
This step sounds like unnecessary work which will only cost you some extra time. But let me explain the importance of recording your progress. In our life, overall, what keeps us going is hope, efforts, and progress. Now you have the hope that you will achieve it and you are putting it. Without seeing progress, you will not be confident in your ability and capacity to achieve your ultimate goal. Your records will provide you evidence of what you were at the beginning and what you are now.
You might have started by studying for 30 minutes a day but after a week you will see your progress when you can naturally focus and study for one hour straight. You will notice this progress only if you record your study times daily. The sense of achievement you will get from observing your improvements will help you stay on track for the rest of your habit-building journey.
6. REWARD YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS
Your records will reflect your achievements. Now, what will we do with it? Rewards are the best way to reinforce positive behavior. You can make your improvements a reason for a reward. When you reach each of your milestones towards your main goal, reward yourself. You can decide about the reward for milestones in the planning stage and it will keep you motivated and excited to achieve them.
The most important factor to consider in choosing a reward is that it should not be in contradiction with the new habit that you are trying to build. Never reward yourself with a cheat day if you are trying to eat healthily or get an extra hour of sleep as a reward for waking up early for a week straight. Your reward should only encourage your efforts to build the new habit.
Patience is the key to build a successful habit in your life. In each of the steps I have mentioned, patience will be involved. You will not develop a habit overnight and you have to be patient with yourself in the process.
Do not expect perfection. There will be ups and downs but just keep going. The most important fact to realize is not giving up and continue work on your goal is itself an achievement. When one thing or two go wrong, you do not have to wrap up your mission and leave. See what went wrong and keep continuing your efforts while fixing the mistake you made last time. You will surely make it to your goal does not matter how hard it is.