According to researchers of Duke University, our habits constitute up to 40% of our everyday lives and ensure we do not have to think about every single decision we need to make throughout our days.
“Your life is essentially the sum of your habits.”
Through habits, we can ensure accomplishing our daily tasks despite being bombarded with lots of information from the outside.
What makes building habits so tricky, however, is the fact that we are exposed to so many external factors every day. Sometimes, it feels as if distractions await us at every corner of our life to ensure we can’t stick to our positive intentions.
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“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”
Habits help us to save time and energy, which again helps to make space for new, exciting projects and hobbies.
If we spend our whole energy on all the critical tasks of our day, we miss out on joy once we have free time.
We all have goals — some of us in sports, some in business, some others in strengthening our relationships, or whatsoever.
It doesn’t even matter what you’re precisely after. The right habits can help anyone in achieving their goals quicker and with more ease.
In the beginning, new habits can feel weird and unknown. However, once you’re clear about your intention, implementing them into your daily life becomes easier.
So…the goal is building habits that support our big visions and goals in life, but how does one start and what measures need to be taken?
“First, we form habits, then they form us.”
— John Dryden
3 R’s of Habits
I first came across the 3 R’s of habit change in one of James Clear’s articles, and I was instantly hooked.
Here’s the ultimate key to habit building:
Every habit is an addiction. Some are negative, and some others, if we build them consciously, are compelling.
No matter if it’s a negative addiction (like smoking) or a powerful habit that supports your lifestyle (like meditation) the process is always the same:
The 3R’s are Reminder — Routine — Reward.
Every good or bad habit relates to those three principles.
- Every habit starts with a reminder. In the case of smoking, the reminder is the desire for nicotine. In the case of positive habits, however, you can choose your reminder. For example, you could set a specific alarm for your meditation practice. Or you could build so-called habit chains, which we’ll discuss in a minute.
- After you get reminded, you practice the habit, your routine.
- Last but not least, every habit ends with a reward. In case of smoking, your reward is feeling satisfied and getting your nicotine rush. In the case of meditation, you will have other feelings. However, the point is you can create your own rewards. For example, you could create a habit tracking sheet and tick off boxes every time you meditate. Or you could count your meditation practices and reward yourself with a nice dinner or a new pair of yoga pants once you hit a certain target, like, for example, 50 meditations in a row. Designing your reward is entirely up to you. You just need to ensure it’s sexy enough to go for it.
Dream Big — Start Small
I am a fan of big dreams and huge goals.
I don’t believe I was born to be average, and neither were you. We are all miracles. Seriously.
The odds of you being born is close to zero.
Being a pure miracle and playing it small in life would be pretty dumb, huh?
On top of that, studies prove how big visions and great dreams empower our motivation and lead to taking more action in general.
Having a big vision often leads to intrinsic motivation, which makes it a lot easier to build habits that stick.
So, here’s what to do:
Have a big, powerful vision of the future but be prepared to start incredibly small.
You need to focus on the minimum amount of work that you have to accomplish every day to come closer to your goals.
Big goals become achievable through small, daily actions.
Start with habits that are so small you can’t say no and gradually improve through small steps.
Imagine adding up 1% at a time: You will experience enormous growth if you stay persistent and keep going.
“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.”
We already have tons of habits we repeat each day without even realizing it.
Through so-called behavior chains, we can schedule new habits around established ones and ensure we do not forget or skip them.
The ‘’old habit’’ is, therefore, our reminder for the new one.
It‘s a so-called “if-then” reaction.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you want to build the habit of stretching your body for at least ten minutes every day.
That’s not particularly difficult. It doesn’t need much effort or preparation. You can do it anytime, anywhere.
However, most people struggle with setting up these small, powerful routines for one reason: They don’t integrate it into their daily lives. They believe they’ll find time for it later during the day or in the evening.
Does that sound familiar to you?
Well, here’s how to solve the whole habit-procrastination-struggle:
Build behavior chains. Add your new habit to an existing one. For example, you could do your stretching exercise right before or after brushing your teeth.
Brushing our teeth is something we all do. At least I hope so. There is no way we forget or skip it. Using these little existing routines as a reminder for your new habits is incredibly effective.
“Successful people aren’t born that way. They become successful by establishing the habit of doing things unsuccessful people don’t like to do.”
— William Makepeace Thackeray
Get back on track
Here’s the bad news:
Even if you follow all the steps, you will sometimes slip off.
There will be days where you won’t hit your daily goals and screw on your habits.
Sometimes, it will happen because of a busy schedule, sometimes because of health issues or sometimes even due to an emotional breakdown.
And guess what?
We are not machines, we all are humans and slip-offs are fine.
It’s not about being flawless. It’s about giving your best and especially about enjoying this crazy thing called life.
Building habits is not about acting as if you were a robot. Hell no.
On the contrary, it’s about creating more space and freedom in our lives.
Here’s what you can do once you skip your habits despite all the necessary measures:
First, practice self-reflection. Find out why you slipped off.
Why did you lose control? Is there anything you can improve in your daily life to make sticking to your habits easier?
Once you found out what particular reason led to that situation, there is only one more thing to do: Regain control.
It’s scientifically proven that missing your habit occasionally doesn’t have any big impact on your long-term progress.
Even professionals slip from time to time.
What differentiates them from the majority of people, however, is that they get back on track as fast as possible.
Get away from that all-or-nothing mentality and focus on getting back on track once you lose control. You need to be consistent, not perfect.
“Don’t forget you’re human. It’s okay to have a meltdown, just don’t unpack and live there. Cry it out and then refocus on where you are headed.”
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