“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”Aristotle
Why should we work to build better habits? I mean, why do our habits even matter?
Well, consider them the backbone of our lives. 40-50% of our day is made up of our habits. Now, think about that. That’s almost half of your day determined by the automatic (often mindless) actions you take.
This is HUGE. Those tiny actions can be the difference between whether you are healthy or overweight, distracted or focused. They affect every single aspect of our lives.
Therefore, we should always be working to build better habits. It’s our futures we’re looking out for, after all.
The Ways To Build Better Habits
In the book Atomic Habits, the author introduces four key principles that will make it SO MUCH easier to do so. These are practical ways to make your habits count, and very possibly change your life.
I highly recommend having a habit or two in mind that you would like to start as you read this post! And at the end, find out how I used this book to develop my new exercise habit!
Without further ado, here are the key elements to building habits that STICK, according to the expert, James Clear.
1. Make The Habit Obvious
1a. BE CLEAR AND INTENTIONAL
First, we have to get crystal clear on what the new habit is. So, state when, where, and how long you will do this great habit. If you leave room for interpretation, you will sabotage your efforts later.
- I will meditate at 7:30 for 10 minutes in the living room.
- I will workout Monday, Wednesday, Friday this week on the treadmill for 30 minutes.
1b. PUT YOUR NEW HABIT AFTER A CURRENT ONE
Be sure to put a new habit right after a habit that you ALREADY HAVE. Your current habit will be the trigger you need to remind you of that new simple action to take.
- If you want to be better about putting on makeup, do it immediately after you brush your teeth.
- If you want to build a nightly reading habit, do it immediately after getting your pajamas on.
1c. FIX YOUR ENVIRONMENT
In many ways, we are products of our environment, but we are seldom aware of it. The healthiest people are often the people that make good foods obvious and bad ones less so. The most productive people have visible cues to get them working faster and with less distraction.
So get your environment working for you, instead of against you!
- If you want to eat better, have healthy food in the front of your refrigerator and a fruit bowl on your counter. (Hide the bad stuff in the back or the basement)
- If you want to be more intentional with your kids in the morning, set an alarm to remind you to shift focus.
2. Make The Habit Attractive
2a. PUT A HABIT YOU NEED WITH ONE YOU WANT
To make the habit more enticing, pair an action you want to do, with an action you need to do. First, you do what needs to be done, then you can indulge in something that brings you joy.
- If you want to focus better with work, first you work on that important project for 45 minutes, then you can browse Instagram
- If you want to be more grateful, first you express three things you’re grateful for, then you can drink that cup of coffee.
2b. GET WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE
Next, put yourself around people that do what you want to do. As humans, we instinctively want to fit in, so we almost always conform to the social norms of those around us.
Our culture dictates more of our behavior than we ever realize, so put yourself in the right setting.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”Jim Rohn
- If you want to be more fit, start working out with a fit person that you like.
- If you want to get further in your career, schedule lunches with someone you admire at work.
2c. DEVELOP A RITUAL TO MOTIVATE
And finally, for attractiveness, create a ritual that motivates you. Habits are more exciting to us when we associate them with positive feelings. But, this takes a different way of thinking because often to build better habits we have do something hard at first.
So, do something you enjoy right before the difficult habit or create an automatic system that eases you into your habit.
- If you want to focus better, listen to the same song every day before getting down to business. That song will eventually trigger distraction-free focus.
- If you are wanting an earlier bedtime habit, create an everyday ritual that triggers a wind down in your brain. Turn the lights down, stretch, and read. Related Post: How To Get The Best Sleep of Your Life
3. Make The Habit Easy
3a. PREP THE ENVIRONMENT
We like to do what comes easy to us. To build better habits we need to reduce the friction to make them happen. Make it as EASY as possible to do the right thing.
- If you want to workout, set out your workout clothes, shoes, and headphones out beforehand.
- If you want to eat better, meal plan or meal prep so the healthy option is already prepped and ready to go.
3b. USE THE 2 MINUTE RULE
At the start, it’s more about creating a long-lasting habit than it is seeing massive change. So, our habit needs to be so simple that we can’t talk ourselves out of it even on those inevitably hard days.
- If you want to become vegan, you start with one vegan snack a day.
- If you want to write a book, you write one paragraph.
The amount increases slowly over time, but you start from very easy and work your way to very hard.
So many things can be automated to relieve the pressure of falling into bad habits. And often, it’s as simple as the products and services we use daily.
- If you want to eat less, buy smaller plates.
- If you want to burn more calories and be more focused, buy a standing desk.
- If you want to save more, enroll in an automated savings plan.
Related Post: 21 EASY Ways To Simplify Your Life, Right Now
4. Make The Habit Satisfying
And lastly, the hardest part of staying with good habits is that you don’t get the instant gratification that our bad habits give. If I workout for a week, I’m not going to see much of a shift in my body. So we counteract that to make it more satisfying at the beginning!
4a. USE REINFORCEMENT
Just because your habit doesn’t give you an immediate reward, doesn’t mean you can’t give yourself one! Just make sure that it doesn’t sabotage the habit you’re trying to build.
- If you want to lose weight, reward yourself with a massage after meal prepping for a week.
- If you’re trying to save money, reward yourself with some fancy coffee you make yourself after saving fifty extra dollars.
The flip side of this is to make it painful if you don’t do what you say you’re going to do!
- Example: If you want to do daily stomach exercise, then give a friend 50 dollars if you don’t do them.
4b. GET AN ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER
To build better habits, if you can find someone to keep you on track it is ridiculously beneficial. Whether it’s a partner, friend, or family member, tell someone about your new habit.
Example: If you want to eat more salad, tell your friend and ask them to check up on you about it in one week at a specific time.
Related Post: Are you Following Through? Use Accountability
4c. TRACK YOUR HABITS
It’s extremely satisfying to feel as though we’re making progress. The only way to see this is to track our new habit. You can checkmark your habits daily, cross days off on a calendar, or use visual markers. But make sure you can SEE how well you’re sticking to it.
- If you want to read 50 pages, then place a marble in a jar after every 10 pages you read.
- If you want to eat better, then record it in a journal after every time you eat.
Related Post: A Self Care Checklist to Be Healthy, Happy, & Impactful
4d. NEVER MISS MORE THAN ONCE
Lastly, we all have bad days and get off track. But to build better habits, it’s critical to remember to never let it happen more than one day. Get right back on the wagon and keep the ball rolling!
We all know it’s so much harder once we lose momentum.
My Real-Life Application
After my last baby, I wanted to get back to exercising again. So, I chose running, and I used this book to do it. Here’s what I’ve done in the last 9 months…
1. I started very easy. For weeks I ran just 2 minutes. Then 4 minutes, and I added just a little time to each week. It was never so much that I was daunted by the task and didn’t want to do it.
2. When I started, I told someone and was clear about when, where, and for how long I would do it. I almost always ran in the morning when it was easier for me.
3. I signed up for races along the way to track my progress and keep me accountable.
4. I consistently set out my workout clothes and charged my phone the night before to make it as easy as possible.
5. When I could run longer, I ran with others when I could. Several times I’ve run with friends and my husband.
The results? I just ran a 10K. That means I went from big and pregnant to running 6.1 miles in 9 months. If I can change into a runner like that, anyone can do anything with these principles.
Something To Think About
I’m a TOTAL work in progress, but there’s no doubt in my mind that these principles are the key to more health, happiness, and impact.
Also, I HIGHLY recommend Atomic Habits. In fact, it’s on my list of favorite personal development books. James goes in depth with these principles and gives many of his own examples in the book. He also covers how to break our awful habits. Check it out HERE.
What will you do today to build better habits?
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