How many New Year’s resolutions have you abandoned? How many times have you started and stopped a diet? How many months have you paid for the gym membership that goes unused? How many times have you made a goal for your business that you didn’t come close to achieving?
We often don’t stick to these things because they are hard. Instead, we need to change our mindset and our habits around these things to make them automatic and easy.
Think about all the things you do during the course of a day. Most of them are automatic. (Brushing your teeth, getting dressed, putting on makeup, driving a car, riding a bike) They happen without you thinking much about them. They are habits. The difference between behaviors and habits is that they are at least partially automatic…you don’t think about them. Studies have shown that up to 40% of our daily behaviors are habits.
Every habit starts the same way. There is a three-part process which causes a pattern or “habit loop” in our brain. First there is the cue or trigger. This tells your brain to go into automatic mode and let the habit or behavior take over. Second is the routine. This is the behavior and what we think about when we think about habits. The third step is the reward, this is the pay off and the thing that help your brain remember this habit.
Studies have shown that people will stick to their habits and perform them in the same way every time when they are in the same environment. In order to create a new, healthy habit (or to break a bad habit) you want to be as intentional as possible with all three parts. You want to introduce into your environment the triggers that you can then intentionally start to associate with a desired behavior and then reinforce it all with an appropriate reward. Changing your environment is a great way to do this. When you are somewhere new (like on vacation), it interrupts the habit loop and you may find it easier to change the behavior or at least become more aware of it.
We often think about our bad habits (the ones we want to change), but our habits can be powerful in helping us accomplish our goals. The great thing is that we can control our habits. We just need to interrupt the habit loop. Once you are aware of the cue or trigger and you identify the reward, it becomes much easier to change our habits so that they work to move us towards our goals and not against us.
It seems like building new habits should be easy, but we have a way of avoiding doing the things we know we should do when they are hard or we don’t feel like doing them. Here are three things you can do to start building new, more productive habits:
- Start small – We often quit on building new habits because it seems hard or overwhelming. Start small. Take one tiny action and then use the power of the incremental 1% to get just a little bit better every day. The point here is to start so small that you can’t say no.
- Just get started – Don’t worry about getting the new habit or routine perfect. Just worry about showing up. Put yourself in the right environment to succeed. Showing up and getting started are the hardest parts, so spend all of your energy on just showing up. You can worry about getting better and perfecting the habit later.
- Measure or track your results – What gets measured gets done, so keep score. Keep track of all the days you show up at the gym or the number of steps you walk in a day or the calories you’re eating or the number of cold calls you make in a week. Tracking the actions you are trying to change will help you stay accountable for doing the work.
It takes up to 66 days to build a new habit. Those first 30 days will be hard, but stick with it! You are likely to fall off track as you build a new habit. It’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Just come back the next day and recommit to you new behaviors or actions. The goal is not perfection. The goal is to show up consistently and make corrections when you get off track. Building new habits is a process.
If you need some help figuring out how to build new, healthy habits for yourself and your business connect with me at www.empoweredleadershipcoach.com/schedule.