How to build habits for success
Do you feel like you’re stuck in one place all the time? That you’re not making any progress?
When you go to bed at night, do you feel that you accomplished a lot of great things during the day? Or do you wonder what you actually did during the day and feel as if you have nothing to show for?
Not that you have to create extraordinary things every day, although if you do, good for you!
But you at least need to have some feeling of satisfaction for getting a little bit closer to your goal. Having taken some small step to fulfilling your dream. Whatever that dream is.
If you go to bed and feel as if nothing great happened during the day and you don’t look forward to tomorrow, something has to change. You have to create some system to accomplish what you want. To get things done that will propel you in the desired direction.
You need to establish routines. Routines are key to building successful habits.
Do you think routines are boring? I don’t.
To me, routines are what makes you keep going even when you don’t see the benefits right away. Routines are what makes you consistent. It builds momentum. It keeps adding up until you have accomplished something great. Persistence is the key to achieving great things. You need to implement routines that build into habits that will help you be persistent.
At the end of the day, you’ll have something to show for. You’ll have ticked off some things that you needed to do in order to move closer to your goal.
Don’t know where to start? Here’s my recommendation:
Start by identifying your goal. What is it that you want to accomplish? To lose weight? Exercise on a regular basis? Learn a new skill? Become a more grateful person? Perhaps all of the above?
Write them down, whatever your goals are. Next, you need to identify some keys elements to achieve success. Write them down too.
These key elements will become your new routines that you need to implement. Say for instance that you want to lose weight. What are some steps to achieving that goal? Perhaps eat less, stay away from fast carbohydrates, no alcohol, exercise, sleep.
Now you need something to track your progress. Just a sheet of paper, or you could use an app. There are several out there. I use “Way of life” for tracking my routines.
One important aspect is that documenting your progress needs to be fast, it cannot be time-consuming cause then you might not do it. You also need to track every day, at the end of the week it’s impossible to remember what you did on Monday, and you’re likely to fool yourself that you didn’t eat fast carbohydrates, completely forgetting those buns that your colleague brought to the office. If you like stats and graphs as I do, then it’s great to use an app because your progress can be visualized easily.
The key is to turn those routines into something that you just do, without thinking about it, you just do it. It should become a part of you. Don’t rely on willpower. It doesn’t work. Your new routines need to become a natural part of your day.
For the losing weight example, you’re not just trying to lose weight and once you’ve accomplished your goal, you’re going back to how things were before. Well, you could, but then you probably get those extra kilos back. The aim is to establish new routines that are good for you that you’re going to stick with forever. Small actions every day compounds to something great over time. And you’re in this for the long haul.
Set a realistic goal for how many times a week you should do something. Give yourself some slack. If it’s going to work in the long run, you cannot be too rigid about things, that will only lead to quitting when you see that you cannot accomplish it every day.
Again, for the weight loss example, don’t beat yourself up if you had some fast carbohydrates, simply acknowledge that you didn’t quite make it that day and look forward to the next day.
If you are used to eating a lot of fast carbohydrates, perhaps take it one step at the time. For instance, start by aiming for skipping fast carbs 2 days in a week. Once you’ve established that routine, increase it to 3 days, and so on. Just remember to take it slowly. Otherwise, you’ll just crash and burn and give up. After some time, you’ll notice that you are not eating fast carbs on most days during the week. Hurrah!
Incremental change is key to success in establishing routines that are good for you. Trying to drastically change everything at once is not.
As I was telling my kids just this winter, if you want to do a backflip on your snowboard from the biggest jump in the snow park, you don’t start with that. Well, you could, but you’re likely to end up in the hospital.
Instead, you start with the smaller jumps and build from there. And if you give up every time you fail a jump, you’re never going to make it to that big jump. The key is to build from what you know and add some extra challenge that you do not yet master. Once you can jump from a small jump, you add a grab to it. And so on. Until you can master a backflip in the biggest jump.
They are well on their way and we haven’t been to the hospital. At least, not yet.
After some time of implementing your key elements, it’s time to evaluate your progress. Don’t do this too often. Since you are working with small changes in your everyday life, results will also come slowly. The benefit is that since you’re making smaller changes, you’ll also be able to stick to them.
When you have established your routines, perhaps tweak them a little to come even closer to your end goal.
If you started with skipping fast carbs two days a week, add another day and continue from there. Take it slow. You need to firmly establish your new routine, make it a part of you. Perhaps, in the end, you’ll skip fast carbs on all days of the week and allow yourself 1-2 cheat meals per week. Now you have something that is sustainable in the long run. Something that works.
Get started today!
Write down one or a few things that you want to accomplish. Don’t pick too many things, the idea is to go slowly, to not turn your life totally upside down. For each of those things, write down a few key elements on how to get there. These are your new routines that you are going to act on. Don’t list too many key elements. If your list is too long, pick the ones that you think will have the greatest impact. Once you’ve successfully implemented the ones you chose, you can add more if needed.
Start implementing the new routines immediately. There’s no reason to wait. Don’t postpone.
If you’re thinking that “This week is no good since I have two birthday parties and an evening event with work. I’ll start with my new routines for losing weight next week.”
It’s always going to be like that.
If you’re waiting for the perfect moment to start, for the right circumstances to be present, you’re never going to start.
Now is as good a time as any.