How to Create a Habit
Creating positive habits can help to reach goals, develop self-discipline, and create powerful change in your life. During the 1950’s, plastic surgeon Dr. Maxwell Maltz found that following an operation it would take patients up to 21 days to adjust to a change in their physical appearance.
He documented those changes in what was to become a best selling book, Psycho-Cybernetics. Dr. Maltz’s research from Psycho-Cybernetics is the foundation behind the belief that it takes 21 days to form, or break, a habit.
More recently, psychology researchers at the University College London observed the habits of 96 subjects over a 12 week period. Results of this project demonstrated that building a new habit would actually take 66 days, instead of the 21 days that are more commonly discussed.
How to Create a Habit
From waking up earlier to launching a new fitness program habits can help you achieve more. Everyone’s learning style is unique, so all tips will not apply to all people, but a combination of several should help start you in the right direction.
1. Set Goals and Quotas
Goal setting will help determine what habits you need to create. Goals should offer guidance towards what you wish to achieve once a habit is set. Healthy eating, weight loss, and lowered stress are all goals you may set when creating a habit involving fitness.
Quotas are the small steps you need to take each day to achieve those goals. Cutting off a small piece of the pie makes the long term goals feel more attainable and provides baselines to measure each goal against.
2. Establish Triggers
Time is the easiest and most commonly used trigger in habit creation. Setting a schedule can help build habits by telling you when you should perform them. Establishing a time for writing can help someone who is an aspiring author create a window of uninterrupted time.
Locations can also be a trigger for habit building. Sitting in the same place to write or heading to a specific area of the gym can build mental cues that tell you how to think, act, and behave.
3. Create Consistency
When an action becomes second nature it is easier to continue with it. Sleep schedules are a great example of habits that are established through consistency. Waking at the same time, regardless of if it is a weekday or not can help build consistency on the days you need to wake up early and provide an additional window of time for other activities.
4. Link to existing habits
Building upon a habit that is already second nature will help create a second layer to the habit you are trying to create. This is known as an ‘If-Then’ model of creating a habit and prevents minor setbacks from derailing the path towards habit creation.
Example: IF it is morning, THEN I will go to the gym.
If you have already woken up early, going to the gym is a natural second step and will be more likely to happen because you have linked those habits together.
5. Share your goals with others
Asking those around you to help hold you accountable to your goals will assist with making each habit more achievable. You will find that you are less likely to fail intentionally if others are watching you to determine if you are successful or not.
6. Reward yourself
Building in small rewards for success will help keep you motivated and push onwards. Rewards help trigger the release of endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. These ‘happy’ hormones will associate positive feelings with achieving elements of your goal.
Be careful of rewarding yourself in ways that are counter intuitive to the goal you want to achieve. If you want to lose weight, eating chocolate after going to the gym is going to derail your plan. Instead focus on rewards that pull in other enjoyable things, like a small shopping trip or a new book. After a month of consistently performing your habit enjoy a spa day. Stepping the reward up as you are more successful will help keep you on your path to success.
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