How to build a new habit?

by | Feb 1, 2019 | Mind

Over 4,000 years ago, ancient Babylonians would begin the new year by promising the gods that they would pay their debts in the coming year. This ceremony has since evolved in modern New Year’s resolutions, when people around the world promise themselves that they will making the most of their futures. Some of us want to get in shape, some of us want to make more money, and some of us want to find love; any way you slice it, everyone wants 2017 to be their best year ever.

But let’s be honest: despite our sincere aspirations, most of us give up on our resolutions before January even ends. Thankfully, you don’t have to wait for the start of a new year to truly begin the journey toward your goals. It all starts with building up your healthy habits.

Find a Buddy

Let’s say you want to make exercise a priority in your life. You want to get up early every morning (yes, even on the weekends) and exercise before you head into the office. You write down your resolution, you set the alarm, and head off to bed excited to get started. The trouble is, your bed is so cozy when morning comes along, and day after day you hit the snooze button instead.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. There are many people struggling to motivate themselves to build better habits. So why not partner up? Commit to working out with a friend, or use apps to publish your exercise routines to social media. You’ll soon come to find that your friends and family can be excellent motivators.

Take Baby Steps

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Rome wasn’t built in a day. We all know these expressions well, but when it comes to our own habits, we’re not so great at heeding the advice. Part of the reason building habits is hard is because we focus on our end goal. This can leave you feeling overwhelmed and defeated before you even get started! Avoid this feeling by setting smaller, manageable goals along your journey.

Here’s an example: let’s say your goal is to lose 20 pounds. Right now, that may seem impossible. But instead of giving up, calling 20 pounds undoable, how able losing only five? Once you’ve done that, try five more. Before you know it, your single steps will take you thousands of miles away.

Find the Time and Set Reminders

I get it, life is incredibly busy. Between balancing work, family, friends, and kids (if you have them), it may seem like a new goal is just not possible. Where will you find the time? Maybe you’ll cut back on TV and social media. Maybe you’ll wake up a little earlier in the morning. The bottom line is that anyone can carve out a little time to take a step towards their goals.

However, before this time becomes second nature to you, you may not always remember to do it. This is why writing notes or setting a reminder on your calendar or phone is so important; it will help you stay committed to building your habits! Set a time – morning, evening, lunch break, doesn’t matter – to work on building this new habit, and make sure you don’t forget it! Before long you’ll be so used to this new routine that you won’t need that reminder anymore.

Commit to a Challenge

Scientists say that building a habit takes an average of 66 days. So how can you be certain that you keep up your habit that long? Consider a boot camp or challenge! Whether you’re trying to write a novel or up your fitness level, there’s likely a challenge available online which will push you to keep going until you’ve reached that 66 day mark.

Even if there isn’t a challenge that fits your needs exactly, who says that you can create your own? Think up your own 66-day routine (and let your buddy know, so he or she can hold you accountable) and get to work! If you commit to it, and work on building your habit each day, you’ll be stunned to discover how easy forming new habits can really be.

Be Flexible

As important as it is to work hard to achieve your goals and create healthy habits, it is also important to remember when to take it easy. Flexibility is the key to forming habits that last, as it keeps you from feeling restricted and prevents you from rebelling (yes, deep down we all still have that teenage rebellious streak).

If you’ve been working out every day for two weeks, it’s ok to give your body a day or two to rest and recharge. If you’ve been carefully managing your money for weeks, paying all your bills and even paying off some debts, feel free to splurge on a small treat for yourself. After all, building new habits is a big deal, and you deserve to celebrate your achievements!

Dr. Bob Singhal

Professor Bhupendra 'Bob' Singhal, has taught creativity by joy and right-brain thinking, is a renowned international architect, won major design competitions, has over 70 awards, publications, and media mentions, and served as President of the American Institute of Architects South Bay. In 2011, in his book Joy in Health and Happiness: Your Optimal Path to Success, Professor Singhal wrote about the transformative power of joy and helped readers learn to enhance their daily experience of it.


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