I have been consistent with one thing in my life every week for the last three years. I guess you could say it has now become a well-established habit.
Creating a new habit is never easy.
By now, most people have probably read or heard that it takes around 21 days to create a habit. Therefore, you must be “consistent” for 21 days before a new habit is birthed from your actions.
“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently.” ― Anthony Robbins
“I’ve learned from experience that if you work harder at it, and apply more energy and time to it, and more consistency, you get a better result. It comes from the work.” – Louis C.K.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not is not an act but a habit” – Aristotle
The One Word to Focus On
Implementing a new consistent behavior that you hope will lead to a life-changing habit can make you feel like a salmon swimming upstream. You’re constantly fighting the current of your own mind as you work to establish this habit.
Most of us would rather the habit fairy show up and magically leave the habit under our pillow. We want it all and we want it now.
I have noticed a common thread when it comes to implementing new habits either with myself or clients.
We tend to focus on the “how” or the “what we need to do” when it comes to swimming up the habit stream. By focusing on the “how” we overlook the most important question:
I mentioned at the beginning I have a “habit” I have been doing for the last three years. It was something that I felt deep inside of me needed to happen, and it needed to happen each week because it answered a why for me.
Three years ago, I told my girlfriend at the time, now wife, that I would give her flowers every Sunday. She laughed when I mentioned this and chalked it up as just another broken promise.
I’d already given her 1000 broken promises so what was one more to her?
Her reaction caused me to dig deep and ask myself, “why will this make me a better man for the woman I love?”
As shallow as it may sound, this promise was not for her. It was a promise that I needed to do FOR ME.
Why do I need to get her flowers every Sunday?
I need to show her that I can be a man of action and not words. I need to show myself that for once in my life I can follow through with something.
So the most important thing to know about habit-formation, is that if we want to deliberately form new habits, we have to use a completely different mental process. We have to ponder, plan, and prepare. We have to rely on some motivation and spend our willpower wisely. We have to set some goals and we have to learn a heaping dose of self-awareness
Finding your why forces you to become more self-aware of your own desires, passions, and principles. Once you are able to become more aware of these it will help you to as Steveo said above, “use a completely different mental process.”
So ask yourself, “why will this habit make me a better ________?”
Start with only one thing you want to become more consistent with, something that truly matters and answers your “why”.
Whether this habit be establishing a workout routine, cooking more, eating more veggies, reading for 20 minutes a day, getting up earlier, being a more attentive partner with your significant other, meditating, no matter what the habit may be if you establish an emotional connection to WHY you are doing this, then you are more likely to maintain the habit long term.
Once you have answered the, “why”, now you can focus more on the “how”.
How to Build a Habit
Below are some tips, which can help you with the “how” part of habit creation:
Stick those things everywhere that you spend a majority of your time, asking you if you have completed your new daily habit.
Put it before another habit you already have:
Are you already good at brushing your teeth but want to start reading at night? Put a book in front of wherever you store your toothbrush and each time you go to brush your teeth you will see the book which will help you to remember to read.
Perhaps you struggle with eating more veggies in your diet. Put those green stalks of broccoli or containers of spring mix in the front of the fridge. That way you have to pull them out first before anything else.
Start simple and small
Add one extra piece of a vegetable to breakfast or lunch or dinner, start with two minutes of exercise a day, look in the mirror and say one nice thing about yourself, set your alarm to go off one-minute earlier than before. You don’t need to move a mountain here just one pebble at a time. That’s it.
Then you can build from there.
Professional athletes admit to using it all the time when they mentally rehearse themselves performing a play in their heads and later executing the same or similar play. I use visualization with my clients when it comes to conquering their nemesis in the gym or in the kitchen.
When you visualize, picture yourself performing the action and successfully performing it each day. You can picture this action multiple times throughout the day to help further engrain it into your psyche. In the words of ESPN anchor Rece Davis, “see the three be the three.”
Creating a consistent behavior or habit does not need to be something overly complicated and difficult.
Make it as simple and as “cheap” on effort as you can.
If eating better is hard for you, start by adding one serving of vegetables to dinner, then progress that to another meal and so on. If you have a problem finding time or inspiration to exercise set a goal of climbing one flight of stairs every day for a week, or park one sport further from the building you work in each day.
Want to get your day started earlier, so you can get more work done, set your alarm to go off two minutes prior to your normal time and slowly increase that each week.
Or do what I do and leave your phone outside of your bedroom so you have to get up and turn the alarm off.
You don’t need to move the entire mountain at one time.
Find one (small) thing and focus your effort on that. Make it the easiest task that you can be consistent with each day that has meaning to you and ask yourself WHY you need to do it instead of looking for HOW to do it.
The ONLY Motivating Factor
WHY is the motivating factor. Once you figure out the WHY it becomes far easier to start an action.
WHY do you need to start working out?
WHY is losing weight really important?
The how is significant but the WHY is the driver of action.
Just start the habit and stumble along the way.
As Leo Babauta stated in this post:
Actually doing the habit is much more important than how much you do.
Habits are far easier to create and maintain once we establish an emotional connection to them and make them personal to ourselves.
Once you answer, “why,” you need to implement the consistent behavior or habit in your life, you’ll find that you execute the habit far more successfully.
As a bonus, check out this amazing TED Talk about making the jump and just doing whatever it is you want to do. Watch it here ===> [Creative Mischief]