Habits are incredibly useful. They can simplify your life, help you achieve your goals and make you feel more balanced and at ease. Even the smallest actions can have a big impact if done consistently over time. However, creating a habit is not easy. It takes time and effort to make something second nature.
Whether you want to create a new self-care habit or you’re working towards a big goal, these five steps will help you form a habit that actually sticks.
Step 1: Start with why
A lot of the time, we’ll decide that we want to start a new habit before really looking at the reasoning behind it. When we’re not driven by a ‘why’ or intrinsic motivation, it can be a lot harder to stick to our habit. Finding your why can also help you decide on a new habit if you’re unsure where to start.
Start questioning your motivations behind a new habit and let it grow naturally from there.
- Why do you want to form a new habit?
- What are you hoping to achieve or gain from the new habit?
- How do you want to feel?
You may also find that these questions help you focus on the habit that’s right for you, as opposed to a habit you think you should start because of outside influence.
Let’s say you originally thought you’d start a new habit to go to the gym every day. However, as you question your whys and what you want to achieve, you realise that the underlying reason behind this habit is because you want to feel more confident. You decide that, actually, starting a new habit to focus on building your confidence and moving in a way that feels good to you is something that embraces your why more than going to the gym every day.
The more specific and compelling your why is, the easier it will be to stay motivated during the challenges of building a new habit. Your why might be related to your health and wellness, family, career or personal growth. Whatever your why is, make sure it’s specific so you can stay motivated when times get tough.
Step 2: Write it down and track it
We’re far more likely to stick to something when we write it down and track it. Even something as simple as ticking off a habit tracker can give us a dopamine rush (the reward chemical) that helps keep us motivated and on track. Below you’ll find a free habit tracker download you can use to stay on top of your new habit.
Sometimes, when we miss a day or two, we can feel as though we’ve failed which can then make us feel less motivated. One of our members came up with a gentler way to track her goals which involves colouring in the habit tracker depending on how well the day went. She colours a day in green if it was a strong day, orange if she was motivated but perhaps didn’t fully complete the habit, and then red for ‘rest honoured.’
Make your habit tracker work for you without feeling unmotivated by adopting a similar approach. Not all days are as black and white as a tick or a cross on a habit tracker, so be gentle with yourself when things don’t go to plan.
Step 3: Start small and be patient
One of the biggest challenges when trying to build a habit is starting small. We often want to try and change lots of things at once, which can then lead to more overwhelm and, eventually, that will break our motivation.
When starting small, you shouldn’t even think of it as building a new habit. You are just taking one small step towards your goal. If you are trying to move more, your first step might be to go for a 10-minute walk around the block every day. Make sure to build your walk into your daily routine and make it as consistent as possible. Once your walk has become a daily ritual, you can slowly increase the length of each walk until you are ready to tackle bigger challenges.
We always, always recommend starting with one habit first before adding new ones to the habit tracker. Ensure that you feel confident and consistent with one habit, before adding in a second and so on. Be patient and enjoy the process – more on that in Step 5!
Step 4: Make it easy and fun
When there’s a lot of friction between you and your new habit, it becomes far easier to ‘fall off the wagon.’ Let’s say you want to practice yoga every day, but all of your yoga clothes are tucked away in your drawers and your yoga mat is hidden in the cupboard under the stairs. The friction comes when you have to put a lot of effort into even just starting, such as digging out the clothes and the yoga mat.
Consider how you can make it easier by having everything ready and visible. Get your yoga clothes ready, roll out the mat, and find the class you want to do before you go to bed. Then, when you wake up in the morning, you’ll be ready to go without any barriers in the way to getting started.
Don’t forget to make it fun too! Hopefully, if you completed the first step then you’ll have plenty of natural motivation to complete your habit because you understand why you’re doing it. However, adding some fun into the mix can really help make it stick.
If your new habit is to stay on top of the housework, promise yourself that you’ll hoover whilst listening to your favourite podcast or ironing in front of a TV show you love. Think of all the things you love doing already and work out how you can do these alongside your new habit.
Step 5: Be proud of the process – Not the end result
Building a new habit is a long and challenging process. You may want to rush it all and get to the point where that habit has just stuck. However, this could end up making you feel less motivated and cause overwhelm. Instead of trying to finish quickly, be mindful and proud of the process. Take your time and enjoy the journey. Building a new habit doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, patience and consistent effort. Be proud of your progress and celebrate every small win.
Finally, remember to always be kind to yourself. If your best friend came to you saying they were a failure or useless because they’d missed a few days of their new habit, what would you say? Would you tell them they were right and were a complete letdown? Or would you let them know that it’s okay to not get it perfect 100% of the time? Treat yourself with the same compassion you would your best friend.
Forming and sticking to a new habit isn’t easy, but the rewards make it worth it. Whatever new habit you’re about to start, I wish you the very best of luck on the journey. You’ve got this!