Simple, yet true. Anytime you want to establish new habits and ditch the “bad” ones, you’ll face opposition from yourself. This might not even make sense because you know that the good habit is in your best interests, but you’re still struggling to stay consistent with it. One common example is eating clean. We all know that we should be eating healthy, nutritious foods, and yet, we still overconsume processed foods, sugar, alcohol and other foods that will harm us in the long run.
Trying to make the switch to clean foods will be a Herculean task that’s unpalatable and a constant struggle. So how do we form newer and better habits?
There is a proven process…
1. Focus on 1 or 2 habits at a time
This is one of the most important points to note. When effecting change in your life, less is more. If you try to change too many habits at once, you’ll be overwhelmed and your willpower will be drained. Changing your habits will take a toll on your energy levels… and the amount of energy you have daily is finite. So, the more you try to do, the lower your chances of success because you just won’t have enough energy to see them through daily. Just focus on 1 or 2 new habits until you master them.
2. Go slow when you are trying to establish new habits
Inch by inch, life’s a cinch. Yard by yard, life is hard. Even when focusing on just 1 habit, it’s best to apply it gradually. For example, instead of overhauling your diet overnight, aim to replace one or two food choices in your daily meals with healthier options. Drink one less can of soda a day. Drink more water and so on. Over time, reduce your intake of the ‘harmful’ foods, and increase your intake of the healthy foods. You’ll face fewer sugar cravings and be less likely to binge eat at night. Your body and mind need time to adapt. Yes, it will take time. You can’t rush the process and trying to do so will only sabotage your efforts.
3. Be consistent
The goal is to make small changes, but stick to them daily. Like Will Durant said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” So, aim to comply with your habit requirements every single day. The more you do it, the more you’ll reinforce it in your daily life.
4. Track your progress
Keep a journal to track your compliance. It’s inevitable that you’ll slip up occasionally. Always remember that a slip-up is NOT the same thing as failure. You only fail when you quit. So, acknowledge your error and strive to quickly correct yourself. You’re always only one better action from correcting your mistake. Don’t aim for perfection. Even a compliance rate of 90% is fantastic.
5. Control your environment
You’ll notice over time that some environments make it more difficult to stick to your new habits. For example, if you’re trying to eat clean, joining your friends at the bar may make you binge on pizza later. The bar environment and the drinks made you let your guard down. So analyze why you slip up and see if the actions or environments preceding the slip-up had anything to do with it. In most cases, you’ll see a very clear and definite link.
Once you follow these 5 steps, it’s just a matter of staying accountable to yourself and removing any obstacles that may trip you up. Do remember to reward yourself once you’ve successfully built the habit. Now it’s just a matter of practicing this new habit for life while you work on instilling the next beneficial habit. That’s it in a nutshell.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to form a new habit?
“They” say that the 21/90 rule will help cement the new habit. If you’re not familiar with that rule, it states that after 21 days the goal becomes a habit. And after practicing that new habit for another 90 days, it becomes a permanent change. I think this is a reasonably good rule, and sets realistic expectations of three weeks and then three months.
How many habits should I establish at once?
To get the best results, it’s good practice to focus on only one or two at a time. Too many and you will lose your focus and willpower and all of the new habits you’re trying to establish could suffer. Trying to change too much at once is the recipe for disaster so please don’t set yourself up for that kind of failure and disappointment.
Is it possible to establish new habits?
But of course! The old habit that you are trying to lose didn’t happen overnight and neither with the new habit. But patience is the key. You have to patient for the change to happen and you have to be patient with yourself. If you slip up, that’s okay. Just refocus the next day and move forward.