They say that all people are unique and that you would be hard pressed to find two persons that are exactly alike. This adage has little to do with physical appearance – after all, identical twins are completely the same in that respect. Our uniqueness comes from our different inclinations, qualities, skill sets, and habits. Habitual behavior is routine behavior, one that comes to us naturally and easily, and we don’t give it a moment’s thought. Some habits are negative – such as smoking or watching too much TV, for example, while others are positive and useful – jogging and regular exercise to name a few.
Unfortunately, habits are easily formed during the early stages of our lives, in our childhood and adolescent years. As we grow older, our willpower gets distributed across the board. We need to focus on our education, our work, our families, and children. We get depleted and forming new habits becomes more difficult with each passing year. But useful habits are still important and can be learned even when we get older. Learning them has to be approached from a different angle, however, and following these simple steps will help you get there faster.
1. Be specific
Exercise is healthy and we should all set aside some time in our busy schedule to devote to it. But if you are not that kind of a person even the word exercise becomes scary. This is why it is important to be specific when choosing a habit you want to build. Narrow it down and learn as much as you can about it. In this concrete exercise example, you would be smart to single out jogging.
Read up on jogging; how to stay safe during runs, which shoes to buy and so on. Divide a habit of regular exercise into its components, don’t just hit the gym and expect your body to do everything at once. You will get discouraged and give up before you manage to accomplish anything.
2. Commit to it for 60 days
A habit should become just that; something ingrained in your everyday life, to the point that you get up to do it without even thinking about it. This requires a personality change, and since habits are hard to build, you have to set a clear goal for yourself. Doing something for an extended period of time, regularly and without faltering, will help you achieve that.
Most experts agree that a habit can be formed – tentatively – in around 60 days. So when you set out to build a new aspect of your personality, persist for at least two months, and then persist some more. Habits need to be nurtured as well as build, keep that in mind.
3. Tie in your new habit to an old one
Find something in your daily routine that you know you do on a regular basis then tie your new habit to that action. It’s quite simple but very effective. By tying in a new behavior to an established one, you will get a sense of flow and continuity.
After some time, it will become logical that a specific action follows after the previous one. For example, tie jogging to brushing teeth in the morning. Every morning, after you get up and brush your teeth, go out for a jog. Pretty soon one thing will become linked to the other and you will start doing it automatically.
4. There will be obstacles along the way – learn to work around them
Make an if-then plan for your habit-building endeavor. You will be tempted to give up at some point, due to time constraints, money, motivation, weather or any number of other not-so-good excuses. If you have an if-then plan for every foreseeable situation you won’t be blindsided and you will give yourself an alternative. If it is raining, go to the gym and use a treadmill; if you simply don’t feel like it, walk the full length of your jog instead of running it. Do whatever you can to avoid breaking continuity.
5. Reward yourself
Use positive reinforcement to cement your newly-forming habit. It is important to give yourself an incentive to persist. Set clear milestones and reward yourself after your reach them. The reward does not have to be anything substantial. Treat yourself to your favorite food or make some time to do something you enjoy, but rarely have the time to do. This helps to make the whole experience more fun, and if it’s fun you are more likely to repeat it.
So there you have it. Five simple steps that will help you form new and useful habits. The most important thing is to keep at it and not give up. You need to clearly define your goal and know why you’re being persistent. In the end, you will be richer for an experience and a skill, so it’s definitely worth it!