When it comes to personal growth, one of the biggest challenges we face is making long-lasting changes to our behaviour. Whether it’s adopting a healthier lifestyle, becoming more productive or achieving our goals, developing positive habits is an essential part of the journey.
Sadly, despite good intentions, it can be hard to make new habits stick. Did you know that on average, 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail?
The truth is, it takes energy and effort to make a change, and sometimes we need a little help.
What are Habits?
Habits are the building blocks of our everyday lives. They are automatic actions ingrained so deeply in our daily routines that we do them almost without thinking.
Whilst certain habits like exercising and practising mindfulness can add great value to our lives, we also regularly engage in counterproductive habits. Most of us recognise that regularly checking our phones hampers productivity and focus, but we do it anyway.
And forming new habits does not happen overnight. Instead, they require a gradual process of repetition and reinforcement. That’s why it’s often hard to break old habits, and can be even harder to form new ones.
So how can we form new positive habits and make them stick?
Since habit formation is a commitment, it requires motivation and momentum, so sparking interest and engagement is crucial. If we’re genuinely excited and curious about the benefits implementing a new behaviour can bring, we’ll feel more empowered to stick with it for the long haul.
Set a clear, achievable goal and reflect on why it’s important to you.
Instead of trying to do everything at once, practise new habits little and often. Breaking them into bite-sized chunks and setting short-term, actionable goals, can lead to immediate benefits, giving us an incentive to keep going.
Repetition is a crucial part of the process too; when we repeat an action consistently, it reinforces the neural pathways in our minds that turn habits into automatic responses.
Break-down new habits into small, manageable chunks.
Another effective strategy for forming habits is habit stacking. This is where we link the habit we want to develop with an established habit, making it easier to incorporate into our routine.
A Simple Habit Stacking Formula
‘Before / after I [current habit], I will [new habit]’.
E.g. ‘After I get into bed, I’ll practise deep breathing for five minutes’, or ‘After I wake up, I’ll drink a glass of water’.
By consciously linking new habits to existing ones, we can increase our chances of making a new habit stick.
Identify an established habit and attach the behaviour you want to become a habit to it.
When trying to form new habits, it’s common to face challenges and lapses of motivation; accountability is crucial. Apps and digital tracking systems can be a great way to keep us on track by providing gentle nudges and rewards.
And let’s not underestimate the power of others; working on habits together can provide positive reinforcement and shared accountability, helping us overcome obstacles and stay committed.
Tell others what you're committing to change.
If you follow the tips above, little by little and day by day, you’ll be on your way to making new positive habits which are easier to stick to and will result in lasting change.