We have all been there, January: The start of 'the year of your life' where you and millions around the globe tell themselves, this is the one. This is the year when I will do what I really want to do. Despite January being quite a dark and cold month in a lot of parts of the world (at least where I'm writing from) people still manage to become the best version of themselves. For some time.
February of the new year: Around 80% of people have dropped their desire to become better, and have abandoned their idea of this year being the one. Why? It's incredibly hard. It really is. But if it were easy, 80% of people would still be achieving their goals right?
If you have read my article on meditation found here, you know I am not a fan of New years resolutions. What if I told you, there was a way to build something for yourself that will stick for more than a month regardless of what time of the year it is?
To start something new, we need to start building a habit. A habit is a regular practice of something, which at the stage of being a habit is relatively hard to give up. This can be good and bad: Your habit could be smoking every day, but it could also be exercising in the morning before work. Some habits become subconscious, so we don't even think about them anymore. How does it work?
A habit can be built up from a feedback loop. As an example, using the cigarette habit from above:
Step 1: You feel stress from work
Step 2: You go to smoke because you are stressed
Step 3: You temporarily feel better as you built a routine for the cigarettes to relieve you from stress. This is a reason why a behavior such as this can be so addictive. (Amongst many other reasons)
Enough of the negativity, this article is meant to be positive. You can change the whole diagram into something positive, such as working out in the morning. Let's have a look at the below.
Step 1: It is 8 AM.
Step 2: Your routine is to go for a 2.5K run at 8 AM.
Step 3: You feel refreshed, productive, and happy for the rest of the day. Seems like a flawless, simple formula right? This is an example of a habit that is harder to build, however, I wanted to illustrate that these habit loops can be positive too.
So how does this help me do something I want to do and stick to it?
It's April. Great month to start something. Take something that you have always wanted to start, and try the above method. I would advise you to try this for at least 30 days, to ensure you bulletproof it. For me, the 30 days were split into three sections of emotion, and I would assume you may feel the same, so don't feel disheartened. It's hard to build a positive habit, but it is damn rewarding when it's built. My example from about two months ago was reading. I hadn't read a book cover to cover in about five years, and with this method, I read three books cover to cover in around two months.
Day 1-10: You will probably have to force yourself to perform the routine and be very mindful of it. Make your routine very achievable at first, for me it was reading 2-3 pages a night. Most people fail in this first section as they set a lofty goal that will just let them feel demotivated if they can't achieve it easily.
Day 10-20: Things are starting to get a bit easier, you have maybe upped your routine detail (Reading five-ten pages at night instead of the former) and you are starting to reap rewards. (In my case better sleep) Don't stop here, as the next section is crucial.
Day 20-30: This is usually the section where the habit starts becoming automatic. You don't think about it much anymore, you just do it. Some people might take shorter, and some might take longer, but the goal is to try to make it automatic so you don't have to put much thought into it., you just do it and voila you have yourself a superb habit and an extra step in becoming a better version of yourself.
Here is my own anecdotal reading feedback loop that I started two months ago, and am still doing every day. Feel free to adopt this directly.
You can do this for the vast majority of things if you just think carefully as to how to craft the loop. Let me sum up in bullets (I love bullet points)
- Start today, not January
- Craft your positive loop
- Make your routine achievable (bite-sized at first, to not overwhelm yourself)
- Test your habit loop out for 30 days
- The cycle repeats, onto the next habit you want to build
I hope this can help you start doing what you want to do. (Book tip, if you do choose the reading habit: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg)
Until next time,