Creating and building good habits make starting anything new a million times easier. Rather than just using willpower alone to help us get the job done, a habit with a good foundation ends up becoming something that we do without any thought at all! The truth is that if we want to make something a part of our day-to-day life for the foreseeable future, we need to build habits around it. But how exactly do you build a habit?
A habit that lasts a lifetime will be made up of three key aspects;
- Having Trigger points and Actions
- Having Clearly defined goals
- Having a reason driving the habit.
Trigger Points and Actions
The first step to building a habit is to work out exactly what that habit is. Let’s say that you have decided that you want to drink more water throughout the day, something that people usually fall short on. In order to start the building of our new habit we need to create a “trigger point” which will prompt us to get ourselves a glass of water!
One solution could be that every time we go to the toilet, grab a glass on our way back to our desk or seat. This means that for each time we go up to the loo, we end up replenishing our water supplies! The reason for doing it this way is that we don’t have to remember anything, as once the habit is ingrained into our system we will automatically go and get the water without any further thought. The “trigger” of leaving the toilet and walking back to our desk will subconsciously signal to our brains to pass through the kitchen and pick up a glass of high quality H2O.
Usually, the method used in this case of drinking more water is time based. “Every hour I want to get myself a fresh glass of water!”. This isn’t a great idea as it relies on you not only remembering to get the glass of water, but also remembering to check the time frequently enough to make sure you don’t miss anything. There is no trigger there automatically signaling to our subconscious to get ourselves some water.
Clearly Defined Goals
The next part of building on rock solid habits is to have clearly defined goals for what you want your particular action to be. In the water drinking case above, this would be just a particular volume of water you wish to drink every time you return from the toilet! So, rather than telling yourself to drink water on the return trip, say “I want to drink one single glass of water each and every time I come back from the toilet”.
The benefit of this is that once you reach the goal target of this new habit you know you can mark it off as being done. An example of a different case where this may be more important is doing some garden work every weekend. Your goal for this habit could be to spend 1.5 hours out in the garden doing some work. This way, you know that once you spend this time out there getting bits and pieces done, even if there are still tasks that are outstanding, that you spent a large enough portion of your day out there getting things done. It also helps ensure that you are not spending too long out there, something that will make the habit harder to maintain in the long run!
Habit Driving Reasons
The above steps will set you up perfectly to get new habits implemented into your daily life, but without having a clear and well-defined reason as to why you want to implement this habit, it will never last. We need to be clear with ourselves as to why we are putting ourselves through the difficulty of changing our normal operation to include these new tasks we want to get ingrained into our lives.
For smaller, less intrusive habits, they don’t have to be that major. Taking a drink of water only takes a couple of minutes total over the course of the day, and so a simple “I want to drink more water” would probably be sufficient in this case. However, if it is that we want to give up 1.5 hours of our time on a Saturday morning to tend to the garden it has to be a bit more significant. “Until that garage is cleaned out, the trees are trimmed and the flower beds are redone, I want to spend 1.5 hours every Saturday doing some work on it”.
This not only gives us a reason for the habit, something driving us forward and acting as a reward for all our hard work, but also can tell us when we are done for habits that may not be required for ever. It will help alleviate the issues that may arise around not even knowing why we are putting ourselves through the hardship of it all and remind us that there is reason behind the madness.
These tips can actually be used to break bad habits also. I’d always recommend replacing bad habits with good ones. If you’re particular vice is smoking for example, and you’d like to give it up, replacing it with drinking water can be a good way to go! The trigger could be that every time you feel the need to have a cigarette, swap that out for drinking some water. The goal could be to not have a cigarette and instead have a single glass of water. The Reasons behind it is obviously stopping smoking. Although difficult at the start, you will find that after time the changing of your smoking triggers and turning them into water craving ones will hugely help in reducing the willpower required to stop totally!
In summary, building a rock solid habit is simple! Make sure you have triggers for your new habit and a cut off as to when it’s completed. Pair that with a reason for doing it and you’ll be well set on the way to building all the habits you need to reach your goals!