We are all creatures of habit. If you don’t have good habits, then you probably have bad habits in their place. Bad habits are easy to develop because they give us instant gratification, like watching tv instead of sleeping early or sleeping in instead of waking up early. And bad habits are hard to break because enjoyable behavior like watching tv or scrolling through social media makes the brain release dopamine, the feel good hormone. Good, healthy habits on the other hand, reward us in the long term but are hard to choose right now. Most people fail to develop a good habit because they set goals that are too big or outrageous; like saying you will workout for 1 hour, 7 days a week when you have not exercised in months or years. So here are some tips to help you develop a new habit and build good habits.
· Start small
Set a small goal each day that will eventually become a habit and help you achieve the big goal. You cannot just decide to get up and run a marathon. But you can jog for 30 minutes, 4 days a week, gradually increase the amount of time you jog, and 6 months later you will probably run a marathon.
· Be realistic
Don’t set impossible goals as you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. If you know you don’t have more than 15 free minutes in the day, then wanting to build a reading habit for 45 minutes a day is surely not possible. So be realistic about what you can achieve and work your way around what is manageable.
· Make it easy
Clear the obstacles that stand in your way of building the desired habit. If you want to go for a run every morning, keep your workout clothes and shoes ready by your bed. If you have only 30 minutes a day to exercise, exercise at home so you save on the commute time.
· Reward yourself
Reward yourself after you complete your daily goal. For example, reward yourself with 20 minutes of watching tv or gaming or 2 pieces of dark chocolate after completing your workout. Your brain will crave the reward and hence push you to exercise. Eventually the workout will release the same chemicals as the reward and the workout itself will become the reward.
· Build one habit at a time
Building a habit takes dedication, willpower and effort. Focus on building one habit at a time so you don’t spread yourself too thin. Once the habit is ingrained it no longer requires extra effort and will become a part of your routine so then you can focus on building the next one.
If you feeling yourself falling off track, don’t be too hard on yourself. Just try to get back on track as soon as possible. Trying to change your behavior and building a new habit is hard so be kind to yourself during the process.
A habit is basically just a daily goal and your daily habits define your life. After all, a wise man once said; We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.