There’s only one way to build a habit.
I waited until I had read the book “The Power Of Habit” to write this post. No doubt it is an absolutely brilliant book that goes in-depth about the psychology behind habit formation. But I still didn’t get the 101. How am I supposed to actually build a habit and change my life? My lazy self did not know how to apply what I had read.
Maybe you’re like me and reading a book about habits might not do much for you. Or maybe you might not want to read a book at all. But you do wanna know how to form good habits or break bad ones. Are you as desperate to change your life as I am?
There’s only one way, my friend. And that is to make CONSCIOUS INTENTIONAL EFFORTS.
Yes. You don’t need to manipulate or trick your brain into doing something. Instead, do it intentionally.
What’s a habit anyway? (From Wikipedia) “Habit, from the standpoint of psychology, is a more or less fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience.” Let me repeat. It is ACQUIRED. This means, once upon a time, the things that come naturally to you now, you did them consciously until they became a part of your subconscious/became habits.
The best example everyone would agree upon is learning to drive. You weren’t born a driver, and when you first started out, you thought you would kill someone for sure. But now, you can eat and drive at the same time.
Similarly, I’m sure you were also not born with phone addiction. You exposed yourself so much that it has become a part of your subconscious. And that is the real problem. The part of your brain that deals with habits (the basal Ganglia), can’t tell the difference between good and bad habits. Whatever you feed your mind repetitively, it will convert that into a habit because it just wants to make your life easier.
Now it’s all up to you what to feed your mind. The pre-frontal cortex is the decision -making part of your brain, i.e., your conscious brain. And the good news is, you are in control of it. That means all you have to do is expose or feed your brain REPETITIVELY the thing that you want to make a habit.
REPETITION/CONSISTENCY is your God if you want to build a habit. Worship it diligently. They say it takes 21 days to build a habit. I’m not sure if it actually takes 21 days, but I’m sure that it will become a habit if you put in conscious efforts consistently.
Try a 30-day challenge. Pick one thing and do it consciously every day for 30 days. It’s bound to become a habit.
You know what’s one mistake most people make when they set out to build a habit? Planning!
You only have 24 hours in a day. You would have to devote some time to this new thing that you want to make a habit. You would have to fit it into your routine. If you want to build a habit (which means, you would want it to stick for a long time), you have to plan.
Maybe you would have to make certain sacrifices. But don’t cheat yourself. If you don’t have the time for a full gym workout, don’t convince yourself that you have the time. That you would wake up at 5 a.m. to make it happen if you know you won’t. You will only end up disappointing yourself and give up the whole idea.
Start small. And just keep repeating that small thing. Maybe you don’t have time for a full gym workout but you can definitely squeeze in a 15-20 minute workout. Great! Decide a time, an exact period of time and get that thing done in that time. It’s that simple really, but not that easy.
Another mistake people make is, they bring their emotions in. If you let your emotions get in the way of you trying to build a habit, it might not become a habit, to be honest. You HAVE to be consistent until it does. Which is why you need to start small and be reasonable from the beginning.
You don’t need to start feeling like doing something in order to get that thing done. If you wait till you feel like it, you’ll never get it done at the right time. And most probably regret later.
Set your goals according to your time schedule or other aspects. And then, don’t let any freaking thing get in the way. Not even your emotions.
Create a plan, make a journal, use a calendar, and cross out the days that you do your thing on, do whatever it takes to keep yourself accountable. Keep reminding yourself. It’s not a habit yet so you HAVE to remind yourself to keep doing it. To build a habit, keep reminding yourself and making conscious efforts.
It’s just a matter of days until you find yourself doing the same exact things involuntarily that you once thought were so demanding of your time and energy. But you have to keep going until that happens. Keep going until you build a habit. Keep going until its second nature.
CONSCIOUS EFFORTS. REPETITION/CONSISTENCY. PATIENCE. That’s all you need.
At the end of the day, it actually doesn’t matter if it becomes a habit or not. What matters is, that you’ve completed the task that you had set out to do. Don’t worry about the habit aspect of it. Focus on what is in your control – CONSISTENCY.
You can also use a mobile app to keep a track of your daily routine or to cultivate a new habit. My personal recommendation is Avocation. It’s an excellent app that I use daily and trust me, it is amazing!