We all have good habits. And we all have bad habits. But what happens when we want to change the bad ones into good ones? How do we make habits stick?
“You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems. Your goal is your desired outcome. Your system is the collection of daily habits that will get you there.”James Clear – Atomic Habits
But before we get to that, are you familiar with this pattern?… You decide you want something to change. Get all fired up. Perhaps do a bit of planning. Get started. Feel amazing and committed and excited. Slow down a bit, skip a day or two, get somewhat disillusioned and wonder why you were doing it in the first place. Feel fed up, demotivated and ultimately give up. Sound familiar?
Creating new habits and making them stick
When it comes to positive habit changes and making them stick, we often have our work cut out for us. Why? Because our old habits are truly embedded. We’ve been doing them for so long they’re second nature. So of course it is hard to change that routine and shift to new processes. But it is possible and people do achieve it all the time. But, as James Clear says above, it often comes down to our systems and how effective they are.
Incremental changes are the best way to approach our most desired habit changes. Going from zero exercise to 5 times a week in the gym is highly unlikely to last. It’s too much of a jump. Instead, James Clear also talks about making incremental changes and building on those changes in our systems until we get to where we want to be. So, with the exercise example, if you went from zero times a week to once a week, that would be a lot more achievable than 5 times a week. Once the one time a week is established and feels like a habit, you can up it to twice, and so on. By making changes gradually and building up to our goal, we have far more chance of making new habits stick.
How do you stay motivated?
Now that’s a big question. And the answer is different for everyone. One thing that is hugely important for all of us is knowing WHY you’re doing something. As I mentioned above, when making changes to our habits we can get so far down the line and our motivation begins to dwindle. We find ourselves asking “why am I even doing this”?! We’ve forgotten that initial wave of excitement and the motivation we felt when thinking about the results we wanted to achieve and how that would impact our life.
So, work out what that motivation is for you and capture it. Ways of capturing your WHY include writing it down in some sort of manifesto. Create a written picture of why you want things to change and what the impact will be. You can then refer to this when the going gets tough to give you a boost and a reminder.
Vision boards are my favourite tool for this. If you’re more of a visual person then collecting images that inspire and motivate you and represent your WHY is very powerful. You can gather your images online if you like, but in hard copy format on a board or piece of card kept in sight is more valuable because you will see it all the time!
Commitment and Accountability
Being accountable just to yourself is hard. But there are things you can do to give you more commitment.
“Don’t miss twice” is another tip from James Clear. He says if you miss a day, try not to make it two. One skipped session or meal or conversation isn’t too much to get back on track. But two can mean you’re more likely to quit the new habit.
Journaling and habit trackers are another great option for commitment, accountability and making habits stick. Once you know what your new habits are you can choose to write about your daily progress in a journal, or even create habit trackers that allow you to tick off the days, which really adds to motivation.
Alternatively you can seek accountability in other ways. The most powerful of which is to engage in working with a coach or mentor who can help keep you on track. Coaching works particularly well here because you continue to set your own path and tasks, but you know you have allotted times and systems for checking in with your coach.
Finally, support networks, such as our own, can also be helpful and a great way of gaining accountability.
Now that you’ve reached the end of this blog, we invite you to pause for a moment. Think about any new habits that you would like to adopt in either your personal or business life, and think about how you’re going to make those new habits stick. And of course if you find yourself struggling and you need some support, reach out to us!