How do you form a new, effective habit?
You may have a big goal that you want to achieve but are afraid. What if you fail? What if you fail again? Easy to just opt to not try than take the risk. But what if a new habit will serve you well. What if it’s worth the risk? How can you make sure you are successful? How do you form a new habit that is sustainable and you don’t let yourself or others down?
I hear these questions in a wide array of circumstances including in my virtual program, 52 Weeks of Greatness. The folks in this program are in action. They’re ready for movement and momentum. With a bit of support they’re creating powerful goals in their work and personal circumstances, from fitness to mindfulness, from productivity and balance, from business milestones to major personal life shifts. In other words, they are incredibly committed to being successful and yet there is that negative inner voice that says, “but will you really be, weren’t you unsuccessful the last time?”
I hear this frequently when people approach me following a keynote presentation too. They will tell me they want to take action but aren’t sure where to start. That they want to recognize their own or others’ greatness, but what if it comes off wrong? What is going to be different this time?
A new habit.
Habits is merely changing a behaviour until it becomes the new norm. Tricky thing about habit (on top of our self-doubt and past stories of “lack of success” in changing habits) is that there’s a lot of misunderstanding about habits. That’s why I, someone who normally talks about recognition, has a bit of a vested interest in making sure that people get the habits thing right!
Habit Tip #1: Forget about Time
How many days does it take to form a new habit?
I have a feeling the number that came into your head was 21. No matter which audience I speak for, no matter how many people are in the audience, no matter what the education level is in the room, the magic number I heard is 21 days. [Confession time: in my co-authored book, Forever Recognize Others’ Greatness, I didn’t know this at the time when we published it…we reference 21 days!] Where did 21 days come from then? It was actually based on one study from years ago that studied how long it took patients to adjust to plastic surgery; there was never any intention of that research going mainstream for all things habits!
Habit Tip #2: Prime your Brain
The new neuroscience of habits notes that it takes up to 66 days to form a new habit. Good news is that it may take you even less if you also use visualization. I don’t mean they are one and the same, but rather visualization helps in the process of creating new neuropathways that don’t exist so your brain can lock down these new lovely neural connections from a new habit. In trying something for the first time and you haven’t visualized it, you haven’t primed your brain. It’s like making sure you have all the right ingredients before you start cooking – you will be more successful and enjoy yourself more!
Habit Tip #3: Just Start
Instead of going out and jumping in to your biggest possible goal, come up with the smallest increment of change that you can make toward your goal and begin with that. For example, you want to run a half marathon. Instead consider your habit running every day. The smallest increment of your new habit might be setting your alarm early enough to get a run in. Well, if you’re up you might as well get up. The next day, put your shoes beside your bed. If you’re up early and your shoes are beside your bed, you might as well put them on. And if they’re on you might as well walk around. And if you’re walking around with your shoes in the house, how silly do you feel? You might as well go outside. Before week’s end, you’re briskly walking. The next week you’re interspersing it with a light jog. See where I’m going with this? Start small and gain the motivation to get you going further. Don’t believe me? All of this is from amazing research out of Stanford University. Check out the Tiny Habits website for a wealth of information.
Habit Tip #4: Enjoy Yourself
Personal and organizational change expert, Sandeep Aujla notes, pick a goal. Something that you want to change in a way you can practice and enjoy it. Imagine enjoying something that you’re doing! If I decided that I was going to run, I know I’m a social person. I would find it so much more enjoyable if someone ran with me and helped me stay motivated with positive comments. If you are a competitive person, motivate yourself by running to an objective or goal, record your scores. Find a way for you to enjoy it!
So, what habit do you need to form? And which of the four tips are you going to use starting now?