The only thing that might be as hard as quitting an old habit, is forming habits you want to cultivate. These 5 steps will help you start new habits, and actually keep them.
This last year I have been extra committed to making some improvements in my life. I didn’t feel like I was living life to the fullest, being the best mom possible, or accomplishing my goals as quickly as I’d like. I decided it was time for a revamp so I could start forming habits that worked for me.
It’s been a learning process, and not an easy one either. The breakthroughs that have come are the product of years of work on figuring out my blocks and releasing them so that I could get to a point of focusing on habits.
But if I would have had a better handle on the process of forming habits that are working for me right now, it wouldn’t have taken me nearly as long.
Before I dive in, I just want to explain briefly, why habits matter.
A habit is basically something you do on autopilot. You don’t really think about it anymore, you just do it.
Forming habits is incredibly effective for attaining your goals and getting some control over your life. The alternative is to be a slave to your unconscious or negative habits, and as someone who is an ex-smoker, that is NOT a fun way to live.
So let’s dive into 5 ways to start forming habits that work now.
1. Start small
The biggest takeaway I had from that was to start with something pretty small, and have a plan for HOW to make it happen. The plan I have created now is to get myself into routines that I’ve built on over time after starting with a very small step.
The small habit I have formed that has driven massive change is to simply drink an entire glass of water and take my vitamins every day first thing in the morning.
From getting into that one small habit, I have been able to create routines for my days, weeks, and months. Through creating those routines, I’ve started forming habits by doing the same things repeatedly every day to the point that I don’t have to think so hard about it.
But it all started with something small and doable. I rarely make big changes to my habits or routines, but rather focus on small changes that are compounded over time.
2. Track your progress
My mantra for creating habits and personal growth, in general, is to focus on progress over perfection.
For a long time, I didn’t keep track of the progress I had made in any formal way. I think because I wasn’t necessarily perfect at achieving all of my goals, I felt too ashamed to track whether I was hitting them or not.
But what I’ve found is that with the right mindset, tracking my progress on a daily basis is integral in forming habits.
The way I track my progress is simply by writing down a list of habits I want to work on at the beginning of each month and then noting whether I did them at the end of each day.
I really don’t even have the goal of completing each and every single new habit I’m working on. My goal is really just to TRACK whether I did it.
It’s a lot easier for my mind to accept the idea that I am just tracking whether I completed some tasks vs. the heaviness of feeling like I have to actually do the task.
It is a slight mindset shift from focusing on the work that intends to do to just committing to evaluating whether the work is done at the end of the day or not.
On the surface, this seems like it would not work at all, but it works like a charm for me. My biggest stumbling block to forming new habits is simple remember to do it
Tracking whether in do the tasks I need to do to create new habits alone is a reminder to do them.
3. Evaluate, but don’t judge yourself
Tracking your progress, or lack thereof is an opportunity for you to judge and shame yourself for not following through in forming habits.
But let’s avoid that by sticking with that mantra of progress over perfection.
Think about it this way, you wouldn’t shame or judge your child for imperfection when acquiring new skills, would you? (If you would, that’s another discussion…)
You would, however, keep tabs on how they were progressing and be there to support them in any way possible.
That’s how you need to approach yourself in the process of this forming habits. You will have to basically be your own parent, be your own mom.
Being your own mom means disciplining yourself, but not shaming yourself.
Remember, this evaluation is basically a form of self-love and self-care. Just like it isn’t loving to shame yourself, it also isn’t loving to let yourself off the hook without taking a look at why you aren’t meeting your goal of forming habits.
So look at what you were able to do and what you weren’t, and evaluate WHY.
Did you miss going to the gym every day because you were running too late every morning? Or was it because you didn’t have a single pair of clean yoga pants left?
The evaluation process isn’t just about tallying up your total number of days you completed your new habits you’re working on, but it’s also about evaluating what worked and what didn’t.
4. Make adjustments
Once you evaluate what happened, then you can make adjustments.
If things didn’t go so well then you can brainstorm ways to better support yourself. Perhaps laying out your clothes the night before will help you be on time to get to the gym. Or maybe you want to start taking vitamins, so setting them on next to your coffee the night before would be a reminder.
Figure out how you can be a better ally to yourself, and make those changes for forming habits.
5. Try again
Don’t give up.
Sometimes when we screw up or don’t succeed on the first attempt, we are tempted to throw in the towel. But being consistent isn’t just about never failing.
It’s also about just being consistent about showing up.
One thing I literally wrote in my gratitude journal this evening was that I am so proud of myself and grateful to my past selves for not giving up. Even when I kept failing at establishing new habits and achieve my goals, I didn’t give up.
If there is one thing I have always done when something is important to me is keep going. Keep trying.
It’s almost unheard of for someone to be successful at their first attempt at anything.
So just keep going. You got this!
Forming habits and achieving your goals long term isn’t always easy, but it IS doable! What do you think? Any tips for forming habits or crushing your goals? Share them in the comments below!
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