How To Build a Habit

Whether you realize it or not, your habits are essentially the backbone of your existence and directly reveal your current place in life. Your life, good or bad, is the accumulation of the habits you’ve built over the years. So the quickest way to improve your life is to build new habits or change current ones.

What is a habit? It’s the shit you do routinely (probably daily) that you don’t think twice about doing; you just do it. For some, going to the gym is a habit. For others, stretching, journaling, watching TV, or reading is.

We sometimes come across good ideas for new habits we want to implement, and immediately we’re 110% and spending 30 minutes a day on it. Then, before a month is over, we’re back to square zero. Why? Why do humans find it so hard to build a habit and keep it? It’s something like 21 days in a row of doing the same thing for a habit to form, but we’re out before 12.

Here’s the problem – we tend to aim for the moon. We choose a habit that requires a lot of time and energy. Then when we have trouble executing it, it’s tossed in the trash like a greasy pizza box. I’ve always wondered about why this happens, and then it hit me.

We treat new habits like a diet.

How many times have you started a diet, slipped up multiple times, gotten frustrated and called it quits? After feeling disgusted with your no-fucks-given meal plan, you switch over to the Whole30 bandwagon. Then on day 31, you eat an entire pizza. Totally not the point. Starting a hardcore diet is the opposite of quitting cold turkey; instead of dropping something like smoking, you just instill some crazy hardcore patterns.

So please, don’t treat a habit like a diet. Because first of all, diet is the wrong word; you want a lifestyle change, not a quick fix. Building a habit is no different. If you want to start meditating, don’t sit there for 1 hour 43 minutes on your first attempt.

How To Implement or Build a New Habit

Ease Into It

Trying to go super strict on a habit will more than likely lead to failure. Instead, aim to implement it in phases. The sugar example is good – if you find yourself eating dessert after every meal, try holding off from eating sweets after one meal for the first week. Then maybe add the ban on sweets every other day from another meal. And so on.

Man stretching on ground.
Yea, go stretch on the cement in searing hot weather like this guy.

Start Smaller

Let’s say you want to add daily stretching to your routine because you’re about as stiff as a U.S. Congressman from the Northeast. More than likely, you’ve never stretched before. What gave you the idea that suddenly stretching for 30 minutes a day with 54 unique moves would lead to ultimate success? Try 5 minutes, and then gradually build the habit upon that. Meditation is another great example. You keep hearing 20 minutes a day minimum, and all you can think about is that you’re supposed to sit there in silence for the duration of a basic cable sitcom. Try 10 deep breaths, then 5 minutes, then ramp that shit up. This way, the small wins and effort set you up for ultimate success and results.

Focus on the Effort

If you focus on the effort instead of the results, the results will eventually follow. Trying to envision the outcome when you’re starting a daily habit is too overwhelming. Give yourself credit for completing a day at a time.

Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself 

We all fuck up and get off track. Take note, acknowledge it, and get back to it. Don’t let a slipup ruin the gravy train.

For the Lucky Few

Before I get yelled at, yes it is possible to immediately implement a fairly rigorous habit in full and keep it up. But this takes discipline – the kind the average Joe doesn’t have. Make it easier on yourself by working your way up, and you’ll find that you won’t crash your way down.

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