Why is forming good habits seemingly impossible while we fall into bad habits as easily as falling off a log?
Well, it has to do with the way the brain prioritizes rewards over reason.
You see, we rarely experience the consequences of our bad habits while doing them. The rewards of indulging are often immediate.
I’m sure you agree that eating a three-scope ice cream sundae every day would harm your waistline, heart, and brain.
But the instant gratification you get when the creamy treat hits your taste buds overrides any thoughts of future health and weight concerts.
That’s why goal achievers are an elite group. Only 8% of people who set a goal achieve it. (4) Thinking up a goal is easy. Achieving it for most of us is simply unlikely.
Now, I don’t want to discourage you from setting goals.
I want to help you succeed, especially if making yourself as healthy and fit as possible is one of them.
Bestselling author James Clear of Atomic Habits says the first step to realizing your goals – is to change your habits.
Goals are the destination; habits are the road you take. If you’re lost or going in the wrong direction, you’re not going to arrive before you get frustrated and quit.
Consider this; if 50 pounds lighter is your goal, you can hire a personal trainer, walk 10,000 steps each day, or exercise until you drop, but none of that matters if you have a daily habit of eating a big bowl of ice cream while watching your favorite show.
Even the simplest goals are doomed if you allow your counterproductive habits to continue as they are. We are creatures of habit, and our habits either help us stay the course or allow our goals to unravel.
Below I write a bit more about habits – how they work and why good ones are essential. You’ll also find simple tips to build better habits. Even if you don’t currently have a specific goal, picking a few healthy habits will help you see returns on your life for years to come.
Reap the Benefits of Productive Habits
Habits are the small actions and routines we perform in daily life. They are automatic behaviors in reaction to certain stimuli and are hardened by frequent repetition.
Habits become reflexive over time, and specific cues often trigger certain behaviors.
• You may automatically make your bed as soon as you get up in the morning.
• You may brush your teeth as soon as you get out of the shower.
• You may write a “thank you” note as soon as you receive a gift.
• You may also smoke a cigarette after a stressful phone call, drop your clothes on the floor before getting into bed at night, or bite your nails when you’re nervous.
Good habits reap great rewards, so it’s not surprising that bad habits – even small ones – have a terrible effect on your life.
Good habits help us get things done efficiently, help us get organized, help us reinforce healthy relationships, and help us develop better physical health and gain clarity. According to James Clear of Atomic Habits, “habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.” Good habits also help us create better routines that allow us to achieve our goals.
Build Better Habits Tip #1 – Make it Easy to Do
Staying consistent is key to starting a healthy habit. Therefore, when you start, make it so easy you almost can’t say no. The trick with any new habit is to make it effortless and stop before it becomes too much effort.
• If your goal is to eat a plant-based diet, start with one vegetarian meal this week.
• Want to start journaling? Write only three sentences starting today.
• Want to exercise every day? Work out for only one minute a day to start and build up over time.
• Would you like to make new friends and expand your social circle? Start a conversation with one new person a week.
It takes on average 66 days to form new habits and can range between three weeks and nine months, depending on how you adapt. (1) Stick to the small, easy thing for at least a month. Then increase the intensity once it’s automatic for you and you are on a roll.
You’re not going to stay small forever but take your time picking up the pace. We often compare ourselves to what others are accomplishing, resulting in an urge to do more. Don’t allow those feelings to push you off course.
You don’t need to write your life story, completely eliminate meat, or run a marathon at the very beginning. Performance doesn’t matter as much as sticking with it for the long run.
Build Better Habits Tip #2 – Make it Visible and Invisible
Have you ever found yourself buying a roll of mints or a bottle of water as you stand in line for the cashier? Reaching for the visible is a natural reaction.
You can apply this concept and design your environment to help take control of your behavior and form better habits. Your environment often cues your actions. Keep a reminder in site for whatever practice you’re trying to adopt.
What worked for me was my scale. Every morning, the very first thing I do is weigh myself. Seeing my weight go down motivates me to stick to my new eating plan. If my weight ticks up, that is equally as encouraging.
Here are a few more examples:
• If you want to eat less sugar, keep a bowl of healthy nuts on your kitchen counter.
• If you want to read more, place a juicy novel on your bed each morning, so you see it before you turn in for the night.
• If you want to be more mobile, put your turmeric supplement (like Dynamic Turmeric™) on your work desk or next to something else you use so you see it every day.
Conversely, reducing temptations for your negative habits is equally as effective. The first inversion is to make your negative cues invisible, which naturally reduces your time feeling tempted.
Examples of making a habit invisible include:
• Leave your smartphone in another room when you’re trying to sleep; even better, delete time-wasting apps and games.
• Put high-fat, high-sugar snacks on the hard-to-reach shelves. Out of sight, out of mind.
• When eating at a restaurant, ask the waiter not to bring the bread basket and dessert menu. Or split your meal between you and your dinner mate.
• Your physical environment has an outsize influence on your behavior. Adjust your environment to promote good habits while reducing negative stimuli works. Make your habits obvious.
A Better Memory Is an Easy Goal to Achieve.
If improving your memory is a goal, put a bottle of Stonehenge Health’s Dynamic Brain™ on your nightstand or next to your toothbrush, so it’s visible and easy to take.
Connect taking your supplements with something else you do daily to build a consistent habit. If your supplements are hidden in a cabinet, you’re much less likely to remember to take them. Making them visible and easy to take helps ensure you don’t miss a day and can get the optimal benefits that daily use provides.
Dynamic Brain™ is a blend of the nutrition your brain needs in one easy-to-take daily dose with 40 researched and proven ingredients, including Bacopa Extract, Choline, and Huperzine A, plus essential vitamins and minerals.
Taking Dynamic Brain™ daily helps nourish and fuel your cognitive function, leading to a sharper memory, faster processing, more focus, and a boost of mental energy.
1. “How long does it take to form a habit?” UCL News – UCL – University College London | ucl.ac.uk/news/2009/aug/how-long-does-it-take-form-habit
2. “Breaking Bad Habits”, NIH News in Health | newsinhealth.nih.gov/2012/01/breaking-bad-habits
3. “Atomic Habits” by James Clear: Book Summary & Review |fourminutebooks.com/atomic-habits-summary/
4. “Science Says Only 8 Percent of People Actually Achieve Their Goals. Here Are 7 Things They Do Differently” by Marcel Schwantes | inc.com/marcel-schwantes/science-says-only-8-percent-of-people-actually-achieve-their-goals-here-are-7-things-they-do-differently.html