I’ve always known and understood the importance of habits when it comes to creating success in your life. Regardless of what success you’re looking for, whether it be health, wealth, work, business, or relationships, it all comes down to the things that you consistently do on a regular basis. In fact, I was reading something by Dr. Wendy Wood, who is a researcher of behavior research at USC. She estimates that almost half of the things that we do on a regular basis are habit based. We’re not even consciously making decisions. We are subconsciously acting.
I want to tell you the one thing that I know is guaranteed not to work when it comes to creating your habits – it is relying on motivation and willpower. Those two things are not going to help you build habits that are sustainable.
The thing is, so many of us are trying to get to a result. We’re not thinking about our habits in the context of them becoming a lifestyle, part of who we are. We usually just think about them very short term. In terms of a fitness goal, it’s like “I just want to get into this size of jeans. I just want to get to this weight.” Or when it comes to money, “I just want to make my million dollars” or, when it comes to a job, “I just want to get this job. I just want to build the business.” We need to be thinking about creating habits that are sustainable, that will become a part of us.
So what does work when it comes to habits? Here are the key points I came up with to creating these sustainable habits:
Want the Habit
So many of us are creating habits out of should, and must have to. When you’re creating a habit from that mindset, it’s never going to stick because it’s not coming from a place of you actually wanting to create this as part of your life.
Sometimes we’re creating habits because while we hear everybody else saying that they, for example, meditate or that they have a morning routine. We think with the fear of missing out, I guess I should do that too. If it’s not a habit, if it’s not a behavior that you have really bought into, it’s going to be hard for you to sustain.
Habits must come from a place of this is something that you really want, or this is something that moves you towards something that you really want.
All too often, we create habits that are too big, or we create too many changes all at once. So I know that with the new year, everybody’s excited, and they’re setting all these resolutions about ‘I’m going to be different,’ and ‘I’m going to work out’ and ‘I’m going to do this and that.’ What we forget is all of the things that stopped us from doing that in the first place come with us into the new year. It’s not like you magically wake up on January 1, and suddenly you’re a new and different person. All of those behaviors, all of those ways of being carry with you. So if you want to make lasting change, it’s about making small changes incrementally. It’s about creating what in psychology they call ‘success motivation.’
When you have a little success, it leads you to want to do more. And when you have success with that, it leads you to want to do more. Your habit will naturally grow over time in starting small.
So start small. Don’t be overly ambitious. There’s a saying that says “Little by little, a little becomes a lot.”
Make it easier
Number three when it comes to creating habits that are sustainable, is always thinking about how can I make this easier for myself to do? Do I need more time to do this? Do I need to learn new skills? Do I need to buy some new shoes or buy some new equipment? How can I make this easier.
I’m always thinking about the ways that I could make this so that it’s not hard for myself. For example, if you’re trying to eat healthier, ask “How can I make it easier for myself to eat healthy?” One of the things that I’ve started doing on a regular basis is meal prepping. What I noticed, especially now that we’re all working from home, is that I was constantly snacking. It turns out that the things that were easy to reach for were the things that typically were not that great for me. And so once a week, at the beginning of the week, I do some meal prep – I cut up veggies and all kinds of fruits. Then every day, at the beginning of every day, I put out a tray on the counter which is easy to reach and easy to see. Throughout the day, I snack on veggies and fruits. I found that with having that tray, because it’s so easy to reach for, I’m not so tempted to reach for some of the other things that I’ve actually made harder for myself to reach – putting them high on the shelf where I have to get a ladder to get them. I’ve made it harder for myself to do the things I don’t want to do, but easier to do the things that I want to do.
So I just want to remind you that when it comes to habits, when it comes to creating lasting change in whatever area of your life, the number one thing to remember is that willpower, and motivation is not going to get you there. If you want to create sustainable change, you have to make it easy for yourself to do, you have to make it small, and you have to really want to do it in the first place.
Sandra has a podcast episode on this topic in the WORTHY Podcast:
You can also watch it on YouTube: