Have you ever tried to create a new habit, but failed to make it stick? If you are like me (and everyone else on this planet), the answer is probably “yes”. Habits are hard to pick up because most of the time we do not apply the right strategies to adopt them. One of the reasons we fail is because we do not understand our own behavioral psychology. We don’t get how our brains really work, and therefore often give up when a habit takes too much effort.
People often see successful hyper-productive people as some kind of human mutants. Individuals that are born with this unfair talent of mental strength that they use to run their business or live a hardcore healthy lifestyle. However, they have simply fiercely focused their ‘ordinary’ mental energy on adopting the right habits in a smart way. Habits take time to adopt, but when you understand the mechanisms behind them, everyone can adopt any habit if they really want to and get their lives to the next level.
One of the first things I learned myself is too not pick up too many new habits at once. Many people get this rush of inspiration and want to work out 3 times a week, read 4 books a month and meditate 30 minutes a day, but you really do not want to overdo it. Pick one habit that is most important to you and start small. For example, start doing 10 push-ups every morning when you get out of bed. Everyone can do that (or maybe 5? ;)). You will see, that after a while (some 20 days) you are used to the routine and it will be easier to pick up another one – say do 10 sit-ups after your push-ups. It will be easier because these routines create neural pathways in your brain that become stronger every time you repeat the habit.
It is just like learning anything new. When you had your first driving lesson, for example, it took great mental effort to perform all the different tasks to keep you from crashing. Watching the traffic, pushing the right pedal, changing gear…CHAOS!. After a few lessons, it gets easier and you feel more comfortable. After years of experience, you can eat, talk to your friends and even exuberantly sing the radio hits while you are driving. The habit of driving has become easy, and automated. Everybody can drive a car, so why can’t everyone become a productive human mutant?
Of course, not everyone has the ambition to run an international business or become a professional sports athlete. However, everyone has the ambition to improve their lifestyle to some extent. Therefore, I have two more tips that you can use to pick up a new habit more easily
1. Create less friction
Design an environment around you that creates less friction to perform positive habits and create more friction to decrease negative habits. For example, ready your sports bag in the evening if you are planning to go to the gym in the morning. This will make it easier for you to leave sooner and will feel like you already made the commitment to actually go. Let’s say you want to spend less time on Facebook or Instagram. Create more friction by removing the apps from your home screen. This will make you less susceptible to clicking the app because you will have to actually look it up on your phone between all the other apps.
2. Use a habit tracker app
By keeping track of your new habit you are visualizing a streak. This will make you not want to break the chain of performing the habit day after day. When you cross off your habit for the day, it generates a small dopamine boost that acts as a reward. A small tap on the back that will motivate you to keep the streak going.
So, interested in picking up a new habit? Install the Loop – Habit Tracker App. I use this one myself!