A lot of things can go wrong when you are trying to form a new habit. It might be that you’re jumping in headlong without a plan, you don’t have adequate support or public accountability. But, the number one thing to go wrong that is will guarantee that your attempts will fail is:
NOT DOING THE HABIT
It might sound a bit obvious, but too many people fall short on this one thing. If you don’t do something regularly, it won’t become a habit. That’s the defining feature of what makes a habit a habit, a routine of behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur unconsciously.
Indeed, old habits are hard to break, and new habits are hard to form because the behavioral patters that we repeat with regularity are imprinted in our brain’s neural pathways, but it is possible to form new habits through repetition.
Maybe you have resolved to start getting up earlier, or remembering to floss every day, or you want to be more organized. You start off with spirited enthusiasm, carrying out this new behavior for several days or even a week or two, and then you stop. What happened? Life got in the way, of course, but if you’re not doing the habit, the habit will never form. Habits form when you do the new behavior one day, and then the next and then the next and then the next…
Easier said than done, right? When you’re bogged down with work, or family issues become pressing, or life gets the better of you, here are some ways that you can avoid the pitfalls:
First Steps: Not feeling like doing your new habit today? Tell yourself that all you have to do is take that first step, which is then often followed by a second step and then a third. Before you know it, there is a whole series of steps, comprising something that looks rather like a habit. What matters most is that you make a start and take that leap of faith. It gets easier with time!
Size doesn't matter: Just get on with it, no matter how small. You want to exercise, work out for 10 minutes and gradually increase the time. If you want be more mindful, three minutes of mindful meditation will do. You can do anything for three minutes!
Perfection not required: Say you want to form a habit of cooking your own meals, despite your lack of cooking skills. Quality doesn’t matter when you’re acquiring new habits. What matters the most is that you’re sticking to it. Quality will come with practice.
No guilt allowed: If you fall short one day, just pick up where you left off and do it the next day. Skipping one day won’t kill you or kill the habit. Feeling discouraged about skipping one day, and then the day after that, and the day after that, is what will knock the steam out of the habit. Let it go and don’t feel guilty. Just get back on that horse and start again!
Make adjustments: Figure out what might be stopping you carrying out the habit. If you find yourself struggling and missing a day or two, ask yourself why you’re continuing to fall short of your goals. Perhaps you’re setting your expectations to high. Try breaking your habit into its smaller, more manageable components. Tweak as necessary and move forward.
Always be prepared: More often than not, life gets in the way and throws you off your normal schedule. But if you anticipate something’s coming up, think ahead and be sure to get your habit in.
Accountability: Having someone available who can hold you accountable can actually make it harder to fail than to carry out the habit. An example is having a exercise buddy, or a life coach. There is safety in numbers!