So often, we find ourselves operating on auto-pilot. This can be ok if we already have several great habits that we have previously built into our daily lives, but most of us are lacking in this area. Here’s my “works from home” mom confession: Showering is not a daily habit of mine! I have VERY few daily habits! I am constantly on the lookout and interested in doing more though. And I am a Virgo, so something small is never appealing. My own worst enemy sometimes! But I am sharing my failures here in hopes that others will benefit from my mistakes! I have tried and failed many, many, many times at building habits.
If you are a habit newbie or someone who historically has had a hard time staying disciplined or focused in the past, my recommendation is to commit to and focus on a single new habit. If you feel like you do pretty well in building habits when you have the type of support that I will provide, go ahead and reach for a second or third habit as well. Bottom line- do NOT overdo it here.
The general consensus from habit-based research is that the greatest success in habit-building comes from focusing on a small number of habits at the same time- maximum of 3. And these are TINY habits too! Dr. Fogg from Stanford University defines these as a single push-up daily or flossing at least one tooth, or saying “It’s going to be a great day!” each day.
Jack Canfield recommends that we work on ONE new habit per quarter and to pick something that can be done daily. This slow and steady approach guarantees that you have added 4 strong habits or 4 new areas of growth every year. Over a lifetime, that adds up to quite a bit!
In my personal and professional experience, here are some of the top reasons why people fail to build a new habit into their routine:
If you don’t have a reason to pull from, something to remind you of why you are doing this in the first place and what meaning it holds, then it is easily forgotten or dismissed in times of stress or overwhelm. Ask yourself WHY you want to build this habit- give it some meaning and you are much more likely to keep with it!
- Trying to do too many things at once.
Going from doing nothing habitually to a list of 15 new habits. For Type-A overachievers and “doers,” this is painful to hear. Almost like, “what’s the point?!?!” Multi-taskers at heart want to go for the gold and maximize what they get out of the 30 days. Problem is, I want those of you who have this mentality to take a long look at how much success you have had with this approach? Most if not ALL of us (me included here!) have failed over and over when taking this approach! Baby steps is key.
- The habit is too big.
It’s just not realistic to go from a lifestyle of zero accountability and zero activity to suddenly racking up 10,000 steps a day JUST BECAUSE you recently bought a fitbit. We must be realistic and also build in flexibility. While it is ESSENTIAL that you give attention to your habit daily, the amount of attention can be variable. This is unique to my program and I think is one of the key ways I set myself apart from other habit-building enthusiasts. In my program, we give each habit a few variations- 2 or 3, your choice. We have – at a minimum – a “normal” day as well as a “high stress” day version of building your habit. Alternatively, we have a 3 level system- 1) bare minimum day, 2) average day 3) super power day. We factor in that some days are just more hectic than others and we accommodate for those days by doing slightly less effort while still doing SOMETHING. That is key! If you want to be able to do 10,000 steps a day eventually, we are going to start slightly above where you are currently at and build from there.
- There is no accountability.
Having no one to check in with and no support system is habit suicide. There is tons of research for the added success benefits, both professionally and personally, that accountability adds. Accountability makes us more likely to do something because it is no longer just about us. When others become involved, we are much more likely to stick with building our habit.
- There isn’t enough incentive or motivation.
One of the reasons that this is a paid program (aside from me deserving to be paid for life-changing services- haha!) is that it gives you motivation and incentive to stick with it! When we put our money where our mouth is, we are more likely to put more focus, time and effort into our commitment. This is also why my community-based program includes prizes!
- Getting caught up on a desired end result instead of the habit or routine needed to accomplish it.
We so often focus on a desired result but don’t take the time to determine what habits will get us there. With this lack of direction, we never achieve that desired end result.
- Not supporting our new habit with environmental change.
When we want to upgrade our lifestyle, our environment is critical to our success or failure. If you want to eliminate pop, but keep a 12-pack in your fridge at all times, you are really giving yourself an uphill battle!
- Use an accountability partner (bonus points if it is a community of people like my private Habit Building group on Facebook!)
- Work backwards from your big goals- break them up into small, manageable goals and determine what habits are needed to achieve them.
- Note WHY you care, why are these goals and habits meaningful.
- Surround yourself with an environment that sets you up for success. This can be cleaning out the pantry, spending 10 minutes putting post-it notes around the house, setting alarms on your phone, scheduling habits into your calendar, telling friends and family about your efforts, etc.
- Make it easier on yourself by giving yourself fewer choices. Don’t say “I will read 5 pages a night from some book” – instead give yourself 2 or 3 books to choose from and end the flexibility there.
- Engage in “habit blending” – a term I coined for piggybacking on an “autopilot” type habit that already exists in your day. For example, instead of doing nothing while you are stopped at a red light, you can plan to repurpose this time for intentional gratitude. In the shower, you can plan to visualize your successes. If you already walk every day, you can listen to audio-books while walking, etc. Sometimes our habits aren’t suitable for this but when they are, leverage this method!
- Identify past failures and make plans for avoiding these this time around. For example, why don’t I wake up early to work out? Because I am very tired. Why am I too tired? Because I don’t go to bed on time. So what can I do to eliminate “too tired” as an excuse? Go to bed earlier. How can I support my effort to go to bed earlier? I could set two timers on my phone- one as a 30 minute warning, another as a “put pjs on” another maybe as “phone off for the night,” etc, you get the idea.
MOST importantly, this is a marathon not a sprint, you want to stretch into embodying a new, upgraded identity; you are not trying to break yourself in half. If it is painful, you are trying to make too big of a change at once. Trust me on this.
You are meant to ENJOY the journey!!! Abraham reminds us, “unhappy journeys do not have happy endings.” When we try for too much, too quickly, we are setting ourselves up for failure. When we try to do it alone, we set ourselves up for failure. So gear up, get support and start small! You can do this! And if you want to do it with me as your rock star cheerleader, I have both private and group opportunities for you, so don’t hesitate to reach out!
Jamie Goins is a transformational life & business coach extraordinaire, training expert & founder of Intentional Perspective. ::Switching to 1st person:: If Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels ever had a love child, you’d probably get someone like me- not me, but close. 😉 It is my absolute passion to provide support, guidance, accountability, and encouragement to small business owners, mom-preneurs and others on their journey to gain clarity, discover new opportunities and achieve their highest aspirations. I love life, love having fun, and love helping others be outrageously successful. Come join me on my playground!