Have you ever heard that it takes 21 days to form a new habit? While it’s true that you can begin changing habits fairly quickly, the truth is a bit more complicated. The good news is there are proven scientific methods to help you lock in the changes you want.
The book Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, is often misquoted about behavior becoming automatic in 21 days. While this is can be true in simple situations like eating more vegetables, learning complex tasks like the martial arts is going to take a lot more than a month to gel.
But no matter what you want to achieve, now is an ideal time to begin forming constructive habits that will move you in their direction.
The following are some basic habit forming strategies for learning new behaviors.
Basic Strategies to Form New Habits.
Try these tips for easing into your new routines as quickly as possible:
1. Make an easy to follow plan. An easy way to eliminate excuses is planning your course in advance. Want to start going to the gym after work? Bring your workout clothes with you and then take a route that brings you past the gym.
2. Follow your plan consistently. Making a new habit takes regular practice. While habits can be hard at the beginning, after a while it will be easier to go to the gym after work rather than heading out for beer and pizza with your co-workers.
3. Identify your triggers. Triggers are the things that spur you into doing something you would consider bad for you. To kick these habits requires that you notice what happens right before you grab that candy bar or buy another pair of shoes. Were you bored or having a bad day at work?
4. Find substitutes. Once you have identified your triggers, you can choose a different response. Instead of grabbing the candy bar take a walk or find a friend to talk with.
5. Understand your why. Why is this new behavior important to you? Remind yourself about how drinking water instead of soda will help you slim down, strengthen your bones, and save you money.
6. Personalize your why. As you think about your why, imagine what it will do for your future self. Focus on what you have to gain instead of making others happy.
Advanced Strategies Form New Habits.
What if your news habits involve something as ambitious as managing your eating habits to prevent the onset of diabetes or transforming your body from fat to fit?
These ideas will give you an extra boost:
1. Be gentle on you. Look you are a human being and you’re bound to slip up occasionally. Instead of getting down on yourself, be gentle, forgive yourself, and keep moving forward.
2. Get allies. Find a friend to exchange support and encouragement about your goals. Go to the gym with a colleague who is trying to make going to the gym a habit.
3. Put it on paper. Write your new habit in a notebook and then keep track of your progress. Note what happens on the days you stick to your program compared to the days when you drift back into your old patterns.
4. Get rid of the old triggers/ Remove the things that tend to derail you. Clear the sweat treats in your desk at work or the beer from your refrigerator.
5. Create obstacles. Make it hard to partake your old habits. Remove all the ashtrays from your home or put your credit cards in a cup of water and then put it in the freezer to prevent impulsive shopping sprees.
6. Take a break. Get out of town for a little while. Vacations are the perfect time to create new habits because new surroundings can spur new ways of thinking. Whether its to meditate each morning or spending time talking to your significant other, a new environment can make the new habit easier.
If you follow these tips you can make daily exercise, healthy eating or whatever you want to make your new habit so simple that you won’t even think about them. They’ll become your habit of choice.
So stop making excuses and start putting these new habit forming tips to work today!