My childhood canine teeth and I had different life plans. They rebelled and went ectopic, erupting high up in the gum like vampire teeth. My dentist talked about braces but we settled on pushing the teeth back into place, and for many months I did. Whether in the car travelling to school or watching TV, I had my thumbs in my mouth exerting my will. It felt like trying to shift continents over millennia, but it worked and my appreciation for the profound power of small daily habits was born.
Habits are automatic and subconscious behaviours. According to research from Duke University they make up 40% of what we do. Bad habits keep you stuck in damaging cycles and prevent you from achieving your goals. They take your time and energy.
Replacing bad habits with good ones is the most powerful way to sustainably improve your health and happiness.
This post will show you the step by step way to stop bad habits and create good habits so you can make abundant health your new normal. Good health depends on good habits. Let’s look and what a habit is, how to break bad habits and how to form good habits.
What are Habits?
Habits are small choices and behaviours you make everyday. When you take each habit by itself their impact seems insignificant. But the impact of one habit over time is huge. The impact of several habits, compounding each other over time is life changing.
Your human brain finds that impact hard to observe, but it’s real. Your habits control your weight, energy and blood sugar. They determine your productivity, beliefs, happiness and relationships.
Changing your habits will change your life. For better or worse.
How Habits Function
Even when we know how important habits are it’s difficult to change them. Over 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail.
Having goals in life is good. It gives us direction and purpose and creates dopamine in the brain. However most people make the mistake of setting targets that are too hard to achieve and sabotage themselves. The chance of forming a habit increases as it becomes easier to perform. Often our motivation surges like a wave and we set huge goals that are too much. Perhaps our mind tricks us into doing this, knowing that it will fail and energy will be saved?
When we make our goals small and achievable, we build one good habit upon each other. As these succeed they form large successes over time.
We often overestimate what we can achieve in a day and underestimate what we can achieve in several weeks with small amounts of consistent effort.
When tiny, positive behaviours start to become habit they don’t need our conscious effort and motivation. We can hand them off to our subconscious behaviours and effortlessly practice healthier habits.
Why Habits Fail
The main reasons you fail to form good habits are:
You’re focussing too much on the outcome and not enough on the process. Try to think less about the result and trust that it will come with time by concentrating on each day.
You’ve set a goal that’s too hard to achieve. Start by setting smaller achievable targets and build slowly over time as habits form.
Starting too many habits at once. This requires too much motivation and increases the chance of failure. You only get a finite amount of motivation each day so use it sparingly to achieve your most important goals. You energy and motivation renews each day with sleep.
You forget how small habits snowball into large changes. Overtime small habits compound into huge changes. Constantly reminding yourself of this is important to prevent yourself from forming targets that are too difficult and prone to failure. Remember the law of compound returns on your investments.
You’re forgetting that we are a product of our environments. We often think we’re all powerful and not affected by the things around us. But we are a direct product of the people we spend time with, the food in our pantry, the media we consume and more. When we struggle to form good habits that go against our environments we quickly run out of motivation and fail. Set up your environments to support your habits. Clean out the bad food in your pantry, delete that app your can’t stop using and put your running shoes in the doorway.
The Anatomy of Habit
Every habit you have consists of a three step process, often called the habit loop. Understanding it empowers you to change it.
First you need to remember to do the habit, and the behaviour is started.
This is the actual behaviour.
The reason and result each time you complete the action.
Here’s a simple example of this in action:
You finish showering in the morning and dry yourself off next to your sink (reminder).
You brush your teeth (routine).
Your mouth feels clean and fresh (reward) from the toothpaste. (developed by toothpaste companies to help people form a brushing habit and sell toothpaste. Read more about this in The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.)
Let’s use the example of meditation in the morning to see what the habit loop looks like in practice.
You alarm goes off in the morning (reminder).
You sit down on your cushion or chair and meditate for ten minutes (routine)
You feel more focussed and calm (reward). Or in the early stages before noticing obvious changes in how you feel, reward yourself with a cup of coffee or tea, or even some dark morning chocolate, only after meditation.
A positive reward helps us to come back to the routine again. Without this we’re solely relying on motivation and we know motivation is finite and unreliable. Also, it’s just not much fun to constantly build habits with no reward.
When you repeat this habit loop enough, new pathways of behaviour are formed in your brain and it becomes more automatic. It becomes habit.
Being clear of your reward after doing your new habit is perhaps the most important part of your process. Here are some examples to get you started:
Take breaks use the pomodoro method for sitting down to work, which involves short cycles of deep work followed by a few minutes rest. For example, 25 minutes work then 5 minutes rest. This focuses the mind and provides a reward to look forward to. You can also combine it with a tool like focus to keep time and block internet distractions. I use it every day for deep work in the morning.
Buy yourself something nice after achieving a longer term goal. It should be what you really want, and you can enjoy it guilt free.
Use your favourite TV show as a reward. Watch it without feeling guilty straight after completing your daily habit.
So How Long Does It Take To Form a New Habit?
Different researchers have concluded that it takes between 21 and 254 days to form a new habit. It depends on the habit, their environment, and the individual. 21 days sounds great but this will be the case for only very few people who start an easy habit with a lot of motivation and a supportive environment.
A plastic surgeon in the 1950’s, called Maxwell Maltz saw that his patients took about 21 days to get used to the changes from surgery. This idea spread and the myth of 21 day habits was formed.
According to more reliable research it takes more than two months to form a habit. The study, published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, concluded the exact time needed was 66 days. But this was only the average. It took people from 18 to 254 days because the time needed to form a habit depends on the individual, their environment and the habit.
The study also found that habit formation wasn’t affected if people occasionally missed doing the behaviour.
So it’s important to be realistic about the time needed to form a new habit, which reflects how difficult it can be in general. And if you mess up from time to time and skip the habit, that’s ok, don’t give up. Missing two consecutive days though is different, as we’ll see later.
How to Stop a Bad Habit and Replace it With a New Good One
Our health and happiness are shaped by lots of little decisions we make everyday – our habits. Bad habits sabotage our lives and keep us from our goals. They waste our energy and time.
But if they’re so bad why do they exist? Why do they persist when they weaken you the species?
More importantly how do we stop bad habits?
First we need to know what causes bad habits.
What Causes Bad Habits?
Bad habits are often caused by boredom and stress, in particular how we respond to these. Often called coping mechanisms, things like sugary foods, alcohol and checking facebook are all common responses to stress or boredom or both.
But while these behaviours are physically laid down pathways in our brains, the good news is we can change them. We can learn new ways to respond to challenging situations and substitute these for our bad habits.
This is simplifying the matter, and often deeper issues lie behind our stresses and challenges. Getting to the root of these takes honesty, vulnerability and time.
Recognising the beliefs and reasons behind your bad habits is central to breaking them.
You Can’t Just Stop Bad Habits
There are reasons you have your current behaviours. They serve a purpose, even if they are counterproductive to your health and happiness in the long term. They produce some benefit that makes you repeat them again and again. Often it’s a physiological effect that helps you deal with stress, like from smoking or alcohol.
For this reason you can’t just stop bad habits and leave a void with no benefit at all. You need to replace your bad habit with a good habit.
For example, if you’re bored and tired you might be tempted to eat a cookie. Instead of just stopping the habit of eating a cookie, replace this behaviour with drinking a glass of water. This gives you an action to replace your old bad habit. You’ll also feel satisfied from the fullness in your stomach and increase your energy from improving hydration.
When replacing your old bad habit with a new one, it doesn’t even need to be a massively better habit, as long as you’re improving the old one. For example, instead of snacking on chocolate, replacing it with a 5% darker chocolate decreases your sugar intake, increases nutrients including polyphenols and replaces your worst habit. Over time you can transition to darker and darker chocolate.
Stopping bad habits without replacing them with better ones leaves a void and no benefit, without which it will be too difficult to continue to avoid the habit.
Replacing bad habits is one strategy. Here are some more ways to help stop your bad habits.
Remove Bad Habit Triggers
As we’ve seen in the habit loop, your bad habits start with a trigger. If you check your facebook in bed, keep your phone out of your bedroom. This comes back to setting up your environment to avoid triggering situations that continually test your motivation. Create an environment that sets you up to succeed.
Plan Ahead With Your Habit Substitute
At the time when stress and boredom challenges you, it needs to be as easy as possible to complete your new substitute behaviour. So it’s important to plan ahead and know what new behaviour you will do when you are challenged by stress or boredom. If you leave it to the time you are under stress it’s likely you’ll continue with your old ways.
Planning your response reduces the amount of motivation needed and improves your chance of continuing your substitute habit.
We are social animals. We compare ourselves to others and hate to lose face in front of people. You can use this natural motivation to help you (and someone else) form health new habits. You may be doing this for yourself but you can use social instincts to your advantage.
Try joining forces with someone else to stop your bad habit. You don’t even have to have the same bad habit. The important thing is having someone you are accountable to and who you can celebrate successes with.
Surround Yourself With the Right People
It’s commonly said that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Being around people with better habits improves your chances of doing them to. This doesn’t mean that you should stop seeing old friends, but making an effort to be with people you aspire to will make their behaviours rub off on you.
Give Yourself Something to Lose
Negative emotions are sometimes more powerful motivators than positive ones. Our brains are hardwired to prioritise fear and loss to prevent us from harm and ensure the success of the species.
One way to use this is to set aside something you have, maybe money or a valued possession, that you’ll have to give up if you fail to achieve your habit goal. This could be giving away a favourite gadget. Another option is to use a service like stickk.com where you can sign a committment contract to put some skin in the game and achieve your goal.
Think You Can
Knowing that our thoughts shape our lives is not new. Buddha said “The mind is everything. What you think you become.”
Create a positive outlook and visualise yourself doing your positive new habits. See yourself stopping your bad habit, doing your new good habit and enjoying the success.
Aside from making you more likely to perform the habit, the thoughts alone may have some benefit. Studies have shown that just visualising yourself exercising has a portion of the physiological effect of actual exercise. But this doesn’t mean you should only think about good habits!
Remember that You Haven’t Always Had The Bad Habit
Even if it was years ago, remember that once you lived without the bad habit you’re trying to leave behind. The memory and ability is still there and you don’t need to completely reinvent yourself. You just need to go back to your old self.
Expect Yourself to Fail and Plan For It
If we didn’t fail we wouldn’t be human. Come to think of it even robots fail. The main thing is forgetting your failure and instead of using it an excuse to give up completely, getting back on track quickly. This is the difference between establishing a habit or failure.
Develop Positive Self-Talk
Give yourself a break. Don’t beat yourself every time you make a mistake or miss one day. But don’t miss two days.
Learn some positive statements that you can use to turn negative self-talk around. You already know that your thoughts create your life.
“But” is a useful way to do this. When you have a negative thought, follow that quickly with “but”, and a positive counter.
For example. You might think: “I haven’t got the willpower to stop eating sugar, but, everyday will get easier as my body gets used to it so I’ll get there in time.”
Start Here to Stop Bad Habits
Even before you try to change your bad habit, it’s important to build up an awareness about your bad habit.
We know that our environment is important it stopping and starting habits. Being aware of how your bad habits work helps figure out the best ways to stop it.
To give yourself the best chance of stopping your bad habit, spend a day being aware of your habit, asking yourself these questions:
How often do you do your bad habit each day?
Which people are you with when you do the habit?
Where are you when it happens?
What things trigger the habit?
What time of day does it happen?
Are there any thoughts and feelings that seems linked to the bad habit?
Write things down on a piece of paper through the day. You can also use tracking apps.
While you’re doing this avoid judging yourself. Just observe and get an understanding of your behaviour with the knowledge that soon you’re about to turn things around.
Changing Bad Habits to Good Habits
To give yourself the best chance to stop a bad habit and form a good one you need to make it as important to you as possible.
You can make changes for your appearance or your friends, but that’s not going to matter as much to you as if you do it for yourself and who you really want to be. You need to associate your new habit with your new identity and form new beliefs about yourself.
But how do I change how I see myself?
Changing your self image and beliefs is easier than you think. You just need to:
Form a mental picture of who you want to be.
Give yourself evidence of being your new self by achieving small goals.
How to Change Your Habits
Wait for a Wave of Motivation to Start Changing Habits
You’ve probably noticed how your motivation increases and decreases over time. This can be from events going on around you, like people getting motivated with new year’s resolutions, and it can also change independently of our environment. It’s hard to get motivated to start an exercise routine when you have a cold.
Waiting for this increased wave of motivation to arrive to change your habits can give you the best chance of succeeding.
The next time you feel motivated to create a good habit and stop a bad habit, write done the things you need to achieve your goal. Then make a plan of how it will work. Just a couple of sentences if fine for most habits. Keep the notes handy and get started as soon as possible to create the best environment for your new habit to succeed.
Start with a very small good habit
Motivation goes up and down. Try to remove motivation as a factor.
Most people make the mistake of relying on abundant motivation to form a large habit and significant change in their lifestyle. This makes some sense; it’s exciting to imagine big positive changes in your life. The problem is that motivation and willpower is finite and a liability. You want to remove it as much as possible.
Research has shown that the easier a habit is to perform, the less motivation is required. You want to make your starting habit so easy that you need no motivation. When you do this success the most likely outcome.
Make your first habit the smallest change possible. If you want to start running, run for 100m each day. Start with one daily pushup. Meditate for one minute in the morning. If you want to write, start with one word a day.
Remember that you’re also learning to form habits in these early stages. With time you’ll get better at changing any behaviour.
When you succeed forming one small habit you get positive energy from the change and forming habits even becomes fun.
Now you can slowly increase your habit. This is your next step.
Increase Your Habit in Small Steps
With your small first habit in place, now increase it very slowly over time. A good mindset is to think about being 1% better each day.
Overtime this returns deceptively large results.
As humans we tend to overestimate the amount we can achieve in a day and underestimate the amount we can achieve in 6 months.
It doesn’t need to be 1% increases, any very small amount is good.
For example, now you’re running 100m each day, after a week increase to 200m. In a year you’re running 5km a day.
Start with one daily pushup and increase by one every week. Next year you’ll be doing over 50 pushups each day.
Meditate for one minute in the morning and increase by one minute each week up to 20 minutes a day.
If you want to write, start with 1 word on the first day. Increase by one word each day and in one year you’ll be writing one and a half pages each day.
This is clearly not 1% per day but it’s a similar idea.
If you start writing just one word on the first day, two words on the second day and write one more word per day for a year in total, you’ll write a total of 66 795 words.
That’s a 267 page book.
Despite only writing 60 words a day at two months, when your habit will be firmly established.
The rewards you gain from small improvements are exciting whatever habit you begin.
Remember that while small increases produce powerful results, small decreases have the same effect.
The great thing is everything compounds over time. You ability to learn habits improves. Your writing technique improves. If you’re running you get fitter. If you’re stopping sugar, you feel better and real food starts to taste great. Multiple aspects make the habit easier and improve your results as you put in a little time and energy each day.
The activity becomes easier with routine and it becomes almost automatic, so it feels like you’re hardly trying. The activity becomes enjoyable so you enjoy the process instead of focussing on the results. This is where the big wins come from.
Know You Will Mess up and Plan For it
To paraphrase the British expedition leader Sir Ranulph Fiennes, plan to make things as easy as possible. Once you’re on expedition, unexpected challenges will arise in addition to anything for which you have planned. Don’t make it any harder at the start.
Think ahead to challenges that will arise. Work deadlines and family commitments commonly test our habits. You and your family will get sick. When I get a cold it typically sabotages my habits for a few days. I stop exercising. My sleep suffers. I’m more tired so I crave unhealthy foods. I want to sleep in more in the morning so I might miss meditation.
To counter this I enter damage control. I do my best to continue the habit at all cost, I just reduce effort needed. I meditate for less time. I eat some more carbs but make sure it’s real food, like fresh fruit.
Try to think ahead to some of the challenges that may arise and how you can continue your habit despite these.
How to Plan Ahead to Sustain Good Habits
Planning ahead needs to be clear in your mind. It’s not enough to have a vague idea that you will somehow make changes when challenges arise. This requires too much effort at the exact time when you’re weakest.
Instead make a clear plan what you will do when things get tough.
For example, when you get sick, go for a walk instead of running.
When work gets busy, do a short workout at home instead of spending longer at the gym with all the associated travelling.
Remember that the changes you’re making are good habits and they will benefit you and those close to you, so make them a priority. Is your work deadline really worth missing a workout for? Can you spend a bit less time on work by focussing on the essentials?
It’s often hard to plan ahead for every event, but when they happen, take a moment to consider if the challenge that arises is really worth sacrificing your new habit for.
If it is, only then should you make a plan to adapt you habit around it to make sure you sustain your routine.
Remind yourself you’re in this for the long run. Celebrate the small wins and know they will add up over time. Don’t be in a rush to improve. Remember that sticking to your daily habit is the most important thing. Aiming too high increases the need for motivation and with it the risk of failure.
Missing one day is allowed, Missing two is not.
Research shows that missing the odd day while forming your new habit will not have a significant impact on success. But missing two days in a row puts you on the track to failing to form your new habit.
It’s important when you miss a day to get back on track quickly.
Do this by realising it’s ok to mess up. Some people treat missing a day as huge failure and use it as an excuse to give up on the whole process. Give yourself a break. Know you will slip up and make sure you don’t miss the next day.
Never break the chain. One of the best strategies is logging successfully days on a calendar. Marking each completed day with a big X is a great visual reminder of your new self image and inspires positivity. It also taps into the fact that people want to avoid loss. Just wanting to continue the chain of success can become a separate inspiration to continue you new good habit.
So whether you use a wall calendar or app, start logging your success and never break the chain. At least never miss two consecutive days.
Here are some ways to get stick to habits and get back on track.
How to Restart Your Good Habit
Remind Yourself Why You Want to Change Habits
At times you’ll lose focus on why you wanted to stop a bad habit and create a good one. You need to remember how changing habits will benefit you and those close to you.
You may realise that you’re actually changing habits for the wrong reasons and need to adapt to be more aligned with your values. It can take some time to find the right direction. But avoid using this as an excuse to stop. Only change your direction if there is an ongoing, compelling reason. Remember the habit doesn’t need to be perfect. You’ll will improve on it over time.
Allocate Time for Changing Habits
The new changes you’re making are about your health and happiness. They deserve the same attention as your work and other priorities. So make sure you plan protected time for them. Map your habits out on your calendar and let others know that this is important to you. Record each day you stick to your habit. Not breaking the chain of success is a big motivation to continue.
Use Simple Tools
Technology can be useful sometimes but more often it’s a distraction and a procrastination. Instead of simply writing a few words you’re looking for the new writing tool that might make things easier, when google docs will do fine.
There are so many to-do list and calendar apps but all you really need is a simple calendar in your notebook, phone or hanging on your wall.
Searching for shiny new tools is a beginner’s trap and procrastination.
When you’ve broken your goals into small habits, write down your goals in your simple calendar. If it’s on your phone set a reminder every week to review your progress.
A physical calendar hanging on the wall or notification is a great way to remind you of your new good habit.
Stick to Your Plan
It’s vital to not miss two consecutive days of your new habit. Instead of skipping just make your habit easier for that day. Write just 50 words instead of 250 words. Meditate for two minutes instead of ten. Return to your full habit the next day.
Get Social and Be Accountable
Letting yourself down is often easier than letting someone else down. As social creatures we avoid disappointing others and we can use this to maintain our habit and get back to restart our good habit if we’ve slipped.
Publicly committing to your new habit adds accountability. Do this with people you care about and don’t want to let down.
Forget the Things Outside Your Control
Many things will challenge you when changing your habits. Some of these things will be outside your control and you should ignore them. Keep your finite willpower for the things that you can change and work only on those.
Remember How Far You’ve Come
Sometimes we can forget the progress we’ve made. Be clear about the changes you’ve made so far and congratulate yourself. This will put you in a positive mindset and encourage you to continue your good habit.
It’s Good Enough to be Good Enough
Don’t feel like you need to have lofty exciting goals. Remind yourself how your small habits will compound and grow over time as long as you make small incremental improvements and avoid missing twice and going backwards.
Set Yourself Up to Succeed
Even if you’ve tried to optimise your environment to encourage and trigger changing habits, you can refine this as you go.
You’ll notice things that lead to missing your good habit or doing bad habits. Recognise this and remove this from your environment if possible. These things may be the people around you or physical items. Like you replace bad habits with good habits, replace the negative triggers with supportive, positive ones.
Some good habits set up a cascade of positive changes. They make other good habits easier.
Charles Duhigg discusses this in his book, The Power Of Habit.
Keystone is an architectural term describing the top block in an arch, which supports the weight of all surrounding blocks. It is vital to the overall structure.
A keystone habit is similar. Other behaviour depend on it. When you change it, other positive changes happen, and other good habits are easier.
But unlike an arch keystone, which is placed last in the building process, you can and should change these keystone habits first.
Forming good keystone habits has disproportionately positive effects on the rest of your life.
Examples of keystone habits, which also happen to be the main four pillars of health include;
When you sleep well everything is easier. I believe it’s the first place to start. Good sleep allows energy for all other functions. On the flipside, sleep deprivation increases hunger hormones, making healthy eating hard. You crave sweet and high carb foods. When your energy is low, exercising is harder. Poor sleep makes it harder to manage stress, decreases productivity and compromises your immune system among many other effects.
Having a healthy movement habit improves sleep, mood and helps you eat more healthily.
When you eat a real food, low inflammatory, nutrient-dense diet you provide your body with the nutritional information and building blocks to improve everything you do. This also replaces the negative effects of a bad diet that make healthy habits harder.
Mindfulness is like a superpower you can apply to everything in your life. It’s a skill that is central to self realisation and building good healthy habits.
When changing habits, consider starting with one of the above keystone habits. They may not be exciting to you but having even one of these in place is the most powerful way to knock over the rest of the dominoes. Whatever you do after will become easier.
How to Sustain Good Habits
Now you’re up and going with your new small habit, how can you give yourself the best chances of sustaining it?
Track your good habit behaviour
What gets measured gets managed is a well known business philosophy that applies as much to health. You need to be aware of your health to notice problems, change and sustain that change.
You can keep a log of your progress on paper or by using an app. If this is too much hire a coach or trainer to help.
Having a constant reminder of your behaviour is a constant reminder and reward for your progress.
Use Visual Cues for Habit Change Motivation
Habits are sustained when our environment prompts us to perform them. Visual cues in your environment are a great example of this and one way is the paperclip strategy.
Visual clues provide the reminder or trigger to start your habit, removing the risk of rushing through your day and forgetting about your habit.
They’re also simple and constant measure of how you’re progressing and are a huge incentive to continue with a habit. It’s a great way of representing your achievements and makes you want to avoid breaking the successful chain of progress.
What is The Paperclip Strategy?
It’s a simple visual cue to stick to your habit.
All you need to do is buy a box of paperclips and two paperclips containers. You can substitute papers clips with anything you like.
Start with all the paper clips in one container and as you complete each daily habit move one paper clip over to the next container.
As clips build up in your success container, you’re less likely to break the chain. Every time you move one clip is a small win that proves you’re changing and improving yourself.
Stick to Good Habits By Creating Momentum
You’ll find when you change habits that they’re connected. Changes in one behaviour will impact others. This works for negative habits, but we can use this effect to create momentum and spur us to create large scale changes.
Closely related to this is the fact that some habits, often the keystone habits mentioned, make it easier to achieve other habits. Sleeping well makes it easier to exercise, avoid junk food and so on.
This principle also operates with tasks on your to do list. You’ll find that one or two tasks make the other tasks irrelevant once completed or much easier to do. These are the tasks to concentrate on.
How do you get create momentum for creating good habits?
Firstly start with the habit you are most motivated and excited about. This may be the one you are most scared of because you realise you need to change it.
Once you have achieved this habit get started on the next one immediately, allowing a little time to appreciate how much you have achieved and how you are changing for the better. Your success creates positive that feeds into motivation and belief for the next change you will make.
Remember to make the first changes small enough to make success likely and that over time small changes will add up to large improvements.
Making Time for Changing Habits
You’re busy, I know. Everybody is. But changing habits requires very little time if you do it the right way. We’re often replacing a bad habit with a good one. It takes more effort than time. But in the long run these positive habits will increase your time, energy and performance.
There are ways to make it easier to change habits. One of these ways is to link your new habits with the things you’re already doing, sometimes called habit stacking.
Your current habits is already hardwired into your brain and it’s well known to be easier to fit a new habit alongside this old one then insert a new unrelated behaviour.
Start by observing the main habits in your day. I find it most useful to start with morning habits. Most people’s morning will involve waking to an alarm, showering, making tea or coffee, eating breakfast, brushing teeth and some other behaviours.
Write down the current habits you have. Then write down the good habits you want to start. Just begin with one habit to increase your chances of success. You can build over time.
You can stack a new habit before or after a current habits.
For example, drink a glass of water (new habit) after getting out of bed to your alarm (old habit).
Or before making coffee (current habit), meditate for 2 minutes (new habit).
Stacking your new habit before you current habits can provide a reward.
Know When to Push Your Habit or Rest
You know that life will present challenges to your habits. The immediate response is to push through. But sometimes we actually need to take a break and rest.
How do you know when it’s time to push on or time to rest?
Asking the following questions will help.
It’s time to rest if:
You’re habit is causing trouble in your main relationship because you’re being too rigid.
You’re feeling wiped out, low on energy or depressed.
There are more important problems in your life that need to be address. These are normally matters of health, work, family and relationships.
Taking this one day off won’t significantly compromise my long term goal ie. I’ll return to my good habit tomorrow, better and stronger. Remember to never miss two days in a row.
You can make a solid plan to complete your daily habit later in the day on a modified way. Flexibility is important and establishing the daily routine, even in a quicker or easier way is better than skipping a day.
Push through resistance and continue your good habit when:
Skipping today will significantly increase the chances of not completing my long term goal and changing my habits. This usually means, is this the second consecutive day that you miss the habit? Or is it likely you won’t do the habit tomorrow too and miss two consecutive days.
This current habit and goal is in line with your true values.
Missing today will negatively impact someone close to you?