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It’s easier to create new habits than you might think.

That’s right.  You can create new habits fairly easily, and surprisingly quickly.  You just have to find the method that works for you.

There’s definitely a challenge in creating new good habits and getting rid of the bad ones.  Why do you think so many New Years resolutions fail?  Many try to tackle major lifestyle changes and find themselves overwhelmed.

Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can create new habits without using any tricky mind-games, going through hypnosis or snapping at your wrist with a rubber band.  Here are a few different ways you can easily create new habits.

1. Out With the Old, In With the New

One very effective way of creating a new habit is to replace an old habit. This is really effective when you’re trying to get rid of bad habits, but it can work just as well when you’re trying to create new ones. It’s quite simply doing something instead of doing something else. Let’s say you want to create a habit of meditating in the morning… what do you do in the morning now that you could stop doing? Maybe, like me, you’re in the habit of hitting the snooze button and catching another 9 minutes of sleep. According to W. sleep habitsChris Winder, M.D., author of The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It,  habitually pounding on that snooze button is not really good for you anyway, and a habit that you should definitely break. Why not replace that 9 minutes snooze habit with a new one. Maybe writing in your journal or reading motivational tips from Your Big Scene (highly recommended).

2. Just Do It One Time

I know what you’re thinking; it’s not really a habit if you only do it one time.  Ah… but it can be a really good way to create a new habit if you only do it once every day.  Don’t bum yourself out by reminding yourself that you have to do something every day for several weeks for it to become a habit.  Just tell yourself you’re going to do it one time.  Want to make a habit of doing pushups every morning?  Promise yourself that you’re going to do at least one every morning.  That’s all you have to do, but I’m betting that you’ll do more.  Since you’re there on the floor anyway.  Only did one this morning?  No guilt!  You only have to do one.  That’s one more than I did!

3. Set Yourself Up

[convertkit form=5165960]Some people are really good at fooling themselves.  But that’s not what this is about!

One of the best ways to create new habits is to make it not only easy to create new habits but to make it hard to not take action to create new habits.  Make it easy to do what you know you need to do and you’re more likely to do it.

For example, if you want to go to the gym every morning, leave your gym shoes right by the bed where you can’t miss them when you get up.  Or sleep with your gym clothes on!  (make sure they’re clean, we’re not trying to gross anybody out here)

When trying to lose weight, having some healthy snacks on hand makes it easier to create the habit of eating better.  Funny how we always have potato chips in the cupboard no celery in the fridge when we’re feeling snacky…. or is that just me?

4. Habit Stacking

Habit StackingI first heard of habit stacking when I ran across the book Habit Stacking: 97 Small Life Changes That Take Five Minutes or Less by S.J. Scott.  In it, S.J. talks about developing new habits by making tiny improvements, one at a time.  Learning to play the piano is a daunting task, but if you just break it down into the basic components and work on mastering each of them one at a time it doesn’t seem so bad.

Large tasks or changes that you want to make can more easily be accomplished by breaking them down into smaller tasks.

Let’s say you want to lose weight and get in shape.  (No I’m not calling you fat!  I love you just the way you are!)  Thinking about all of the things that you should do to lose weight and get in shape can be overwhelming!

  • stop eating after 7 pm
  • eat a good breakfast instead of an Eggo and a Red Bull
  • go to the gym
  • replace potato chips with healthy snacks
  • go for a walk at lunch instead of having dessert
  • cut back on the pizza and beers

Forget it!  No way is someone going to be able to do all that at the same time!  This why resolutions fail!

Take those on one at a time until you master each one… that you can do!  Start with number one and work your way down the list.

  1. Stop eating after 7
    Once you’ve done that and your body has adjusted, move on to
  2. eat a good breakfast
    Look at that!  you’ve already made 2 things a habit!  (go you!)

You get the idea.  You don’t have to change everything all at once to create new habits, just change one thing!  Simple!

5. IFTTT

In programming, there is a routine called IFTTT.  It stands for If This Then That.  To translate that out of geekspeak and into habit-talk, it means that you set yourself up with a reward system.  Easy Peasy.

If you do 15 minutes of yoga today, then you can have a cup of ice cream after dinner.  The secret key is that you have to hold yourself super accountable to this one.  Any reward system relies entirely on your follow through.  If you don’t do the yoga, you have to make sure you don’t get the ice cream.  It’s not a punishment system; if you don’t do the yoga you simply don’t get the ice cream.  Don’t punish yourself… but don’t reward yourself either!

Imagine if you told your kid/niece/nephew/dog that if they cleaned up their toys they could have a piece of candy… if they didn’t’ and you gave them the candy anyway, there would be absolutely no incentive for them to follow through next time!

Remember… consistency and follow-through.  Make sure you pick a good reward so you’ll work harder for it!

6. If…Then…Else (ITE)

Wow, we’re really throwing around the acronyms!  Makes me feel like I’m back in the military! (I’m even sitting at attention right now!)

This is another geeky formula.  IF, THEN, ELSE means that if something happens, then something else will happen, or else something different will happen.  This differs from IFTTT in that there are consequences.  Where IFTTT was just “If I do this I get that”, ITE mean “if I do this, I get that, or else something else is going to happen!”

We’ll go back to morning yoga as an example.  If you get up in the morning and do 15 minutes of yoga, you get to have a cup of ice cream after dinner.  If you don’t, you not only don’t get the ice cream, but you only get one cup of coffee with breakfast.  That would get me going.  Slowly though, because I need my second cup!

Be strong!  Follow through is important here or any time you’re trying to create new habits!

7. T.A.R (trigger, action, reward)

This is one of my favorite secret little tricks to create new habits… trigger, action reward.

  • Trigger: when something happens.
  • Action: I’ll do this
  • Reward: then I get a reward (yay reward!)

We’re doing the IFTTT, but we’re adding a trigger at the front along reward at the end.  So let’s hit the yoga example again.

  • Trigger: when the alarm goes off
  • Action: I’ll do yoga
  • Reward: I get ice cream with dinner! (yay reward!)

successfully create new habitsThat’s how you create new habits!

None of these methods guarantee results. The only one who can make you successful at creating new habits is you, and the ability for any of these methods to turn bad habits into good habits is completely dependent on your ability to stick with it.  The good news is, the power is all yours!  You can, through these little habit hacks, make your life a little better one day at a time.  And isn’t that what everybody really wants?

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Often referred to as “that long-haired computer guy”, Dee Hathaway is a government technology leader with a passion for helping people do things better and a goal of always having the newest cell phone available. His first book Here's What Let's Do: Stop Being Average and Start Being Awesome was an Amazon #1 bestseller.
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