What Is a Habit?
Simply put, habits are small decisions you make and actions you take everyday throughout life. They account for about 40% of our daily behaviors. Your life as you know it is a result of the habits you follow. They account for how you look, how you feel, how you act. What you do day in, day out determines the person you are and your personality. It makes sense to say that if you can transform your habits, you can effectively transform your life.
Understanding how to build new habits and how your current habits work is essential for making progress in your health, your happiness, and your life in general.
But where to start? Here is a simple 5-step guide on how to build new habits that will last a lifetime.
1. Start Small, Very Small
Choose a habit that’s so easy, you can’t say ‘No’ to doing it. Make is so easy that you don’t need to rely on motivation or willpower (which will only get you so far anyway) to do it.
Want to be able to do 10 Press Ups on your toes? Start with just one a day.
Want to eat 3 healthy meals a day? Start with adding extra veg to your dinner every day.
Want to drop a dress size? Wake up in the morning and dress in your workout clothes so you’re 10 times more likely to exercise or go outside for a walk.
Want to run a marathon? Go for a 5 minute jog.
Forget the bigger picture. Start small and show up.
2. Build On Your Habit Slowly
We’re all guilty of thinking too big and overwhelming ourselves with huge goals. “I need to lose 3 stone.” “I must stop eating chocolate everyday.” “I must exercise 4 times a week to get fit.” We put this huge pressure on ourselves and try and do everything at once from the get-go. This is not sustainable and relies heavily on willpower and motivation (which can and will only get you so far).
The key is to start small and gradually improve every day. Be 1% better everyday and in a year you will be 37 times better than when you started. This can also be said for the reverse. Be 1% worse everyday and you’ll be back where you started in a year.
Small steps = big results over time. Here's a handy visual taken from James Clear to show this.
3. Keep Breaking Big Habits Up Into Small Chunks
If you commit to being 1% better every day, you can expect to notice a significant difference in yourself in just 2-3 months. But it’s vital that you keep each habit small as you build in order to maintain momentum and prevent yourself from feeling overwhelmed. Keep it easy and be consistent. You don’t want to fall back in to the unreliable habit of relying on willpower and motivation alone.
❓ Struggle to eat breakfast in the morning? Commit to having breakfast one morning, even if it’s just a piece of fruit.
❓ Want to do 50 press ups per day? Five sets of 10 might be much easier to start.
❓ Want to eat 3 healthy, balanced meals a day? Start with just 1.
4. Never Miss Twice
We are all human. Life has a nasty habit of getting in the way and we all slip up on occasions. The key is to ensure you get back on track quickly when this happens. Do not let that 1 day slip up become 2.
Missing 1 day is an accident. Missing 2 days is the start of a new, bad habit. Missed days will impact you more than successful days. Remember this.
You can ensure you don’t miss twice by following the 3 steps already mentioned above. And doing something, however small, is ALWAYS better than doing nothing at all.
5. Be Patient, Be Consistent
Be consistent, not perfect. You can make huge progress by not rushing your habits or being inconsistent with them. Remember: every new habit MUST feel easy, maybe too easy, to start. Patience is everything. Make the habit too big and you risk making that habit too difficult to stick to. Focus on that 1% improvement each and every day and only perform actions you can sustain.
I hope this guide has given you a useful insight into how you can change your habits for the better. If you want to understand more on behaviour change and creating new habits, I highly recommend reading the book ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear. This has been a game changer for me with understanding mindset and behaviour changes in my clients and myself personally.