This week I read this article that makes the interesting claim that there are only 2 reasons to fail at building a new habit:
- You don't know how habits work.
- You are setting unrealistic goals.
I must plead guilty to both.
Whether that is playing the trumpet, starting a blog, working on my relationships with others or planning my career, I always want big improvements to come fast. Then I feel impatient and irritated as I fail to implement the changes I need to reach my goals in the long term. Luckily the article goes on describing how habits work and how we can use this knowledge to our own advantage. Here is what I have picked up from the article and the references therein.
Habits are a 3 steps process:
- A cue triggers a desire for action.
- The action takes place.
- A reward is delivered.
Using this 3 steps process ask yourself the following questions when you want to build a new habit:
- What cue can I put in my environment to help trigger the desired action?
- What can I do to lower the barrier to action?
- How can I reward myself?
You don't have to be the victim of your environment, you can also be the architect of it.
If this does not help building your new habit, then you might be aiming too high. As you are building your new routine remember to:
- Make it so small you cannot fail.
- Apply the compound effect: increase by 1% a day. It seems small but it will go a long way.
- Break big habits down.
- Never miss twice in a row.
- Be patient and find a sustainable pace.