According to researchers, habits account for 45 percent of our daily behaviors.
That’s to say nearly half of what you’ll do today is the same as what you did yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that…
Or, how about that a huge chunk of what you’re going to do in your life is already predetermined.
However you want to say it, it’s clear that habits form a huge part of what you do and how you live on a day-to-day basis.
Therefore, understanding how to build and maintain new habits is crucial if you want to make change in your life and shake up things like your health, fitness, spirituality, career, and happiness.
But when it comes to the process of habit forming, the literature around the subject can be a bit and dull and repetitive (do it for 21 days, don’t give up, yada yada). Desperate to get out of my humdrum and monotonous lifestyle, last year I took it upon myself to seek out the methods that actually lead to habits that stick.
This list is made up of the resulting 11 tricks that catapulted me out of the mundane and repetitive and into the life I always desired.
1. Get other people involved and become accountable
There’s no better way of sticking to something when a blow to your pride or ego is at stake. HabitShare lets you take advantage of accountability by getting your family or friends in on your new deal with yourself. If that isn’t enough, they can even send you high fives and chest bumps to keep you motivated.
2. Use an app for super specific and manageable goals
A lack of the right tools is to blame for a lot of failed habits. The Strides app keeps all your goals and habits in an easy to use dashboard and features flexible reminders and stunning charts for keeping on top of your progress.
3. Visualize yourself as already having the habit
One major problem with forming a new habit is that you’re not the person with the habit—you need to grow into him/her. Well, that process can be sped up with the use of one of our own internal and incredibly under-utilised apps: our imagination. Practice visualisation for 10-20 minutes a day, imagining exactly what your life will be like and how you’ll feel once you’ve mastered your new habit.
4. Break the habit down into mini-milestones
Big tasks can be daunting and thus are the cause of many early drop outs. Focus on mini-milestones and small wins to feel you’re accomplishing something and give yourself that well-needed boost and keep the snowball rolling.
5. Track a concrete and consistent metric
Whether it be the level of usage, performance, or improvement, every long term habit needs a metric to track. Always keep it simple and easy to remember, for example tracking the number of different vegetables you consume a day rather than the number of calories.
6. Plan incentives and reward yourself regularly
Habits fail in the short term as they’re often tiring and unrewarding to start. Keep up the pace in these crucial early moments by setting incentives to strive for. For example, if you’re trying to do yoga twice a week, plan a trip to your favourite restaurant every time you reach a multiple of 10 sessions.
7. Condense your motivation into a concise affirmation
Affirmations or mantras are powerful phrases or sounds that are repeated over and over again to solidify a belief. Find the deep underlying reason for making your new habit, whether it be to attract your ideal partner, prove to yourself you can do it, or make someone proud, and create an affirmation of a few words to repeat every time you feel disheartened.
8. Check in with yourself for feedback
Another problem with habit forming is that we often become overconfident with our new abilities and forget how miserable we once were. The no doubt best tool for traveling back in time and seeing how far you’ve come is the pen. Start to keep a morning journal, and in as little as 5 minutes each morning you’ll gain a whole new perspective—as well as a lot more.
9. Eliminate negative behavior triggers
Negative behavior triggers are the reasons why the habit hasn’t stuck in the first place. They are the environments, people, objects, and other external stimuli that trigger certain behavior to unfold. First, identify what they are, and then plan your day in such a way that you’re least likely to run into or come across them.
10. Put your money where your mouth is
No-one likes to lose a bet, especially when there’s money on the line. With the 21 Habit app, you pledge $21 to say you’ll stick to your habit for 21 days. Each day you succeed, you get $1 back. Each day you fail, you loose $1. Bet you can’t do it.
11. Avoid emotional trigger states
Your emotional state is much like external triggers such as people and environments, but with one HUGE difference: it’s completely controllable. That means it’s within your power to avoid states like depression and boredom which lead to negative behavior and ultimately ensure you never deviate back into old habits.
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Joseph is a freelance writer and student of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. He believes a new approach to mindfulness is needed if it’s to have an impact on life in the fast-paced and hyper-stimulating digital age.