There is a ton of research that supports the fact that is takes 66 days to form a habit. A habit, by definition, is “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.” Habits can be either good or bad. As you know once you have one developed – it’s hard to break it. For example, I tend to bite my nails when I’m stressed or nervous. It’s a terrible habit and I’ve tried so many times to stop it. But no matter what I do I just can’t! The reason, of course, is because it is something I’ve been doing my whole life. It’s also so hard to recognize when I’m doing it in order to be able to stop the behavior. That’s why it is so important to develop good habits. Many people think that developing good habits is hard to do and takes too long. The truth is, it’s simple if you take it step by step and commit to it.
Why are good habits important?
Humans are creatures of habit. We get really comfortable with routines. People crave consistency in their lives and so they tend to stick with what they know. We learn through repetition and so doing the same thing over and over again creates a habit that we become really comfortable with. At a certain point it become second nature to us and we continue to do it without even thinking. This could be either good or bad. For example, we could decided to go for a walk everyday which would eventually form into a habit! That would be great for our health and I would consider that to be a “good” habit. On the other hand, we could start drinking after work each day to de-stress. This could eventually develop into a habit as well which I would consider to be a “bad” habit. You can start to see how easy it can be to fall into bad habits and how important it is to develop good habits from the start.
How having good habits help us?
Now that we know why good habits are important, it’s not hard to see how having good habits can help us! Forming good habits can really help us meet our goals and be more successful overall. This quote from Aristotle really stands out to me “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Again, we learn by repetition (hence me repeating this again). You get better at a sport by practicing every day until it become second nature. If you have a goal to read more books, setting aside time each day to read will help you develop at habit that will help you meet your goal.
What are some good habits to develop?
A good habit for you might be different from what I consider to be a good habit. Therefore, a list of good habits to develop will be different for everyone. We each have our own individual goals and so the habits we want to develop to reach them can vary greatly. With that said, here are some things I consider to be good habits and that I might want to implement for myself:
- Exercising every day.
- Getting an early start to the day.
- Creating a schedule for yourself.
- Eating a healthy diet.
- Practicing good hygiene.
- Budgeting your money.
- Learn something new every day.
- Get at least 8 hours of sleep.
- Stay connected to friends and family.
- Take time for self-care.
How can you form good habits?
That is the million dollar question! We now know how important it is to build good habits, but it can confusing on how to develop good habits and where to start. The truth is, it’s surprisingly simple if you take it step by step and commit to it. Here are 5 simple ways you can develop good habits:
1. Don’t Put it Off, Commit
We all have the tendency to want to put things off. One would even say, it’s a bad habit to do – which we all know is hard to break. However, it’s really important that when you want to develop a new good habit – you don’t put it off. You need to start right away. Since it can take 66 days to form a new habit, the sooner you start the better off you’ll be. We always say “I’ll start that next month” or “I’ll start that on Monday”. We never really have a good excuse as to why we have to start then and not NOW. It’s because there isn’t one. It’s absolutely essential to commit to it early and not put it off.
2. Think of the Why
Everything is easier to do when you understand why it’s important. Before being able to develop a new habit, you need to understand why you want to do it and why it’s important to you. Without that understanding it’s easy to give up. For example, one good habit I recently started to develop is doing some form of exercise every single day. I wanted to do this because I’m currently getting NO physical activity at all. As you know, that’s not healthy. I have family members that are never exercised in their entire life and now have trouble walking and getting around. I don’t want that to happen to me and want to live a long, happy, and healthy life. Knowing why I want to do it and why it’s important to me helps motivate me everyday to make sure I actually do it. On days when I’m just not feeling it, I think of the why. It pushes me to stay committed to my goal and keep going.
3. Make a Plan
As the saying goes, if you fail to plan then you plan to fail. The best way to ensure you’ll be successful developing a new habit is by planning out how you’re going to do it. When I wanted to start scheduling out my chores, I made a plan and stuck to it! In my example above (exercising), I set aside 30 minutes on my calendar every single day for it. Then, I planned out what I was going to be doing each day. In addition, I put a reminder on my calendar and phone. This way I would get alerted at the time I set aside to do the exercise. One day I would go on a 30 minute walk, other days I would do a Yoga or Zumba workout video from YouTube. I get bored easily so I switched it up to make sure I stayed engaged and interested.
4. Start Small and Take it Step by Step
It’s easy to set yourself up for failure by trying to do too many things at once. Some people will say “I want to get in the habit getting 10,000 steps per day, at least 8 hours of sleep every night, and flossing twice a day”. While these are all good habits to develop, you’re setting yourself up for failure by trying to develop too many habits at once. Choose one to focus on and once you have that down, add on a new habit that you want to develop. Be sure to take things one step at a time. Also, it’s important to not start with really large, unrealistic goals. For example, if you want to get 10,000 steps a day but you’re currently getting zero, it’s going to be very challenge to go from zero to 10,000 right away. Start small and aim for 3,000 steps per day, then slowly increase it from there until you hit your goal of 10,000 steps. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in one day!
5. Identify the Obstacles Early
We all have obstacles or things that get in our way of being successful. Especially when it comes to developing good habits. Before trying to develop this new habit, try to think about the things that get in your way or the reasons you’re not doing them to begin with. For example, the reason I wasn’t exercising consistently was because I always said to myself that I was too busy or didn’t have enough time. Since I already know that was going to be an obstacle for me, I put things in place (like adding it to my calendar and setting up reminders) to help me address those obstacles before they even came up. If you can anticipate the things that might come up and get in your way, you can set yourself up for success by preparing and preventing them from even happening.
Developing good habits is such a powerful tool to help you reach your goals, aims, and objectives. Whether your goals are career driven, health related, or personal – you can achieve so much if you commit to making the change, understand why it’s important to you, make a plan on how you will achieve it, start small, and identify the obstacles standing in your way early. There is no limit to what you can achieve if you follow these five steps. If I did it, so can you!