Designing Habits: 4 Steps to Make a Habit Stick


On today’s podcast, we’re talking all about habits. You know the things you do repeatedly on the daily for better or for worse? Maybe you’re looking to hit the gym more regularly or start meditating because everyone and their Mom is doing it now... or maybe you’d just like to stop eating sleeves of Oreo’s at a time.

Typically, not easy to form or break, but habits are necessary in making real changes. Why? Because we’re a product of what we do daily. Hate to break it to ya, but meditating once a month just isn’t going to cut it.

In order to make a change in our lives, we have to change our behavior and to change our behavior, we have to develop a new habit or routine to make it stick. It’s all about consistency.

Making new healthy habits is not for the lazy. And if you are relying on will power alone, good luck to ya. Your mind will try to talk you out of anything that is uncomfortable and new, so we want to set up systems so that we can overcome those thought gremlins!

Luckily for you, there are ways to hack a habit so that you can successfully build it into your life.

But before you start, you have to get real with yourself. Do you really want to make this change? Because if that’s not a hell yes, do a little more soul searching and decide what you are really looking to create in your life. It’s an inside out process - the shift has to happen inside first.

Focusing on why you want what you want can help you with that. Why will achieving that goal make you feel better? Why do you want to feel that way? Once you figure that out, then you can start working on the how.

Part of figuring out the how is believing that you can actually achieve it. Yeah, we said it. Believe it and you will achieve it (slap it on a meme). The reason for this is most behavior is belief driven.

So if you want to change something, you have to believe that you want to and that you can do it. There has to be vaule behind the desired behavioral change.

Let’s say you want to create the habit of meditating but you're not really sure why. Well it's because everyone’s doing it- duh. Okay, besides that, because you’ve read that it can lower your stress levels and make you not be such a spaz.

You’re still not really convinced, but then you meet with an old friend who’s been meditating and she’s like a different person. She is way more chill, doesn’t cut you off in conversation and seems happier. You think, wtf?

So now you believe that meditation works and you want to give it shot. You try it for a few days in a row and you really don’t understand why sitting there thinking about your grocery list and dog is going to help you, but you want to continue with it.

After a week in, you wake up late and decide you don’t have time to get it in that day. Another day goes by and you think, “Nah, I’m good today, I feel alright.” Another week goes by and you’ve completely forgotten about the practice until you’re reminded of it after you blow your lid at your boyfriend and then see your friend post that she’s having the best time of her life in Bali. Of course she’s in Bali!

Rather than relying on will power, motivation and your memory to create this new habit, we want to set ourselves up for success by building a system in place that we know will keep us going strong with the new behavior.

This is all a design process. Get really clear on the desired behavioral change you want to make, decide where it would fit naturally into your daily routine and if it doesn’t work, don’t give up! Just redesign the process and try again until it works for you.

Look at your life as a paint project and continue to add different colors and strokes to the painting to achieve your desired piece of art.

Here’s 4 steps to making a habit stick:

1. Set up your environment for success.

For example, if you want to stop eating junk food, remove all of those foods from your home or drive a different way to work to avoid that donut shop or drive-thru.

2. Start small with the desired behavior at first.

For instance, if you want to start jogging, start off with just 2 minutes of jogging around the block. Or for our meditation example, start with 1 minute a day and work your way up from there.

Make the behavior extremely attainable, so that you can’t talk yourself out of it. The easier the behavior, the more likely you are to do it.

3. Create a cue to remind you to do the behavior.

You can set an alarm on your phone, but even more powerful, stack the behavior on top of something that you already do. We love habit stackin’! Ask yourself, where would this new behavior fit naturally into my daily routine? Where does it come naturally after? For example, if you want to start making your bed, stack it on top of brushing your teeth.

4. Feel positive emotion while doing the new behavior.

If you can feel positive emotion while doing the habit, it will likely speed up the process of creating the habit. You can listen to or think of your favorite song. The more you can fire off that positive emotion, in connection with the new behavior, the faster it will become automatic.

BJ Fogg, PHD, from Stanford talks about these methods and has a 5 day tiny habits system that you can check out here:

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