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How to Build Good Habits

How to Build Good Habits

Aristotle once said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”

The question is – how do you develop good habits and make them stick?

The reason we often stop ourselves from changing is that we like to stay where we are. Call it inertia or what you may want, but you need to give yourself a push to get things started.

To be successful, do more in life and have a sense of fulfillment, you need good habits. And it doesn’t come easy.

You may hear some people say that doing something for 21 days will make it a habit. In all honesty, this does not work. To build good habits, you need motivation, a good plan and a thought out approach to follow it.

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Here are the five tips that will work for you.

1. Planning

Benjamin Franklin had a very innovative plan to overcome his bad habits and build new good habits.

He listed 13 virtues which he felt were very useful in his life. He stated that working on each of them in a 13 week period, one virtue per week, can deliver some great results.

If he felt that he had got over his bad habit, he proceeded on the next one; if not, he repeated the cycle again.

While spontaneity is the essence of an adventurous spirit, it doesn’t apply when you are embarking on adapting to a new habit. You need a properly planned approach for the practice to become a habit. Here is the approach that can work for you.

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  1. Set yourself a “goal” that you want to achieve someday. Keep in mind that your goal should be specific, realistic, achievable and time-bound.
  2. Identify the habits that will help you in realizing your goals and that are in-sync with your already existing habits.
  3. Try to select a habit that suits your already established day-to-day life, so that it’s easier to adapt.
  4. Find your motivation to complete the goal. Motivation is what should get you started, and habits are what should keep you going.

2. Micro Quotas and Major Goals

Everyone has heard the motto “slow and steady wins the race”. Setting goals that you can stick to and introducing them in your everyday life will not result in any sudden or drastic changes in your life. It will definitely reap benefits over time.

Creating the right intrinsic motivators is important. You don’t want to do something because you are being punished or rewarded for it. Instead, you want to do it because you want it yourself.

Imagine that you have decided to lose weight and made a decision to run 5 miles every day in the morning. Now, imagine that you made the decision solely under the pressure of your loved ones. The plan has failed even before starting.

Set goals and quotas to guide you. Here is how it can work.

  • Goals are the ultimate achievement you want to accomplish, like topping the class.
  • Quotas are the small steps you have to take each day to realize that goal, like doing your homework regularly.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you make unrealistic goals and are unable to achieve them, it leaves you disheartened and have a negative impact.

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3. Be Positive

Ask how you can do something rather than say it cannot be done. You need positive thoughts to help you build on your skills and do more.

Having positive thoughts does not only result in moments of happiness but they enhance our capability to develop good habits and acquire skill sets which will help later in life. Focus only on the present and try not to dwell in the past.

Often, the things that you end up worrying about for days may not even happen at all. Even if they do, you probably cannot do anything about it – so why bother to ruin the present? We all are going to die, but that doesn’t mean you should ruin your life for it. Minimize your worries and let go of the negative emotions.

4. Eliminate Excessive Options

Have you ever wondered why Barack Obama prefers to wear only black and blue suits and not any other colour? There’s a good reason behind it.

Identify those aspects of your life which are mundane and are not resulting in any satisfaction. It has been observed in a 1990s study by Roy Baumeister, who was a professor at Florida State University, that making repeated choices can stop you from making smart decisions, even if the choices that you make aren’t that taxing by themselves.

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5. Find healthy ways to reward yourself

Remember those days when mom used to give you a candy to complete your homework? Of course, you do. Didn’t the thought of getting an extra candy gave us the strength to even face demons of maths problems? What if we apply the same principle when building good habits?

Bad habits are developed initially because they make us feel good, even its for a short period of time. We cling to that feeling of happiness thinking it soothes us when we are going through a stressful or frustrating time or just plain out of sorts.

For example, you have decided to start on a health regime, but it’s just not your day today, so you overeat to compensate for the day’s problems, which will result in you feeling sad next day. The same goes for smoking or drinking too much.

You feel relaxed and at peace, when realization dawns you vow to stop doing the act soon. But the vow slips off your mind when the next bad day comes around. Break this continuous cycle; reward yourself when you achieve even small victories over your bad habits. Treat yourself to what you like. It could be anything from a new book to a movie, to perhaps even your favourite game.

Invest in having the mental energy you need to commit to new habits. Positive habits aren’t formed overnight, but are a gradual change. It’s a change that will help you relive your life, and forget the past for a better present and future.

Featured photo credit: https://www.personalexcellence.co/files/yoga-sunrise.jpg via personalexcellence.co

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Carles Sabarich

Carles aspires to encourage people to live actively and take charge of their lives.

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Last Updated on January 13, 2020

7 Simple Brain Training Habits to Boost Your Brain Power

7 Simple Brain Training Habits to Boost Your Brain Power

Throughout the ages, there have been many beliefs in various tricks to boosting brain power, yet when held up to scientific scrutiny, most of these beliefs don’t add up.

When I was a child, for example, my mother told me if I ate fish it would make me more intelligent. Of course, there’s no scientific proof this is true.

Today, there is a myriad of games you can download to your phone that claims to improve your brain’s cognitive skills. While we are still waiting for a conclusive scientific verdict on these, recent studies by neuroscientists at Western University in Ontario[1] and researchers from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia appear to contradict these claims.[2]

So, how can we really boost our brain power? Well, it turns out there are a number of simple things you can do that will improve the function of your brain. Here are seven to get you started.

1. Do Your Most Difficult Tasks in the Morning

Our brains work at their best when they are fresh and energized after a good night’s sleep.

If you have a task to do that requires a lot of thought and focus, the best time to do that task would be first thing in the morning when your brain is at its freshest.

This is one of the reasons why checking email first thing the morning is not a good idea. You are wasting your brain’s best hours on a simple task that can be done when your brain is not at its freshest

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Throughout the day, you will find the amount of time you can focus for will fall. Your decision-making abilities will also begin to weaken as the day progresses. This is called “decision fatigue” and that means the decisions you make later in the day will not be as good as the decisions you make earlier in the day.

It’s far better to do your most difficult, creative tasks early taking advantage of your brain’s higher energy levels.

Try to avoid meetings first thing in the morning and schedule work that needs higher creative energy and concentration.

2. Get Enough Breaks

Our brains are not very good at maintaining concentration and focus for much more than an hour. Once you go beyond a certain amount of time, doing focused work, you will find yourself making more and more mistakes. This is a sign your brain is tired and needs a break.

Taking the right kind of break is important. Switching from working on a complex spreadsheet to checking your social media feeds is not going to give your brain the right kind of break. Instead, get up from your desk and head outside. If that is not possible, go to the nearest window and look outside.

Your brain needs a break from the screen, not just the spreadsheet, so leave your phone behind so you are not tempted to look at it and just savour the view.

3. Read Books, not Social Media Feeds

There are no shortcuts to improved knowledge and you are certainly not going to improve your general knowledge about anything useful by reading social media feeds. Instead, make reading books a regular habit.

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When you read good quality books, you increase your ability to use the knowledge you learn to solve problems as your brain will apply the knowledge you learned to existing situations.

Learn about economic theory, history and psychology. All these topics have real practical applications for us all today.

4. Exercise Regularly

Humans did not evolve to be stationary animals. You need to move.

Had our ancestors spent their days sat around, they would not have survived very long. To survive and find food, our ancestors had to keep moving. Our brains have evolved to function at their best when we are exercised.

In his book, Brain Rules, Prof.John Medina explains when we exercise, we increase the amount of oxygen in our brains and this helps to sharpen our brain’s functions.

In studies, when a previously sedentary group of people began a light exercise programme, their cognitive skills improve as well as reaction times and quantitive skills.

This is why you are more likely to find the solution to a problem when you are walking somewhere or exercising rather than when you are sat at a desk in front of a screen.

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5. Get Enough of the Right Food

You probably have experienced the afternoon slump at some point in your life. This is when you feel tired and fatigued in the mid-afternoon. This is a result of the carbohydrates you ate at lunchtime, stimulating your body to produce insulin which then causes a drop in your blood sugar levels.

When you go into an afternoon slump, concentrating for long periods become almost impossible and you just want to curl up and go to sleep.

To prevent the afternoon slump, try to eat a protein-rich lunch such as a tuna or chicken salad without pasta, rice or bread. Keep some healthy snacks such as mixed nuts and dried bananas around your workspace and when you feel a little peckish, eat a few of these.

Not only will you avoid the afternoon slump, but you will also improve your overall general health and feel a lot more energetic.

6. Drink Enough Water

Your brain is made up of about 70% water, so without enough water, your brain will not function at its best.

When you are not drinking enough water, you will find your ability to concentrate, make decisions and stay alert will reduce. You will feel sleepy and lack energy. Your brain functions at its best when it is properly hydrated.

The solution is to keep a large bottle of water at your work station and sip regularly from it throughout the day. This will increase the number of trips you need to make to the bathroom which is a good thing. It will keep you moving and taking regular breaks from your screen.

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7. Don’t Deprive Yourself of Sleep

You probably don’t need a long scientific study to convince you that if you are not getting enough sleep, you are not going to function at your best.

You just need to go a couple of days without getting enough sleep and you feel your abilities reduce. Your decision-making skills become erratic, your energy levels drop and your ability to stay focused on your work diminishes.

If you want to improve your brain’s ability to function, then start with getting enough sleep. The number of hours you need will depend on your own circadian rhythms, so find what works best for you.

Six to eight hours is usually enough for most people so make sure you are hitting that number of hours per night as a minimum.

The Bottom Line

Improving our brain power is not difficult. All we need to do is develop a few simple habits such as exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and eating the right foods.

These seven tips will go a long way to helping you to become more alert, able to focus longer and make decisions. All simple common sense tricks anyone can use.

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Featured photo credit: Nicole Wolf via unsplash.com

Reference

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