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Your New Habits Will Stick With These 5 Killer Strategies

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Your New Habits Will Stick With These 5 Killer Strategies

I’m sure you have been there. You write down goals and resolutions, clench your teeth and swear that you will follow through.

Then you miss a day. And another. And another…

Soon, days turn into weeks, and weeks turn into months. Before you know it, that book you said you would finish has been lying under your bed for a year, and that diet you said you would follow has become the last thing that comes to mind when you are in front of a dinner table. At one point, you felt immensely guilty, but now you just feel numb. Your guilt from missing your goals has been squashed mercilessly and cast to the back of your mind so often that doing so has almost become a reflex action.

“It’s not like I don’t want to do it – I just don’t have time for it anymore,” you protest weakly.

It’s normal to be slow in our journey of forming habits.

Hey, it’s okay. Relax. We’re not here to yell at you for being human. The truth is, it is completely normal to run into obstacles on our trek towards building and forming new habits, especially when it’s something that we are not used to doing or even something that is the complete opposite of what we are used to doing. A simple and common example is making it a goal to completely cut out fast food and replace it with salads, fruits, and vegetables. The first few days might be all right, but as time goes on, the urge to revert to grabbing a burger grows stronger and stronger. Eventually, you throw your hands up and say, “whatever, it’s just one day,” and you know the rest.

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However, all is not lost. I turned my life around with five simple steps. Now it is your turn to do the same.

1. Gamify your life when building habits.

Gamification is a self-designed system that operates along a daily exchange of productivity and reward.[1] To put it in simpler words, it helps make completing chores and work fun!

It goes like this:

  1. Identify tasks you don’t like doing.
  2. Assign points to them – the more you hate doing it, the more points it should get!
  3. Set up small, regular rewards to keep yourself incentivized.
  4. Set long term goals and reward yourself with a super prize!

Ultimately, you want to use this system to achieve those long-term goals – your goal could be anything from eating healthy to getting a solid 8 hours of sleep every night! Just don’t forget to make it worthwhile by setting up rewards to give yourself when you succeed, like getting yourself that camera you really want or booking a trip to Japan!

2. Share your goals with the people around you.

This may come across as a little weird in the beginning. Broadcasting your goal of improving your eating habits to your friends sounds ridiculous. But is it really?

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Your friends might laugh at you if fall, but they will also be the ones who help you up from the ground. If you tell your friends that you want to eat healthier meals from now on, you can count on them to remind you to stick to your diet every time you meet up for lunch. When I was trying to go meat-free a few years back, I even had friends who were nice enough to pick restaurants with vegetarian options for meals out with me. Sharing your goals is more effective than you may imagine – so go ahead and talk to your friends!

3. Set your target as your wallpaper.

Your New Habits Will Stick With These 5 Killer Strategies

    It is difficult to forget something you see every day. In this age when smartphones and computers are more frequent companions than the people around us, you might want to remind yourself of your target by setting a quote or a relevant pretty image as your wallpaper. This way, every time you look at your phone, you will be reminded to drink a glass of water, get a quick workout done, or take whatever action you need to take to meet your goal.

    4. Put in the minimum effort needed to form a habit.

    What?

    You didn’t read it wrong. The key to habit formation is for it to be easy. The more difficult it is to follow through, the higher the temptation is to give up. In his article “The ONE Success Strategy that’s so Simple YOU may actually do it,” Greg Clement puts it like this:[2]

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    Instead of putting MAXIMUM effort into my goal each day, I decided to set a floor, a minimum.

    Anything above this minimum performance I’d consider a bonus.

    Set a core goal. It could be about work, relationships, personal health – something that covers an important part of your life. An example might be improving your relationship with your children.

    Then, create your Minimum Acceptable Day (M.A.D.). Following up on the previous example, it could be spending 20 minutes with your children. This is your baseline. Finally, every time you achieve this target, put a BIG CROSS on your calendar. Let them build up.

    If you managed to spend a healthy 2 hours playing Lego with your kids – awesome! However, it’s just as amazing if you can only spend 20 minutes with them. That’s because you are moving forward every day that you adhere to your minimum goal. This creates momentum for you to go on, and before you notice, you will have already been doing this for a year!

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    5. Crave the reward from your new habit.

    Your New Habits Will Stick With These 5 Killer Strategies

      In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg proposed the idea of a habit loop. There is the cue: the trigger for your habit; the routine: the behavior itself; and lastly, the reward: the joy you derive from the habit. On top of that, there is the craving, which links the cue with the action and the reward.

      I used to work until 3 AM every day. Needless to say, my eyelids would start to droop after 1 AM (this is the cue), so I would head to the fridge and down a can of Red Bull (this is the routine), rejuvenating and preparing myself for the work ahead (this is the reward). Eventually, whenever I was tired, I would immediately think of getting a can of Red Bull because of the 2-hour energy spike I would get (craving).

      Therefore, herein lies the last tip for creating habits that stick: develop a craving that drives you to maintain the habit by connecting it with the action and the reward. In my case, I could train myself to crave a different reward (rest and better sleep quality) as soon as I encounter the cue (being tired). I could do this by developing a craving for becoming better rested and thus develop my new habit (going to sleep earlier)!

      Get moving!

      You have all you need – so set your goals and get moving!

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      Featured photo credit: Picjumbo via picjumbo.com

      Reference

      More by this author

      Eamon Suen

      Student, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

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