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Your New Habits Will Stick With These 5 Killer Strategies

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.

    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.

      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!

      Featured photo credit: Picjumbo via picjumbo.com

      Reference

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      Eamon Suen

      Student, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

      Life Is Not Supposed To Be Fair, We’re Supposed to Learn To Live With It If You Want To Be Successful, You May Need To Cut Off Something From Life The Earlier You Understand These Truths Of Happiness The Better Accept Where You Are And Happiness Is At Your Fingertips Your New Habits Will Stick With These 5 Killer Strategies

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      Last Updated on April 22, 2021

      How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

      How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

      Habits are what sets an average leader apart from a great leader. We can argue that talent is the biggest factor; we may debate how the amount of charisma sets the two apart. Yet, if you were to show me what you believed to be a great leader, I can show you the habits that made her/him great. Great leaders have great habits and know how to work hard the smart way.

      Developing Great Habits Is Hard Work

      In my early college days, I had spent a lot of time learning how to play the trumpet. Playing the trumpet took time and discipline. I had some natural talent, but not enough to hide my lack of ability. My trumpet teacher was a man of discipline, and there was no doubt he had talent. What stood to me was his work ethic. He had to be one of the hardest working mentors that I had the privilege of working with.

      One afternoon, I was in his office getting ready for my weekly trumpet lesson. As I was preparing, my eyes scanned the room and saw that there were quotes all over his office. My eyes rested on one quote that forever changed my thinking about my playing. It was a quote from my high school basketball coach Tim Notke that would become popular through professional athletes Kevin Durant and Tim Tebow:

      “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

      Hard work trumps talent. The key to success is not found in your talent or ability. Talent and ability are necessary, but they are not the primary factors. They are supporting roles in the story you are writing.

      Ultimately, hard work is the key to your success. A good work ethic creates the momentum that propels you forward towards your goals.

      Motivation Is Not the Answer

      How many times have you seen someone go to a conference, get inspired, and then come home and do nothing?

      If motivation were the answer, the world would have transformed hundreds of times over. Yet, when we look out our doors or turn on the news, we do not see a utopian society.

      We have thousands of people who become inspired but lack the work ethic to apply anything they have learned. Time and time again frustration creeps in. We are so motivated and inspired by what we see but fail to put in place the things that would change our lives.

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      Frustration happens when the gap between what you expect to be true and what is true gets bigger. Motivation tends to create an expectation that is not rooted in reality. We want to take on the world but cannot get off Netflix long enough to do so.

      Motivation is not the answer, but working hard is. Good habits and routines that produce success are the byproducts of a strong work ethic. The habits and routines we create and follow are the foundation on which we build a winning life.

      How to Work Hard by Working Smarter

      Here are 4 routines that will help you learn how to work hard and achieve your short term and long term goals.

      1. Define What a Win Looks Like

      In football, a player that crosses into the end zone gain points. In soccer, a player kicks the ball into the net to score. Hockey, lacrosse, and basketball are all the same. The player takes the object and moves it into the designated area to gain points. The team with the most points wins the game.

      Why is it that we can define what a win looks like in sports, but we fail to do so in our leadership, our businesses, or our homes?

      Learning how to work hard without setting a target is futile. It is insanity to work hard without having a clear direction to place your energy. I would argue that defining a win is one of the most important routines that a leader can have. Defining a win separates superficial activity from meaningful activity.

      When I define a win, I know the goal line I have to cross[1]. Knowing where the goal line is informs me of the activity I have to engage in to cross it. Without a clear direction, I am spinning my wheels hoping that I will get to a destination I haven’t defined. It is like asking a GPS for directions but failing to input the destination.

      4 Steps to Define a Win
      • Know the outcome you desire.
      • Declare the outcome in specific, meaningful terms.
      • Write the outcome down.
      • Set your activity list to only do that which will complete your goals.

      Let me give you an example. 15 years ago, I started speaking professionally. As a young and naïve speaker, I thought winning meant that I had to get a reaction from the audience. If they cheered, smiled, or cried, I considered myself a winner. The problem was my lack of understanding of what a win looked like. As a seasoned speaker, my wins look different.

      As of today, when I speak, I am not looking for any emotional reactions from the audience. I win if, and only if, I clearly communicated my point so that anyone hearing the talk can take it and apply it to their lives that day. That is how I define a win when I speak now.

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      Create a habit of declaring a win. When you do, you will see your productivity soar and your encouragement increase. Pairing a hard work ethic with wise decisions creates victory. Stop being a mouse on a wheel that goes nowhere, and start being the captain of your fleet.

      2. Evaluate Your Activity

      Not all activity is equal. There are things you must do, things you need to do, and things we can either give away or delete. The greatest challenge of a leader is understanding the difference. Understanding what activity is busywork and what activity is mission work is pivotal.

      Not only do we need to learn how to evaluate our activity, but we must make this a core routine in our arsenal of success. Stop working so hard on everything and start learning how to work hard on the right things.

      Not every activity will move the needle forward for you. In fact, you were never meant to do everything yourself! Once we stop trying to be a martyr in our leadership, we can start looking at how to take things off our plates through delegation.

      Based on the Eisenhower box, there are 4 things that we look at when deciding on which activities are important:

      • Do now
      • Plan to do it later
      • Delegate to someone else
      • Delete it

      Powerful questions are the way you discover if the activity is right or not:

      • Does this activity move me towards or away from my goals?
      • Do I have to do this activity or can I give this activity away to someone else?
      • Does this activity have to be now right now or can it be scheduled for later dates?
      • Does this activity have to be done at all?

      Evaluating the type of activity you engage in should be a routine that you do daily. Learning how to work hard should create progress. Having a system of evaluation and a routine to do it will help.

      3. Prioritize Your Calendar

      If you were to show me your calendar, I could show you why you are not further along. When you lack the routine of placing things on your calendar, two things happen.

      First, what does not make it on your calendar does not get done.

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      It is a simple truth that is often overlooked. Your calendar contains the power to change your life. Yet, we don’t use our calendars to their fullest potential.

      “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” -John C. Maxwell

      Also, if you don’t mark you activities on your calendar, you are leaving it open to other’s priorities.

      “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” -Stephen Covey

      Having a routine in your life where you place things on your calendar is pivotal to your success. This is not a routine one should overlook.

      It’s time to take your leadership and business to the next level. It’s time to start putting your daily routines on your calendar, along with your priorities.

      4. Reflect on Your Day and Plan the Next

      We are all about the morning routine. Whatever that looks like for you, there should be a routine in the morning that sets you up for success.

      Hard work starts when your feet hit the ground in the morning. Creating the habit of winning starts with the first thing you accomplish that morning. If you win your morning, you will win your day.

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      Best Morning Routine to Prepare to Work Hard

        But how often have you heard people talk about an evening routine? Tomorrow is won the day before it happens. When you fail to plan your day, you may put your effort toward in the wrong things. Route replaces routine. Indecision replaces decisiveness. Losses replace wins. The discouragement will deflate your momentum and increases the chances of procrastination. That is why we set our schedule the night before.

        “Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.” -Sun Tzu

        Working hard doesn’t have to be hard work. It shouldn’t take much out of you learn how to work hard as long as you work smart. Having a time where you reflect on the day and set your priorities is the difference-maker.

        Use these questions to reflect on your day:

        • What went well?
        • What didn’t go well?
        • What can I change?
        • What do I need to start doing?
        • What do I need to stop doing?

        The Bottom Line

        Navigating through life is hard work. Yet, the work doesn’t have to be hard when you work smarter. When you create routines that support your mission, you create wins. Working hard, the smart way will tip the balance in our favor.

        Boxing legend Joe Frazier said:

        “Champions aren’t made in the ring; they are merely recognized there.”

        Champions put in the hard work behind the scenes. The world recognized them as a champion when they saw the results of the hard work. Right now, you are doing the work of creating a champion in yourself.

        That work is setting your routines in order because you now know that success flows from your daily routines. If you are not experiencing the success you desire, then it is time to change things up.

        More on Creating Healthy Routines

        Featured photo credit: Zan via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] The Balance Careers: Interview Question: “How Do You Define Success?”

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