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It Is Not About How Fast You Can Build A Habit, It Is What You Build That Matters

It Is Not About How Fast You Can Build A Habit, It Is What You Build That Matters

It seems like many of us are obsessed with figuring out how long it takes to turn over a new leaf these days. There’s a popular myth that 21 days is the magic time frame for forming a new habit.[1]

The now-busted 21-day myth is a commonly misinterpreted finding by Dr. Maxwell Maltz.[2] When he conducted rhinoplasty on his patients, he noticed that it took them a minimum of 21 days to get used to looking at their new faces. He also noted that it took him about three weeks to adopt a new habit.[3]

People took the idea of being able to establish a new habit in 21 days and ran with it, but endless perpetuation of an idea on the internet and in pop culture doesn’t make it true. A 2010 study by UCL found that there was a lot more variation in how long it took participants to form a habit, but habit-formation takes about 66 days on average.[4]

Now we know what the research says. Our success in setting up new routines and habits starts with laying the proper groundwork. What if I told you that building a new habit can happen in as little as 3 days?

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

Unlike trying to learn a new skill, new habits form through determination. Skill building depends on our aptitude and experience. If we have an efficient learning framework, then we’ll master new things quickly, but if we don’t, it can take a long time.

For example, people trying to learn new languages do so at different rates. A five-year old will pick up a new language faster than an 85-year old because young brains are primed for language acquisition. Imagine that the person is trying to learn Spanish, but they grew up reading Latin. Since Latin is the basis for all Romance languages, a person who knows Latin is going to learn Spanish much more quickly than someone with no experience with the language.

Forming a new habit has very little to do with all this baggage that we consider when we’re acquiring new skills. Making something a habit comes down to how badly we want it. You already have the end-result in your mind when you set up new patterns and routines. All you need to do is create an environment to support yourself and commit to executing that vision.

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You don’t have to learn a new skill to quit smoking. You start by committing to quitting. Then, you change your environment. You throw out all the cigarettes hiding in your house and car, and you stop putting yourself in situations where you’ll be enticed by others’ smoking habits.

Going to the gym is the same. Anyone can start working out. You don’t have to be “good at it” or an expert on all the equipment, but you do have to show up to form the habit. You have to create a situation in which going to the gym is preferable to what you used to do.

Try not to do too much at a time

You may be looking at yourself right now and thinking, “I need to go to the gym five days per week, quit smoking, stop eating junk food, and get organized.” Striving for self-improvement is wonderful, but if you try to do all of those things at once, you are bound to fail.

Habit building requires a lot of determination. For each bad habit that you replace with a good habit, you will face challenges. It is best to start small so that you won’t become to exhausted or discouraged. Yes, you’ll have to work hard, but you can also “work smart.”

Some good habits provide the groundwork for you to adopt other habits. This can lead you to be able to make changes more quickly than the 66 days it takes the average person to make a shift. You’ll be able to change your behavior more quickly if you start with these foundational habits and scaffold your approach to taking on bigger challenges.

Start doing these 7 things to make it easier to form good habits

1. Institute “No Social Media Day”

Social media is an incredible tool, but it can also be a real time-sink. The average person is now spending up to two hours per day on social media.[5] Most of us don’t realize we’re losing so much time. Think of what you could do with an extra 60 hours per month.

Not only does the mindless scrolling soak up valuable hours of our time, but it can also lead to addictive behaviors. When we check our phones or social media accounts, responses and reactions to our posts can trigger a release of dopamine. That’s why so many people can’t step away from their phone or computer–they are hooked.

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Fear of missing out (FOMO) can also add unnecessary stress to our lives. We feel like if we don’t have our finger on the pulse of the rest of the world at all times, we’ll be left behind. It simply isn’t true.

If you know you’re losing time or getting stressed because of a FOMO, try to unplug for at least one day per week. This can help you to re-center and adjust your focus toward the important things in life.

2. Make speed reading part of your day

Speed reading enables you to consume more written material in less time. You’ll have the opportunity to gain knowledge, which is essential in this fast-paced world. Speed reading can help you pick up main ideas more quickly than the average reader.

A speed reader can read about 1,500 words per minute, while the average adult can only read about 300 words per minute.[6] A speed reader can read in 50 minutes what takes the average adult 5.5 hours.

Reading faster trains you to use structural and organizational cues to find the information you need quickly. It allows you to weed through superfluous material to get to the heart of what you need to know.

3. Write down 10 random thoughts per day

You have more amazing ideas than you realize, but if you don’t have a system for taking note of these things, they can fly out of your head as quickly as you come up with them.

Write down at least ten of these thoughts every day. This action gives you more space to think about other things, and you can give yourself time to revisit these ideas later. You may not be able to find a connection between that random thought you had in the shower and your work, but if you write it down, it may provide new insight for you later.

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Connecting random thoughts and building from these kernels of ideas can lead you to be more productive and creative.

4. Listen to a new album at least once a week

It’s easy to play the same playlist over and over. There’s nothing wrong with liking a certain playlist, but branching out is good for you. By expanding your horizons, you can find new things that you like. You are also subconsciously training your brain to accept new things when you allow an unfamiliar song to play.

Compared to some of the other habits you might be trying to form, this one is as simple as switching to a new radio station. If you don’t like what you hear, you just move on to the next song.

5. Go for a 30-minute walk every day

It’s way too easy to be sedentary. After a long day at work, it might be tempting to forgo exercise for time in front of the TV.

Going for a nice stroll can be a refreshing experience. Walking improves your circulation, and we do need around 10 minutes of sun exposure (without sunscreen) to get enough Vitamin D.[7] If you plan to apply sunscreen, have a darker complexion, or cover up, thirty minutes is a reasonable amount of time to be out.

You may not have the time or energy to spend several hours every day at the gym, but walking around the park during your lunch break or taking a stroll through the neighborhood can work wonders for your health. If your work day involves sitting at a desk for most of the time, then incorporating movement into your routine is even more important. The effects of sitting all day can be as detrimental to your health as smoking.[8]

6. Wake up an hour early and stretch

For some of us, waking up early can seem like torture, but this is only because we are in the habit of sleeping in. Waking up early boosts your productivity, and it can start your day off on the right foot. Instead of panicking as you wolf down a bagel and run out the door, you can relax, eat a decent breakfast, and center yourself for the day.

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The morning is a great time to get things done because there are fewer distractions. Michelle Obama and Apple CEO, Tim Cook, are just a few among the star-studded cast of early-risers.[9] Successful people use the morning hours to spend time preparing for their day by catching up on reading, exercising, or spending time with other early-risers in their families.

Nothing can cut into productivity like pain, and stretching first thing in the morning can prevent muscle soreness.[10] It also improves your posture and circulation, which can leave you feeling more alert and energized throughout the day.

If the idea of waking up an hour early sounds grueling, remember that you can break this down into smaller steps. Instead of getting up an hour early, try getting up 15 minutes earlier than usual. You can always set your wake-up time back by another 15 or 30-minute increment when you have acclimated.

7. Meditate for 10 minutes every day

With society’s rapid-fire pace and unrealistic expectations, it seems like we are constantly under pressure to do more things, and to do them better and faster than ever before. It’s nearly impossible to be the perfect employee, spouse, parent, or friend by today’s standards.

Sometimes, we just need to have a few minutes to ourselves. Taking 5 to 10 minutes to sit, ground ourselves in the present moment, and relax can make all the difference in how we approach our day. Meditation can settle our thoughts and remind us of what is most important.

Meditation is also one of the few activities that research has consistently said is beneficial for us.[11] It relieves stress, which can cause a myriad of other serious health problems. If you dedicate yourself to a regular mediation practice, the habit will actually improve your brain health.[12]

Small changes lead to great gains

There’s no doubt that adopting good habits can help you live a longer, happier, healthier, and more fulfilling life. Don’t be afraid to start small and build a foundation on which larger changes can rest. Remember why you want to make a change, and never stop striving to be the greatest version of yourself.

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

What Is Speed Reading and How to Successfully Learn It 13 Science-Backed Ways to Improve Your Memory How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement 10 Good Habits to Have in Life to Be More Successful 6 Ways to Make Progress Every Day (And Realize Your Goals)

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1 15 Reasons Why You Can’t Achieve Your Goals 2 11 Reasons Why We Fail to Achieve Our Goals 3 Learn How to Be Productive and Happy With These 11 Tips 4 How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement 5 5 Reasons Why Being a Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect

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Last Updated on November 12, 2020

15 Reasons Why You Can’t Achieve Your Goals

15 Reasons Why You Can’t Achieve Your Goals

The truth about many of our failed goals is that we haven’t achieved them because we didn’t know how to set and accomplish goals effectively, rather than having not had enough willpower, determination, or fortitude. There are strings of mistakes standing in our way of accomplished goals. Fortunately for us, we don’t have to fall victim to these mistakes for 2015. There are many common mistakes we make with setting goals, but there are also surefire ways to fix them too.

Goal Setting

1. You make your goals too vague.

Instead of having a vague goal of “going to the gym,” make your goals specific—something like, “run a mile around the indoor track each morning.”

2. You have no way of knowing where you are with your goals.

It’s hard to recognize where you are at reaching your goal if you have no way of measuring where you are with it. Instead, make your goal measurable with questions such as, “how much?” or “how many?” This way, you always know where you stand with your goals.

3. You make your goals impossible to reach.

If it’s impossible of reaching, you’re simply not going to reach for it. Sometimes, our past behavior can predict our future behavior, which means if you have no sign of changing a behavior within a week, don’t set a goal that wants to accomplish that. While you can do many things you set your mind to, it’ll be much easier if you realize your capabilities, and judge your goals from there.

4. You only list your long-term goals.

Long-term goals tend to fizzle out because we’re stuck on the larger view rather than what we need to accomplish in the here and now to get there. Instead, list out all the short-term goals involved with your long-term goal. For instance, if you want to seek a publisher for a book you’ve written, your short-term goals might involve your marketing your writing and writing for more magazines in order to accomplished your goal of publishing. By listing out the short-term goals involved with your long-term goal, you’ll focus more on doing what’s in front of you.

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5. You write your goals as negative statements.

It’s hard to reach a goal that’s worded as, “don’t fall into this stupid trap.” That’s not inspiring, and when you’re first starting out, you need inspiration to stay committed to your goal. Instead, make your goals positive statements, such as, “Be a friend who says yes more” rather than, “Stop being an idiot to your friends.”

6. You leave your goals in your head.

Don’t keep your goals stuck in your head. Write them down somewhere and keep them visible. It’s a way making your goals real and holding yourself accountable for achieving them.

Achieving Goals

7. You only focus on achieving one goal at a time, and you struggle each time.

In order to keep achieving your goals, one right after the others, you need to build the healthy habits to do so. For instance, if you want to write a book, developing a habit of writing each morning. If you want to lose weight and eventually run a marathon, develop a habit of running each morning. Focus on buildign habits, and your other goals in the future will come easier.

Studies show that it takes about 66 days on average to change or develop a habit.[1] If you focus on forming one habit every 66 days, that’ll get you closer to accomplishing your goals, and you’ll also build the capability to achieve more and more goals later on with the help of your newly formed habits.

8. You live in an environment that doesn’t support your goals.

Gary Keller and Jay Papasan in their book, The One Thing, state that environments are made up of people and places. They state that these two factors must line up to support your goals. Otherwise, they would cause friction to your goals. So make sure the people who surround you and your location both add something to your goals rather than take away from them.

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9. You get stuck on the end result with your goals.

James Clear brilliantly suggests that our focus should be on the systems we implement to reach our goals rather than the actual end result. For instance, if you’re trying to be healthier with your diet, focus more on sticking to your diet plan rather than on your desired end result. It’ll keep you more concentrated on what’s right in front of you rather than what’s up in the sky.

Keeping Motivated

10. You get discouraged with your mess-ups.

When I wake up each morning, I focus all my effort in building a small-win for myself. Why? Because we need confidence and momentum if we want to keep plowing through the obstacles of accomplishing our goals. Starting my day with small wins helps me forget what mess-ups I had yesterday, and be able to reset.

Your win can be as small as getting out of bed to writing a paragraph in your book. Whatever the case may be, highlight the victories when they come along, and don’t pay much attention to whatever mess-ups happened yesterday.

11. You downplay your wins.

When a win comes along, don’t downplay it or be too humble about it. Instead, make it a big deal. Celebrate each time you get closer to your goal with either a party or quality time doing what you love.

12. You get discouraged by all the work you have to do for your goals.

What happens when you focus on everything that’s in front of you is that you can lose sight of the big picture—what you’re actually doing this for and why you want to achieve it. By learning how to filter the big picture through your every day small goals, you’ll be able to keep your motivation for the long haul. Never let go of the big picture.

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13. You waste your downtime.

When I take a break, I usually fill my downtime with activities that further me toward my goals. For instance, I listen to podcasts about writing or entrepreneurship during my lunch times. This keeps my mind focused on the goal, and also utilizes my downtime with motivation to keep trying for my goals.

Wondering what you can do during your downtime? Here’re 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time.

14. You have no system of accountability.

If you announce your goal publicly, or promise to offer something to people, those people suddenly depend on your accomplishment. They are suddenly concerned for your goals, and help make sure you achieve them. Don’t see this as a burden. Instead, use it to fuel your hard work. Have people depend on you and you’ll be motivated to not let them down.

15. You fall victim to all your negative behaviors you’re trying to avoid with your goals.

Instead of making a “to-do” list, make a list of all the behaviors, patterns, and thinking you need to avoid if you ever want to reach your goal. For instance, you might want to chart down, “avoid Netflix” or “don’t think negatively about my capability.” By doing this, you’ll have a visible reminder of all the behavior you need to avoid in order to accomplish your goals. But make sure you balance this list out with your goals listed as positive statements.

How To Stop Failing Your Goal?

If you want to stop failing your goal and finally reach it, don’t miss these actionable tips explained by Jade in this episode of The Lifehack Show:

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Bottom Line

Overcoming our mistakes is the first step to building healthy systems for our goals. If you find one of these cogs jamming the gears to your goal-setting system, I hope you follow these solutions to keep your system healthy and able to churn out more goals.

Make this year where you finally achieve what you’ve only dreamed of.

More Goal Getting Tips

Featured photo credit: NORTHFOLK via unsplash.com

Reference

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