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You Are 7 Steps Away From Making A Habit Last

You Are 7 Steps Away From Making A Habit Last

Habits are the little things we do repeatedly, often subconsciously. They end up shaping our lives. Day after day, they make us who we are. Eat healthy and you get slim, exercise and you get fit, read and you get smart, etc.

“Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.” – Mahatma Ghandi

      Building habits is arguably the most impactful skill we can acquire in life. Can you imagine that 16 million deaths could be avoided every year by simple habit change? It is hard though to break old habits and form new ones. People seem to believe that they can transform their lives by simply making a wish when comes the New Year. But 92% of these resolutions fail.[1] Could it be that modern life makes us lazy? In our on-demand society, food gets delivered to our place in 10 minutes. We have a taxi waiting at our door 30 seconds after we ask for it. Everything has to go fast. We don’t accept that certain things take time and give up easily when we face challenges.

      Let me tell you the ugly truth: forming habits does take time and it requires efforts. It’s not going to happen just by hoping for it. It’s not going to work if you are not genuinely prepared to change. And there will be obstacles on your way. You can try and reject this ugly truth. It’s up to you. You then risk to get stuck in your old ways and fail to build the life you want. New Year after New Year, you will be making the same resolutions over and over again. In 10 years from now, those who don’t change their poor eating habits will be obese. Those who fail to introduce regular exercise in their life will be unfit. And those with bad financial habits will be poor.

      As a teenager, I went through a deep crisis which left my life as a mess. I had to reprogram myself and rebuild my life habit after habit. That’s when I realized that we can become the architects of our lives. Over the years, I refined my approach to setting goals and building habits. It has been my passion for 20 years now. And it has helped me live a dense and meaningful life. Here are a few examples:

      • I have written more than a 100 songs while I’m not a particularly gifted musician.
      • I represented France in the 2015 ITU Triathlon World Championships while I am not the most athletic person.
      • I have launched a promising startup called GOALMAP while I am not very business savvy.
      • I have also gathered the biggest dream journal in the world (I’m getting close to 10,000 dreams)!

      This was all thanks to habits. When you are able to form habits, you can steer your life in the direction you want. If you are keen to try this approach for yourself, you can follow this step-by-step guide.

      1. Assess your readiness for change

      According to James O. Prochaska’s transtheoretical model of behavior change, there are 6 stages involved in changing:[2]

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      • Pre-contemplation: People at this stage do not intend to start the healthy behavior in the near future (within 6 months), and may be unaware of the need to change.
      • Contemplation: People at this stage intend to start the healthy behavior within 6 months.
      • Preparation: People at this intend to start the healthy behavior within the next 30 days.
      • Action: People at this stage have changed their behavior within the last 6 months.
      • Maintenance: People at this stage have changed their behavior more than 6 months ago.
      • Termination: The new behavior is ingrained, no risk to relapse.

      If you jump straight into the action phase while you are not yet ready for it, you are most likely to relapse. In order to progress through the stages of change, you need:

      • A growing awareness that the advantages (the “pros”) of changing outweigh the disadvantages (the “cons”).
      • Confidence that you can maintain changes in situations that tempt you to return to your old, unhealthy behavior.
      • Strategies that can help you make and maintain change. These strategies are called the “processes of change”. Different strategies work best for different stages.

      Don’t put the cart before the horse. If you are not mentally prepared to change, any effort you make will be counterproductive. If you realize that you do not intend to start a new habit right now, try and figure in which stage you are and apply the “processes of change” which are most relevant for that phase.

      If you are keen to find out more, I recommend you read Changing to Thrive by James O. Prochaska. If you are ready for change, keep reading!

      2. Have a grand vision for your life

        Make sure that the habits you decide to work on are aligned with your personal values and the long-term vision you have for life. If there is no deeper meaning in the things you do, you might find it hard to make them stick.

        Before rushing headlong, dig inside of you and get in touch with the powerful vision beyond your desire to change. If you have aspirations such as eating healthy or exercising, what is your vision beyond these goals? Maybe a vision of yourself in good health, fit, slim and happy… Take a moment to visualize the person you aspire to build.

        With this vision in mind, you can see meaning in everything you do. After all, why would you put your sneakers on and go for a run rather than watching a TV series? The sofa might be more tempting than the effort! But get back to your vision and the choice will come effortlessly. When your vision is anchored deeply, it is easy to light it up. The closer the vision is to your heart, the stronger it will be, and the more easily you will push through the obstacles. Get back to your vision, when you fail or when you succeed – it will show you the way.

        3. Start small

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          When we think about changing our life, we are tempted to change everything at once and come up with a bucket list of 20 things to work on at the same time. It’s so exciting! It rarely works though. If we try to do too much, we soon feel overwhelmed. Chances are great that we will give up.

          This doesn’t mean you have to focus on a single habit. Actually, taking action on one behavior increases the odds of taking action on a second behavior. This is called “coaction”. Start with the top 2 to 4 habits you want to build.

          Don’t set the bar too high at the beginning. When you get on a bike, you should start with an easy gear, and shift up gears as you build speed. It’s all about momentum.

          4. Make a plan

          You need to plan how you are going to weave the new behavior into your life. For a habit to stick, it has to become part of your routine. You need to turn it into some sort of automatic process. The key to building a habit is repetition. Try and build a ritual: same day, same time, same place, etc.

          Make sure you have the basic questions answered in advance: When will you do it? Where? How? With whom?

          If you want to exercise more regularly, you have to plan how this is going to happen. Which sport? Which days of the week? Will you go straight after work? Then you need to take your gear with you. Do you have all the equipment you need? If not, go get it. Do you have a friend who could go with you and become your motivation partner?

          B.J. Fogg, a psychologist and researcher at Stanford University who has studied behavior change for more than 20 years, has a great trick: attaching the new behavior to an existing one. For that, use “after”: after I wake up, I meditate for 10 minutes; after I get back from work, I do 10 push-ups; after I finish my breakfast, I take vitamins, etc.

          5. Set goals

          If your aspiration to change remains too vague, you are likely to fail. Set instead proper goals for the habits you want to build. These goals must be S.M.A.R.T.: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.

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          Have clear, quantified targets. Instead of “drinking more water”, set a goal to “drink at least 2 liters a day”. Instead of “playing music again”, set a goal to “play the piano 20 minutes per day”.

          Set daily goals wherever possible. If you do something every day, it becomes much easier to make it stick. Let’s imagine for instance that you want to read more. You have more chances to make it a habit with a daily goal (20 minutes) than a weekly one (2 hours).

          Read more about how to set yourself the right goals in my other article Why I Can Be the Only 8% of People Who Reach the Goal Every Single Time

          6. Track your progress

            A study of nearly 1,700 participants in a weight-loss program showed that those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records.[3] Tracking fosters self-awareness. When you understand yourself better, it becomes much easier to change.

            “That which is measured improves.” – Karl Pearson

            Track your progress in a systematic fashion, not just in your head. You can use a piece of paper, an Excel spreadsheet, an app, etc. Make it simple to update and easy to access.

            7. Analyze your progress and adjust your habits

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              Your habits are not meant to be cast in stone. We said earlier we have to start small. Then, as we gather momentum, we can add another habit, or raise the bar higher.

              On the other hand, when we go through tough times, we can momentarily revise our ambitions down and avoid hitting the wall. That’s part of the journey. You shouldn’t judge yourself. Stay flexible, shift to a lower gear and your habits will pick you up.

              With quantified targets, you can easily keep track of your progress against the goals you had set. It is then time to take a step back, draw conclusions and reset your habits. Here are a few examples:

              • Add: “I started with two habits, drinking water and going to bed early. I’m now fairly comfortable with those two. It’s time to add regular exercise to my routine.”
              • Adjust down: “Running three times a week was too ambitious. I manage to go once a week, two sometimes. I’ll change my target to twice a week instead and build up from there.”
              • Adjust up: “I have consistently hit my target of reading two hours per week. I enjoyed reading that much and learned a lot. Let’s increase the target to two and a half hours.”
              • Stop tracking: “I used to drink too much coffee some days when I hadn’t slept enough the previous night but over time I managed to ingrain a new habit. I don’t drink more than two cups a day anymore.”
              • Replace: “I liked the idea of practicing martial arts but I fail on this goal week after week. I realize that I don’t enjoy the process as much as I liked the idea. It’s time to switch to another sport.”

              Try and do such a review of your habits at least every other month. It will help you adjust your trajectory over time.

              Forget about the magic potion

                Rome wasn’t built in a day, I know it’s cliché but it’s always true. There really is no shortcut to a happy and fulfilled life. One has to be persistent, and walk day after day. It’s incredible how far we can get when we walk in the same direction without stopping, even at a gentle pace.

                Forming habits definitely requires effort, especially at the beginning as you have to overcome inertia. Please keep fighting. If you don’t fight, you run the risk of going through life without really living.

                Make this effort, focus on repetition, and day after day it will get easier. The habit of doing will replace the habit of not doing. It’s challenging to get started, but it’s also difficult to stop once you get started.

                Featured photo credit: Picjumbo via picjumbo.com

                Reference

                More by this author

                Damien Catani

                Founder at GOALMAP

                You Are 7 Steps Away From Making A Habit Last Why I Can Be the Only 8% of People Who Reach the Goal Every Single Time How I Bounced Back From a Fiasco

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                Last Updated on December 2, 2019

                How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

                How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

                Are you the kind of person who wants to achieve massive success in your life? Do you have the mental toughness to make that happen?

                I think we can all agree that no matter your ambitions, achieving success can be difficult; and over time, the daily grind can take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional energy.

                Achievers and high performers from all walks of life face ups and downs along the path to success—they face failure, burnout, discouragement, fatigue, self-limiting beliefs, stress, and so much more.

                How do some people continually strive towards their personal goals year after year while others give up on them? How do those people stay strong and persevere when there is so much stacked against them?

                Studies now show that mental strength is a critical key to success. If you haven’t read Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, you should. In it, she shows that “the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls ‘grit.’” In other words, mental toughness plays a significant role when it comes to achieving goals.

                Sometimes, our goals wear us down and leave us feeling exhausted. Other times, our goals get difficult, and success seems impossible, so we lose hope, become discouraged, and want to quit.

                At its core, mental toughness is simply the ability to stick to something when the going gets tough. People with high levels of mental toughness can push beyond these obstacles and forge a path towards success while those with lower levels of mental toughness may abandon their dreams.

                Want to know the good news?

                No matter who you are, what you’ve been told, or what you currently believe, you can develop the mental toughness you need to be successful.

                All you need to do is learn to develop a positive mindset, focus on your why, and utilize the people around you for support.

                1. Develop a Positive Mindset

                If you’re going to increase your mental toughness, the first thing you have to do is focus on building a strong, positive mindset.

                According to the Cleveland Clinic, the average person has 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 95% of those thoughts repeat each day and, on average, 80% of repeated ideas are negative.[1]

                That’s roughly 45,600 negative thoughts per day!

                Carrying around these negative thoughts is like going on a hike in the mountains with a backpack full of rocks. The hike is hard enough on its own, but having extra junk weighing you down is a recipe for failure.

                Sometimes, building mental toughness isn’t as much about building new strength as it is about saving your strength for the right tasks. Wouldn’t it be easier to dump the rocks out of the backpack instead of trying to get strong enough to carry the extra weight?

                Absolutely!

                But how can we learn to spot those 45,600 negative thoughts and get rid of them? How can we empty our metaphorical backpack?

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                Well, it gets a whole lot easier if you know what you’re looking for. Some of the most prominent types of negative thoughts are self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, and dwelling.

                Let Go of Self-Limiting Beliefs

                It’s pretty hard to be mentally tough when you’re constantly beating yourself up. Self-limiting beliefs are any beliefs that hold you back in some way. Here are some examples:

                “I’m not smart enough to…”

                “I don’t have enough experience to…”

                “I’ve tried that before, and it didn’t go well, so I must just be bad at…”

                When we allow these self-limiting beliefs to flood our minds, negative self-talk runs rampant, and we crowd out our ability to think positively. We’re effectively working against ourselves.

                If you want to keep your mind strong on your path to success, you have to overcome the self-limiting beliefs that are holding you back by realizing one key truth: self-limiting beliefs are thoughts, not facts.

                When you recognize a self-limiting belief cropping up in your mind, quickly silence it by telling yourself that it’s not true and then back that up with some positive affirmations:

                • “I am smart enough; I may just need to do some more research first.”
                • “I may not have as much experience as someone else, but that’s not going to stop me from trying. I have enough experience to get started. I’ll figure the rest out on the way.”
                • “Just because I failed at this last time doesn’t mean I’m going to fail this time. My past does not dictate my future.”

                Get Rid of the All-or-Nothing Thinking

                Another form of negative thinking that could be preventing you from building mental toughness is all-or-nothing thinking.

                All-or-nothing thinking is the concept of thinking in extremes. You are either a success or a failure. Your performance was totally good or totally awful. If you’re not perfect, then you’re a failure.

                But this isn’t true!

                If you’re trying to lose 30 pounds and only lost 28, isn’t that still better than not losing any weight at all? I’d say so!

                If you allow all-or-nothing thinking to rule your mind, you’ll be on cloud nine when you succeed, but you’ll beat yourself up when you “fail.” Acknowledging the shades of gray in between will allow you to see success more often and it will help you celebrate your smaller wins.

                When you recognize an all-or-nothing thought, remember to look for the positive in the situation. What did you gain by trying? What would you have missed out on had you not tried? Could you do better if you were to try again?

                Ditch the Dwelling

                Self-Limiting Beliefs and All-or-Nothing Thinking can lead to a bad case of dwelling on the negative. If you want to build some mental toughness and keep your mind strong, you have to ditch the dwelling.

                Every day, bad things happen to each of us, and while there’s nothing we can do to prevent that, we can control how we react to these situations.

                When we dwell on our misfortunes, we waste massive amounts of energy that we could be using to achieve our goals. When this happens, we’re more likely to quit altogether.

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                But that doesn’t mean you’re not mentally tough; it just means you’re misusing your energy.

                The next time something bad happens, it’s important to allow yourself to feel the disappointment and frustration, but work on reducing the amount of time you dwell on the situation.

                Easier said than done, right? Try these:

                1. Call a friend or mentor and talk it through with them. Get some outside perspective on your situation.
                2. Time block your dwelling by allowing yourself to dwell for no more than one hour.
                3. Then, tell yourself to move on, that you’re human, and you’re allowed to make mistakes or experience setbacks.
                4. If all else fails, find a good way to distract yourself until you can calm down and reexamine things with a clear mind.

                The faster you can focus on the positives and move past the problem, the quicker you can get back to achieving success in your life.

                Be Patient about the Process

                No matter which negative thoughts tend to run around your mind, working to replace them with positive thoughts can take time.

                Learning to spot self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, or dwelling is one thing, but learning to quiet those thoughts is another thing entirely.

                If at first you don’t succeed, don’t fret. Instead, take a deep breath and try again. As you work towards improving your mindfulness and your mental toughness, remember that you’re going to get better with time.

                To make things a little easier, it helps to connect with your purpose.

                2. Connect with Your Purpose

                One of the most critical elements to building mental toughness and keeping a strong and focused mind is having a strong ‘why’ for everything you want to do.

                If you set out to achieve a huge goal that you don’t have a ‘why’ for, you’re going to find yourself distracted, discouraged, or disengaged as soon as you experience your first setback.

                Think about the last time you were working on a goal or resolution and things weren’t going well, maybe you even wanted to quit. Perhaps you thought you didn’t have enough willpower. Maybe you told yourself that you didn’t have enough discipline.

                Here’s the truth: you just didn’t have a strong enough why.

                Simon Sinek has been spreading his message “Start with Why” across the globe.[2] In short, he says that:

                “Your ‘why’ is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you.”

                One of the biggest drains on your mental energy is pursuing a goal or a task that you don’t have a ‘why’ for. This is when we tend to look for external motivation or question our willpower, but those aren’t the issues.

                Often, we set goals because we like the idea of the goal, not the reality of the goal. Without connecting to our why, we can’t intrinsically motivate ourselves to achieve our most challenging goals.

                Find Intrinsic Motivation

                Intrinsic motivation is our innate desire to do something and it comes when we work towards something that satisfies ourselves above all else—not our parents or our bosses or our teachers.

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                Let’s say you think you want to quit smoking because you know it’s bad for you, but you really enjoy smoking. If you don’t truly want to quit smoking, it’s going to be nearly impossible, regardless of your willpower or mental toughness.

                But if you want to quit smoking because you just had a baby, and you don’t want your baby growing up around smoke, then that ‘why’ is going to give you intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is far more powerful than sheer stubborn willpower, and it’s far easier to maintain over the long haul.

                If you’re trying to develop mental toughness, connecting a why to everything you want to achieve will reduce the effort and energy it will take to achieve those things. Once you’ve found a strong why for all of your goals, you’ll find that you’ll have significantly more energy to pursue your more difficult challenges.

                3. Find Strength in Unity

                The final aspect of developing mental toughness is embracing the idea that you’re not in this alone. It’s a fact, anyone who’s ever achieved success in anything didn’t do so alone.

                Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft alone. Oprah didn’t build her network by herself. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the iPhone without a team. Michelle Obama didn’t implement the “Let’s Move” campaign on her own.

                Behind all of these successful people were countless other people who were there offering support, mentorship, guidance, and encouragement.

                If you want to develop unmatched mental toughness, you need to understand that you don’t have to go it alone. Even the toughest Navy Seals have a team backing them up.

                If you want to stay strong in your endeavors, you need to build a team of supporters who will step in and back you up when it counts.

                Find a Mentor or Committee of Mentors

                The benefits of having a great mentor are far too many to list, but to boil it down to the basics, a mentor is someone who will help show you the path to success.

                A good mentor will help you discover your greatest strengths, spot and overcome your blind spots, and work through your weaknesses.

                If you’re struggling to deal with your internal negativity or with finding your purpose, talk it through with a mentor. Sometimes we lose the forest for the trees, and a mentor can help us take a step back and see the bigger picture.

                Here’s how to find the right mentor for yourself: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

                Recruit Some Cheerleaders

                If you want to stay strong, it never hurts to have a group of personal cheerleaders. Unlike mentors who are going to jump in and help you address your problems, a group of cheerleaders will help keep your spirits up.

                Even if you have a strong ‘why’ and a positive mindset, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a positive attitude 100% of the time. It doesn’t make you weak to need some help from time to time. Having a group of people cheering you on will make all the difference in the world.

                As you work towards your goals, tell a few close friends about what you’re doing, and when things get tough, tell them about it. And when they give you the pep talk you need, don’t resist their positivity or counter it with your self-limiting beliefs or your all-or-nothing attitude.

                Allow their optimism to refill your energy and use that energy to press on.

                Form an Accountability Group

                Cheerleaders are great, but sometimes we need someone to give us the kick we need to keep going. You might have a strong ‘why’ for running a marathon or losing 30 pounds, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy; and trying to force yourself to follow through is a sure way to tax your mental energy.

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                Why not save some of your mental energy by forming an accountability group?

                Find a person or a few people who have similar goals, or at the very least, the need for an accountability partner. Then, form an agreement within the group to push each other every day.

                Even if your goals aren’t the same, accountability partners are great for giving us the push we need when we need it most.

                Regardless of which relationships you choose, sometimes we have to be able to work through things on our own. Mentors, cheerleaders, and accountability partners are a great way for us to combat our naturally negative mindsets, but occasionally we have to be able to pick ourselves back up.

                4. Learn to Pick Yourself Back Up After Setbacks

                Building a strong mindset and developing mental toughness isn’t easy! Anyone who’s ever achieved massive success knows that obstacles, setbacks, and failure are inevitable, and you’re no different.

                As you work on your goals, you’re going to face many ups and downs, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t have mental toughness, willpower, or discipline.

                We all struggle. We all fail. It’s what we decide to do after we fail that truly counts.

                When you find yourself in a low spot, ask yourself these questions:

                • “Am I being too hard on myself?”
                • “Are negative thoughts such as Self-Limiting Beliefs or All-or-Nothing Thinking distorting my view?”
                • “What’s the positive side of this setback/obstacle/failure?”
                • “Why was this goal important to me? What was my purpose?”
                • “Is this goal still important to me? Do I still have a ‘why’?”
                • “Who can I ask for help? Who can mentor me or cheer me on? Who can help hold me accountable?”

                Asking yourself these questions is a great way to check in on your mindset. When we get lost in negative thinking or lose connection to our purpose, it’s far too easy to become discouraged. When we feel discouraged, we start feeling weak, maybe even a little hopeless.

                Also, this article provides some useful tips to help you get back on track: How to Deal with Failure and Pick Yourself Back Up

                Tying it All Together

                Are you still with me? I know I’ve thrown a lot at you, from developing a positive mindset and combatting your internal voice to connecting with purpose and building a committee of mentors. It’s a lot to take it!

                But here’s the bottom line:

                A crucial part of developing mental toughness is learning to recognize these tendencies and taking action to correct them early on. Developing mental toughness is not about eliminating weakness, but learning how to deal with it and overcome it.

                No one is perfect, but when we focus on the right things, we can develop a mental toughness worthy of life’s biggest challenges.

                More About Mental Strength

                Featured photo credit: Zulmaury Saavedra via unsplash.com

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