“Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Like Rome, habits cannot be cultivated overnight. Likewise, bad habits are just as hard to eliminate. Fortunately, with sheer willpower and consistent practice, it is possible to build new habits and get rid of old ones.
For most of us, we create New Year’s resolutions at the beginning of each year, some of which include going to the gym more often, eat less and so on and so forth. As for me, my goal was to wake up earlier every morning to do yoga. Last year, I gave myself excuses for not waking up earlier than I should and as a result, I can barely touch my toes. This year, however, I started to form a habit of waking up in the wee hours of the morning to do yoga and for the past few weeks, I’ve been able to not only touch my toes, but also do a backbend.
Growing up, I’ve been told that it takes anywhere from 21 days to a month to form a new habit. In my opinion, this idea holds true for people looking to form simple habits such as eating a fruit a day or greeting one person that you meet each day. Other habits, such as sticking to a diet or going to the gym at least three times a week, are more difficult to maintain and take longer time to form because there are many distractions as well as other priorities that can get in the way. More often than not, these habits may require you to make changes to your schedule and lifestyle.
It takes a lot of discipline and patience to build and maintain a habit. Below are some ways that can help you form a new habit, both in your personal and professional lives:
- Identify your goal and write it down
It is better to pick a habit that you want to build and work towards it one step at a time so that you will be more focused in achieving what you have set out to do. It can be overwhelming if you want to build too many habits at the same time and you may be discouraged when times are tough. Write down that goal and put it at a place where you can see it everyday to remind you of it.
- Start now
Don’t wait until tomorrow, next week or next month to start forming the habit, even if it’s something as small as running for ten minutes today. It will make you feel a whole lot better knowing that you are one step closer to fully developing your new habit.
- Break your goal (building a new habit) into smaller goals
When you break down your goal into smaller, achievable goals, it is easier to keep track of your progress. Write down your progress to see how far you’ve come and how much further you need to go to achieve your goal. If you want to wake up an hour earlier in the morning, start with setting your alarm five minutes early. In time, you will be able to train yourself to wake up 10 minutes, 15 minutes earlier and so on. If you are not making progress even with the smaller goals after some time, reevaluate what you are doing and make changes accordingly, even if you have to start over or find another way to form the new habit.
- Recognize your challenges and find solutions to each problem
You will definitely encounter some challenges in building new habits such as skipping your workout because you’re too busy or too tired to wake up earlier. You start giving excuses and if prolonged, you will become demotivated to build that habit that you wanted. In this situation, you have to be aware and acknowledge the challenges that you are facing and the reason that you are giving excuses. Once you’ve identified the challenges, try to find solutions to each problem. For example, if you are too tired to wake up early, ask yourself why are you too tired. If it is because you are overworked at the office, consult your supervisor to see whether anything can be done about your workload.
- Have someone hold you accountable
A good support system is essential in helping you to form a new habit. For example, if you want to make running around the park as part of your daily routine, it will be much easier for you to execute that plan if you have a partner or a group of friends who are willing to run with you. You will not only start cultivating the habit of running, but you’ll build a great relationship with the people around you.
- Reward yourself
Give yourself credit at the end of the day, week or when you have achieved one of your smaller goals by taking yourself out for dinner or buying an item that you really like. If things don’t go the way you expect them to be, cut yourself some slack because you are not doing this for anyone else – you are doing it for yourself. So enjoy the journey and never, ever give up!