The number one reason people fail at creating and sticking to new habits is that they don't keep doing it.
In this age of convenience where everything we want is always available, it becomes more difficult to do things that produce rewards later on. If I want to learn the guitar, I will suck for quite a while because it takes time to get better! Of course there is and should be time for us to relax and enjoy life — that is after all our reward, but our reward is not as satisfying when we lack organization and self-progress.
When looked at this way, the most important aspect of forming a habit is not how much or how often the habit is performed each day, but whether you do it at all. We just need to get started.
The key is to view each day as if it were the first day we were starting something. Think of the excitement that comes with starting something new. If we could let that same excitement persist overtime, then wouldn't we find it much easier to stay on track?
What do I mean by starting?
If you want to form the habit of organizing, just give 5 minutes of your day to labeling old boxes or clearing your email inbox. If you want to form the habit of running, just lace up your shoes and get our the door. If you want to form the habit of writing, just sit down, close everything else on your computer, and start typing.
Form the habit of starting, and you’ll get good at forming habits.
When Resistance Comes
Form the habit of starting — easier said than done, right? What happens when you wake up and don’t feel like doing yoga or cleaning out the back of the fridge.
Let’s first take a look at why you don’t feel like starting. It’s usually for one or both of these reasons:
You are comfortable with doing something fun or relaxing and the habit is less comfortable. We adhere to the comfortable.
For any number of reasons, it’s too difficult to get started — you have to drive 20 minutes to the yoga class, devote time to going to the park, or turn the TV off to read a book, etc.
Those are the main two reasons, and really they’re the same thing.
So one solution is to make it easier and more comfortable to do the habit, easier to get started. Some ways of doing that:
- Focus on the smallest thing — just do it. 5 minutes is all you need. It's so simple it’s hard to say no.
- Make the habit something you can do where you are, instead of having to drive there.
- If you have to drive or walk somewhere, have someone meet you there. Then you’re less likely to stay home or work, and more likely to go (and going there is the same thing as getting started!). This works because you’re making it less comfortable to not start — the idea of leaving a friend waiting for you at the gym or park is not a comfortable one.
- Tell people you trust that you’re starting something. Having this kind of accountability motivates you to get started, and makes it less comfortable not to start.
- Start with the easiest version of the habit, so that it’s easy to start. For example, if you want to form the habit of running, don't run a marathon tomorrow, but a short 15 minute jog. If you want to start yoga, don’t start with a really challenging routine, but an easy series of sun salutations.
Make it as easy as possible to start, and hard to not start. Tell yourself that all you have to do is lace up your shoes and get out the door, and you’ll have a hard time saying no. Once you’ve started, you’ll feel good and probably want to continue (though that’s not a necessity).
The start is now. There is no better time to start something than right this moment. Plant the seed of a new habit, tend to it, and watch it grow. At the end you will accomplish your goal and you will want to accomplish more.