Two Game-Changing Tricks To Build Strong Habits
If there is one thing that stands out from all the productivity, business, and self-help books I have read, it is habits. Habits are the most instrumental tool in getting us closer to our goals. Success is the product of daily routines, not once in a lifetime transformations.
“Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits. Your net worth is a lagging measure of your financial habits. Your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits. Your knowledge is a lagging measure of your learning habits. Your clutter is a lagging measure of your cleaning habits. You get what you repeat.” — James Clear
There are some exceptional resources available online and in books that talk about the power of habits and give a comprehensive guide on how to form strong ones. However, in this article, I want to focus on some smaller, more subtle tips and tricks I have learned which have enabled me to form long-lasting habits.
Streaks and tracking
Underpinning all of the other tips in this article is a strong habit tracking system, one where you can track your day to day progress and get a little hit of dopamine each time you click that check button. What is significant about the system is the focus on streaks.
Simply put, when you start establishing a streak, it creates a potent psychological motivator to not break the streak. We all suffer from the sunk cost fallacy, and to lose a streak after we have spent weeks working towards it is not a pleasant feeling. In contrast, each time we extend the streak by another day and get it closer to large numbers 10,100,1000, we feel the satisfaction of the day and the compound satisfaction of doing it every day for the past 100 days.
Most people fail to build long-lasting habits because of a loss of motivation. When you start a habit, you are riding a high of inspiration and optimism. However, as time starts to go on, motivation fades, and what once seemed like an easy to do and enjoyable task becomes a source of dread and anxiety. Often the habit can be quite challenging: read 20 pages a day, run 5km a day, do ten pushups and when motivation is taken out of the equation, the likelihood of achieving challenging daily habits is certain.
However, what if the habit were stupidly easy, almost to the extent that it would be harder to not do the habit than do it! Micro habits is a way to achieve this; instead of setting the goal for a habit to do 20 pushups a day, set it as one push up a day. Instead of trying to read 20 pages a day, read two sentences; instead of running 5km, put on your shoes and run 50 m from your house. There is simply no way you do not have the time nor motivation to read two sentences or do just one pushup.
By starting our habits as micro habits, we 100% guarantee success. The beauty of this is two-fold.
Firstly the hardest thing about doing something is starting; once you are already doing one push up, it is effortless to convince yourself to do ten more; after reading two sentences, reading another few becomes frictionless. It is the 0 to 1, which is the hard part; if we do not have the motivation and the task is cumbersome, our brain will come up with every possible excuse to not do the task at hand. But if we can take motivation out of the equation because it is so ridiculously easy to achieve, we are no longer dependent on motivation to start building our habits.
Secondly, microhabitats kick start our streaks. Streaks are the jet fuel to build long-lasting habits! After you have meditated ten days in a row, even if it is just for 1 minute each day, mediating for the 11th day in a row will be that much easier and accessible, even if you meditate for longer.
If your microhabitat is to meditate for 1 minute a day and you end up doing it longer great! However, keep the bar at just one minute a day to add another day to your streak. When you feel ready, and you’re consistently achieving your microhabitats for at least a week, you can gradually start to increase the bar. Raise the goal to 5 minutes of meditation a day, or five pushups a day and once you have achieved that, increase the bar again.
This gradual approach will allow you to ease your way into your habit; you will develop the patterns and behaviours that makes it easier and easier, so once you finally set your habit to a challenging level, like to read 20 pages a day, it will feel effortless, and you will have weeks worth of streaks to motivate you further.
This post is part of a 30-day writing challenge I am doing. Every day for 30 days, I am posting an article of at least 500 words. If you notice that I miss a day, I will buy you lunch.