Have you started something new recently, but are having a hard time sticking with it? A new diet, an exercise program, a positive change you want to make in your life? We all have things we are working on daily or that we would like to improve on.We commonly hear that it takes doing something between 21 and 28 days for it to become a habit. I recently read a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology where 96 people were interested in forming a new habit such as eating fruit with breakfast or doing some sort of physical activity for 15 minutes each day. Participants then filled out a questionnaire each day to determine how automatic the task felt and if they completed the task. When the researchers examined the different habits, for many of the participants a plateau in automaticity was reached after 66 days. Basically it had become as much of a habit as it was ever going to become. Although the average was 66 days, there was marked variation in how long habits took to form, anywhere from 18 days up to 254 days in the habits examined in this study. For example drinking a glass of water a day probably became habit much quicker than say doing 15 Pull ups every morning.
As you can see habits take time to form and there isn’t magic bullet or easy way to turn something hard or new into a habit. It takes persistence and hard work; BUT there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of making that something new stick and become a habit.
1. Pick one small Goal you would like to focus on: For example if you want to become a runner. Don’t decide you are going to start running 3 miles every day. Especially if the only place you have run recently was to the bathroom. Start with something obtainable like. I am going to run 100m or even smaller. I am going to walk around the block each day
2. Write it down: Write down your goal AND write down WHY you want to achieve this goal. The WHY is important. It will serve as a reminder when you are having a hard day and don’t feel like taking action on your goal. Place the Goal and the WHY in several places you will see it during the day
3. Recruit: Recruit a friend to participate in your same goal or even a different goal. This will allow you to have a support system and allow you to be accountable to someone other than yourself
4. Plan: Set a specific time each day that you will accomplish your new goal or task. Put it on your calendar, set your alarm. Your goal is as important as anything else that busies your life. Make the time!
5. Put on one Shoe at a Time: Make yourself a promise to just put one shoe on at a time. What I mean by this is, you will have days that will be hard. Days where the last thing you want to do is complete your task toward achieving your goal. At this point you need to keep your promise and just slide your feet in your shoes. Just take that first step toward your task. Drop that piece of food you are trying to avoid. Get in your car and point it toward the gym. Taking just a little first step often times will be enough to get you through it!
The human mind and body is amazing! Everyone of us has the ability to make positive changes in our lives. Make the commitment to yourself and take that first baby step.