We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. – Will Durant
All the little things you do every day make up your habits.
And did you know that habits are the little daily routine actions that can be the difference between failure and success (yes, it’s that serious!)?
Habits don’t require a lot of motivation. Instead, the right habits put discipline in your life.
Your Brain And Habits
Your brain really likes to be efficient.
The cerebellum is your primitive brain that is constantly trying to keep you safe and alive. The best way your brain knows how to do this is to repeat what it’s done in the past as efficiently as possible. When you do something new and different that is unfamiliar to your brain it goes into fight or flight mode.
The secret to hacking your way into designing your dream life, with as little resistance as possible, is by incorporating supportive habits into your life, so you don’t have to rely on focusing so much on your goals and the future.
Here is how habits work. There is a:
Here’s an example. Every day when you get home from work you turn on the TV and watch an episode of your favorite show. The trigger is getting home and walking into your living room where you see the remote sitting on the table and the TV waiting for you to turn it on. The routine is the actual behavior of turning on the TV every day that you’ve repeated for so long. The benefit is the feeling you get from watching the show (maybe stress relief, avoiding your thoughts and feelings about the day, etc.). You’re escaping your day and it feels great. This habit is going to derail you from any goal you have because it’s wasting time and not helping you grow or accomplish your goals.
The key is to come up with habits that support your goal and values in life.
You can do this in many ways.
You can change your habits by changing your triggers, changing your routine, or changing the benefit.
You can structure your environment to prompt better behavior and prevent the bad ones. Basically designing your environment to support your happiness, well-being, and success. Or, think about what you’re getting from it (the benefit), and ask yourself it there’s a different way for you to get that benefit by substituting a better habit there.
Want more? Check out these books about habits:
- High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way by Brendon Burchard
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
- The Achievement Habit: Stop Wishing, Start Doing, and Take Command of Your Life By Bernard Roth
- The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
- The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness by Jeff Olson
How To Implement Habits
Here’s a look at how you can add amazing habits to your life to get the results you want the most.
The first step to starting a new habit is to make a list of habits you think will help you move toward designing your dream life or a specific goal.
I suggest coming up with at least 5-10 habits.
Notice that when you plan your goals, you plan the result you want to accomplish. Habits are the opposite. When you start a new habit, you are focus on the process. E.g.: “Blog from 6am-8am” is a habit to start if you want to build a blog. But after you introduce that habit, you still need to plan the results you expect to produce during that time.
So, come up with a list of habits that you think would help you get the results you want in your life.
The second step is to choose 1 habit from your list of supportive habits to start right now (e.g. Get up at 5am).
This is the activity that you’re going to implement in your life right now and turn it into a habit.
Start doing it right away.
If it’s too big for you to implement (you just can’t get up at 5am yet), start by coaching yourself and looking at the thoughts and beliefs you’re having about waking up. Ask yourself at night “what can I do to make getting up at 5am possible for me?”
You can also fix your environment and routine so that you actually get up.
Finally, you can try doing something smaller, to make an incremental change, before going all in (e.g.: getting up 15 minutes earlier instead of going straight for the 5am).
Whatever works for you – do that!
The third step is to expect resistance.
Your brain doesn’t like new things, remember. It’s going to resist this. But you’ve already made the choice, so honor your commitment and push through that resistance, knowing it’s temporary.
This is where your thought and emotional work needs to kick in. Know your why and like your reasoning for starting the new habit.
Treat yourself with the respect, integrity, and love that you would anyone for anyone else. Be your own best friend and hold yourself accountable to the choices you’ve already made.
The fourth step is stick with it.
The new habit you’re introducing isn’t actually a habit yet.
So, it’s going to take some effort, and maybe will power.
But the good news is that over time your brain will turn it into a habit if you stick with it.
So, keep going, even if you have a few slip ups.
People always want to know how long it’s going to take for something to become a habit.
The truth is that it’s not 21 days. There is actually no magic number for something becoming a habit.
It depends on the amount of friction you have with the new activity and how difficult the activity is for you to do.
If you started flossing every day, you might find it’s so easy and becomes a habit in 14 days.
If you started running 3 miles at 5 am, you may find that it takes you 45 days to stop hating your life.
The truth is that it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to implement a new habit. You need to just keep going.
Your brain will eventually turn the activity into a habit for you because that’s how your brain works. Trust it.
A Final Note.
If you do this process, you won’t need constant motivation. Instead, you’ll be disciplined in the right habits and you will succeed.