New Beginnings - the importance of starting new habits
One of the big ‘habit myths’ is the belief that it only takes 21 days to form a new habit.
Newer research on this subject however shows that this common belief isn’t true. The time it takes to form a new habit can vary widely depending on the behaviour, the person, and the circumstances, between other factors. A lot of variation exists, both among people and among habits – some people are more habit-resistant than others, and some habits are harder to pick up (or give up) than others.
Before starting new habits, think about your real motivation and needs. Bear in mind that habits are responses to needs. This sounds obvious, but countless efforts at habit change ignore its implications. If you eat badly, you might resolve to start eating well, but if you're eating chocolate to feel comforted and happy, trying to replace them with carrots will not help. In this case, what's required isn't a better diet, but an alternative way to feel comforted and relaxed.
The following steps are based upon results from behavioural psychology research and explain what it takes to start new habits:
Step 1: Choose a Habit That’s Incredibly Easy to Start
To create a new habit, you must first simplify the behaviour. Make it tiny, even ridiculous. A good tiny behaviour is easy to do – and fast.
Example: Walk 3 minutes or do 2 push-ups
In the beginning, performance doesn’t matter. You can build up to the level of performance that you want once the behaviour becomes consistent.
Step 2: Integrate it in your routine
Find an existing routine to be your reminder for the new tiny behaviour.
For example, let’s say you want to build a new habit of doing 10 push-ups each day at lunchtime. You might start by choosing a time-based trigger and saying something like, “During my lunch break each day, I’ll do 10 push-ups.” This might work, but it’s not very specific.
Alternatively, you could create a trigger around a very specific preceding event that happens right around your lunch break. For example, “When I close my laptop to leave for lunch, I’ll do 10 push-ups.” In this case, the very specific action of “closing the laptop” is a perfect trigger for what to do next (your 10 push-ups). There is no mistaking when you should do the new habit.
Step 3: Train the cycle
Focus on doing the little new behaviour as part of your routine- every day, or as much as possible. Keep the behaviour simple until it becomes a solid habit. It’s important to remember that lasting change is a product of daily habits, not once–in–a–lifetime transformations.
The idea that when forming a new habit, you can't miss a day or all is lost is just another myth. Missing one opportunity to perform the behaviour does not materially affect the habit formation process. In other words, building better habits is not an all-or-nothing process.
Last but not least, don´t forget to celebrate. It’s especially important that you reward yourself each time you practice your new habit.