The Easiest Way To Create New Habits

Ok, I’m gonna try and keep this one short cos it has the potential to be huge.

We’ve covered some stuff on habits so far, and to finish off this set of emails I’d like to give you some tips on creating and changing habits and provide some further reading for you too.

Let’s start with a reminder of the habit loop: cue, routine, reward.

In order for a routine to start to become habit it has to be repeated until it becomes autonomous, that is, you do it without having to be fully present. Depending on the routine and the person this can take anywhere from 18–254 days.

So what puts you off creating a good habit? It’s generally that your mind or brain resists the change. If you remember, I mentioned in the last email that we’re creatures of habit and we don’t respond very well to sudden and/or big changes. But there’s a way around that.

Let’s say you want to create the habit of regular exercise and you don’t currently exercise at all. You decide that your going to take up jogging for example and after scouring Google you decide that your going to train to run a marathon.

Errr… probably not going to happen.

Why?

For one the goal’s too big and too distant. After not exercising for a while your brain cannot even imagine running a marathon. It seems such a huge leap from where you are (not running at all) to the marathon (a mere 26.2 miles) that your brain resists to the extent that the plan never really takes off.

When setting goals it’s better to think small, in fact I’ll quote Stephen Guise and say “stupid small” (you’ll find out about Stephen later, I promise)

So let’s say you try to run a mile.

Still highly unlikely. Stupid small, remember.

Try walking around the block or even down to the end of the road and back. Easier? Much easier? Stupidly easy! You could do that right?

For a moment ignore the fact that you’re thinking “walk down the end of the street! What good will that do me?”

You want to create a habit and get into a routine. Walking round the block or to the end of the street is so easy you can’t fail, can you?

It’s ridiculously easy. So if you did that every day instead of trying to run or walk ’x’ amount of miles, you’d be getting some exercise and feeling GOOD about yourself everyday. Here’s the best bit…

If you feel that once you’ve achieved your target for the day, you’d like to do more, then do more. Walk round the block instead of to the end of the street, or if you walked round the block to begin with, walk a quarter or halfway round again.

Do this every day. You’re aiming for repetition so that the basal ganglia begins to get on board and starts to store this as a regular routine. You’ll be exercising every day and feeling good about yourself, which will encourage you to do more. And the brain doesn’t put up any resistance because there’s no sudden or big change, it’s so stupidly easy you CAN’T fail.

If you over deliver on your daily ’habit’ you’ll feel even more awesome. And I’ll guarantee you’ll over deliver. How could you not? Just your pride will move you to do little more if nothing else. And you’ll go to sleep every night satisfied that your on the path to creating a good habit that will last a lifetime.

Let me briefly cover changing a habit. One of my worst habits is wasting time on the Internet. Looking at Facebook for example, or surfing the net for pictures of cute kittens or hamsters. Sound familiar?

Looking to see if I have a cue for this behaviour, I generally find that I’ve become bored with whatever I’m doing at that particular time, like researching an area of health or writing a web page. When I get bored (cue) I perform the routine (go on Facebook) and get the reward (rush of dopamine).

If I want to change the habit I’ll need to insert a new routine to replace the old one. Instead of clicking to Facebook when I get bored, I could get up and stretch a little, or talk a short walk, or even go and put the kettle on for a cuppa.

Now, when that feeling of boredom hits me I’m going to become more aware of what I do if I’ve made a decision to consciously change my old habit. I it’ll allow me to stop and think for a sec, and then make my choice. If I can stick with the new routine for long enough it should become a habit.

I hope that makes some sense

But if you’re hankering for more let me suggest a couple of books.

The first book was suggested to me by Anne, one of my subscribers, on Saturday. It’s a short book, about 125 pages and I read it over the weekend, which is why I’ve taken so long to write this last email :-)

It’s excellent and like to thank Anne for sending me the link. Here it is:

Mini Habits

The second book is a little more in depth, but if you’re really serious about habits it’s worth a look. Personally, if you’re looking for the easy route to creating new habits go with the Mini-Habits book above. If you like more in depth info and research go with this one:

The Power of Habit

Bye for now

Mike

PS So much for a short email. This one’s turned into just under a 1000 words ;-)

PPS If you missed the first two emails on habit they're here:

The Sheer Power of Habit

The Habit Loop