Creating Great Habits For Success

Yeah, yeah, it works, we all know it works, except that sometimes it doesn’t. We know that it takes anywhere from 21 to 90 days to establish a habit (depending on your level of commitment, the strength of your self-limiting beliefs and your “why”).

But let’s be realistic – who has time or discipline to work on that habit day in and day out ‘til it’s established?

Life gets in the way at the most inconvenient times. All it takes is a small break in the routine and you’re back to your old ways.

Well, here’s a brilliant little trick I learned that will make adopting any habit much easier. You already know that you can only take one step at a time – but the real secret to success is… not taking a step. Just put on your shoes. Here’s why:

Introducing any change to your routine can cause internal resistance (it’s ironic, although the brain’s neuroplasticity would suggest that it loves novelty, it actually prefers routine (habit) and automation). The secret is to sneak the new habit in with a daily action that is so ridiculously small, takes no time, and isn’t worth the mental effort of rebellion – you know, the 101 excuses why you can’t do it today.

writersLet’s take the example of writing a book. In an ideal world (and I try my best to practice this every day with my own book), dedicating 15 minutes to writing will quickly yield astonishing results. Even though you don’t always feel like writing, or sometimes what you write is just dreadful, you are still keeping the creative juices flowing and you are making steady progress.

But. There’s always a “but.” You’re completely wiped out after a hard day at work. Your kid has a fever. Your in-laws are visiting. You spent the day dealing with tech support and you can’t face another nanosecond in front of the computer. Your contact lenses are dry.

If you have Ninja-like discipline and you can overcome these objections, you’re amazing. But let enough excuses create a gap in the routine, and… well, it was a great idea to write a book, “but maybe it’s just not the right time… I’ll pick it up again when the kids are grown/I’m retired/I solve this computer problem…”

That never happens. So, back to the secret I want to share. Still using the book example…

Identify the ideal time of day for you to work on this project. Next, identify one positive routine that’s already in place during that time. For example, let’s say you do your best thinking very early in the morning. What else do you do, no matter what, first thing in the morning? Do you turn on the coffee maker? Great – that’s your “hook.”

For the first week to one month*, all you’re going to do is get up, turn on the coffee maker and initiate your new habit. Just open your Word document or physical book (whatever medium you are using to do your writing). Do not write. Just open the document (initiate the behavior). Briefly visualize yourself happily writing, but do not do it. Go about your normal morning routine. Continue doing nothing more every day than turning on the coffee maker and opening your document. This “hooks” the new habit onto a positive existing habit and makes it so much easier to associate positive feelings with the new habit.

(*until you don’t have to think about it any more)

One day, you’re not going to give the new habit any more thought than you do turning on the coffee maker. You’re already conditioned to start… and this automatically creates the desire to actually write (or go run, or study the stock market, etc.).

warningWhen you hit the magical mark where this tiny new habit is established, start writing. How long, isn’t as important as the fact that you actually write. As long as you turn on your coffee maker, open your document and write. By now, you’re so used to this that you will naturally find time to write, because the whole thing feels so good.

The real secret is the “hook” – attaching a tiny new habit to an existing positive habit.

Think about a goal you have, and a small daily action you “should” take on it. Then focus only on initiating that action – the very first thing you do: putting on your running shoes; opening your document; setting up your easel; putting on your gardening gloves; turning on your PC, etc. That is all you will be doing until it feels completely natural and you have a strong motivation to continue building on that tiny action. This works for any goal!!

Just do it….