What are habits anyway? By definition a habit is “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.” I think it’s really easy to think about negative things when we hear the word “habit,” like biting your nails, or eating something sweet after every meal (guilty). In reality, most everything we do is a habit, good or bad. To break it down, habits are choices we purposely make at some point, but eventually stop thinking about doing, and begin doing them automatically. We don’t even realize there was a process that happened in order to form that habit. For example, brushing your teeth after you eat a meal, or washing your hands after you go to the bathroom (at least I hope you do these things So how can you consciously form new, healthy habits? Let’s break down a simple 3 step process on how to form new habits, and get to creating your action plan! Get your FREE Habit Forming Action Plan Workbook down below, grab a cup a coffee, and follow along!
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Forming habits is a science, and our mainstream perception of how to form new habits is all wrong. People seem to think that to form a new habit, you just need willpower and motivation. That’s not exactly true. Sure, having those things helps, but they’re not enough to get a habit to stick. The truth is, it’s really difficult to stick to a habit without setting up an actionable system to help you.Forming new habits requires more than willpower, you need an actionable system! Click To Tweet
The 3 Step Habit Loop
Let’s take a look at the facts.
Journalist and author Charles Duhigg talks about a 3 step habit loop in his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. I haven’t read the book myself, but I’ve researched the 3 step habit forming concept. Basically, the steps of the habit loop are:
- Cue: trigger for your brain that initiates the habit behavior
- Routine: the habit itself
- Reward: the good stuff you gain from doing the habit
Bonus tip: I’ve also heard this process referred to as the “Three R’s of Habit Change.” So instead of “cue” you can use “reminder” to make the process easy to remember.
First, you need to establish what your routine is going to be. For example, I want to form a habit of going to the gym after work. So my “routine” is exactly that, going to the gym after work.
Next, identify what your “cue” or “reminder” is to initiate the new habit. This is basically a visual reminder. Something that’s going to make your brain say “ok it’s time to do (new habit).” Honestly, most of our behavior can be explained in this way. It’s as simple as you waking up, walking to the kitchen, seeing the coffee machine, and brewing coffee. Your cue is the coffee machine. Another cue is probably the fact that its morning time, and many of us have a habit of drinking morning coffee (I sure do).
Charles Duhigg actually describes 5 potential kinds of cues. Think about:
- where are you?
- what time is it?
- what is your emotional state?
- who else is around?
- what action did you do prior to feeling the urge to do the behavior?
Finally, identify the reward. Let’s use the coffee example again:
My cue = coffee machine / morning time
My routine = brewing & drinking the coffee
My reward = how great the coffee tastes & that feeling of relaxation and happiness
The reward is essentially your reason for the habit. It makes the habit worth your time. Coffee makes me feel happy so I’ve developed a habit of drinking it every morning. For the gym example from earlier, the energized feeling that I get after I work out is the reward. The long term reward could even be improved health, well-being, and energy levels. Basically, understand why you want to form this habit. What’s in it for you?
Bonus tip: It’s important to work towards forming habits that are important to you, not habits that other people are telling you that you should form. If you don’t have genuine interest in it, and can’t identify the reward, the habit isn’t going to stick.
Action Plan to Form New Habits
Okay now that we know the science behind habits let’s talk how to actually make this work for us.
First, define the new habits that you want to create.
Next, make a list of things that you do without fail every day. For example, brushing your teeth, taking a shower, getting into bed at night, waking up in the morning, eating lunch, having your morning coffee etc.
These “never fail” behaviors are going to serve as your “anchors” for your new habits! This will be much easier to visualize if you have your Habit Forming Action Plan Workbook because there’s a worksheet specifically for this. Author, James Clear, discusses this process here. The example he gives is this: to form the habit of flossing everyday, use brushing your teeth as the “anchor” behavior to remind you to floss (so brushing your teeth is the “cue!”). He adds that you can take it a step further and place your floss on the counter next to your toothbrush so you really can’t forget. Simple right? Basically, attach new habits to old habits. Remember that the old habit serves as your “cue.”
Maybe you want to start of new habit of meditating in the morning, or listening to an inspirational podcast before you go to sleep. If you already have a habit of drinking coffee in the morning, use that as a “cue” for your desired meditation habit. Maybe while your coffee is brewing, sit down and start a 5 meditation. If you do this for a while, the two behaviors will eventually get associated together in your head, and bam! you have a new habit. Let’s put this all together:
Cue = brewing coffee
Routine = meditation
Reward = calmness and relaxation (or whatever benefit you’re looking for from meditation)
Extra Tips & Tricks
So how long do you need to practice your new routine behavior before it becomes a real habit? Honestly, through what I’ve read there’s no clear answer for this. Some say 21 days, some say 30 days, and some say there really is no time limit. So I challenge you to keep at your new behavior for a month. I’ve included a habit tracker inside the Habit Forming Action Plan Workbook that you can use to hold yourself accountable! Something about crossing days off a chart helps keep me motivated, so try it yourself and see how well it works!Form new healthy habits with this free action plan workbook! Click To Tweet
Well what if I miss a day?
I think missing one day of practicing your new habit is okay. However, I’ve read that you shouldn’t skip two days. It seems like missing more than one day can really disrupt the habit forming process. So try your best not to let this happen!
Another tip is to have an accountability partner. I find that when I have someone holding me accountable for something that I want to accomplish it helps me to stay motivated. Especially in the beginning stages of trying to form a new habit. It’s even better when that person is working towards the same goal as me! For example, it’s much easier for me to get myself to the gym if I’m going with my boyfriend or a friend. That way, we can motivate each other to go, and it’s just much more fun.
Writing down your new habit goals so that you can visualize them is another great tip. That’s why I created the Habit Forming Action Plan Workbook to help you keep track of your ultimate habit goal and hold yourself accountable! Get yours using the box below! I’d also like to thank my girl Asha from Adventures with Asha for making my workbook an editable PDF! Yes girl, you can type in the workbook on your computer if you’re a digital kind of girl. The habit tracker that’s included inside even has these super cool check boxes so you can track your habits using the computer based version too! WHAAT. Mind blown hahah. Make sure you pay Asha’s blog a visit as well when you’re done here!
Let me know what new healthy habits you’d love to form! What’s getting in your way?