3 Keys to Keeping a Habit
It’s mid-february which means we are losing our steam in regards to our New Years Resolutions, right? Trust me, I’ve been there, I’ve probably made about 200 New Years Resolutions and completed way less than half. We always look for “life-hacks” to stay on track with our habits and goals, but I’m here to tell you, it DOESN’T work! I’ve tried every shortcut in the book, and I always had the same results! I wasn’t staying consistent and ultimately lost my motivation for starting the habit to begin with.
Each morning I listen to a podcast, and a few weeks ago I listened to an interview with Charles Duhigg over on the Good Life Project. He mentioned that 45% of our daily activities are habit, that means nearly half of our waking day is spent on auto pilot so we can focus our mind on other things. He laid out some excellent points in this interview to train your mind into staying consistent, which I have consolidated and turned into a worksheet for you! I hope this helps you regain your motivation for your goals this year!
Replacing a Habit
Charles stated that it’s often easier for us to replace a bad habit, instead of creating of new one. (Two birds with one stone, right?) I used to have some TERRIBLE sleeping habits, sleeping with my phone, checking social media first thing, and waking up 15 minutes before I had to leave. My mornings were messy, and stressful. In 2018 decided I wanted to start waking up at 5am every morning, and chose to replace that terrible habit of waking up at 6:45, and leaving at 7, with a 2 hour morning routine.
But how do you do that? There are 3 steps to creating (or replacing) a habit. A cue, a routine, and a reward.
Why Am I Even Doing This?
But before ANY of that, you have to identify your motivation. Without knowing you WHY your alarm is going off at 4:55am, you’re going to keep hitting snooze until 6:50 because your quality of sleep just got worse. I journal nearly every day, and in my journal I created a little mind map that looks something like this:
It helps me identify my motivations for starting this habit, my action steps to complete it, and the eventual outcome. (Don’t worry, all the questions I ask myself are in the worksheet!) But after you identify your motivation, it's time to get to work.
Identify Your Cue
It's important to identify your cue, because once it's triggered in your mind, it sets off a routine that has been memorized. (If you want to know the science behind it, I highly recommend listening to that interview) A cue will always fall into 1 of 5 categories:
- Presence of Others
- Preceding Action (aka, the reward)
When you are starting a new habit, its best to try a cue in each category to see what ultimately will be the best trigger for you. When you are replacing a habit, think of what category the cue that triggers it falls into. Example: Biting your nails in a stressful situation (Emotion/Place/Presence of Others) During my morning routine, I use all these cues in the following ways:
- Time: I set my alarm for the same time each morning, and alarms for each task I want to complete during my routine. It helps me stay organized, on task, and improves my time management
- Place: I only practice my morning routine when I am at my own home, if I am traveling, I typically will not practice the routine. Especially if I am with others, not everyone is a morning person!
- Emotion: I make sure to meditate during my routine, in order to clear my mind and settle into a good headspace for my day.
- Presence of Others: I don't typically have anyone around me during my morning routine, so that helps me stay focused on my tasks.
- Preceding Action: I won't eat breakfast or open social media until I've completed my routine. I don't enjoy working out on an empty stomach, and I don't like touching social media until after I've meditated.
Not every cue will be effective for you, ultimately, your mind will decide what cue will trigger the habit.
Set a Routine
A habit is simply a routine that has been memorized by your mind. Example: Biting your nails in a stressful situation, your mind will sense the emotion (stress) and it will trigger the routine of biting all your nails until you feel relieved. When starting a new habit, it's important to stay consistent with each step of the routine in order to memorize it. They say that you need to implement an action or routine for 21 days before it becomes a habit. I still struggle with my 5am routine, but it's certainly easier than it was 2 months ago. This is how I structure my morning routine:
- 4:50-5:05 - Wake up, stretch.
- 5:05-5:10 - Wash & tone face, brush teeth and whiten with charcoal
- 5:10-5:40 - Yoga for 30 minutes
- 5:40-5:50 - Meditate for 10 minutes
- 5:50-6:30 - Get dressed, apply makeup
- 6:30-6:40 - Eat Breakfast
- 6:40-7:00 - Read, check email, journal
- 7:05 - Start commute to work
It's important that I do all these things roughly around the same time every morning, it's difficult to make decisions as soon as we wake up, which is often why people fail at rising early each morning.
During the first few weeks of implementing a new habit, it's incredibly important to reward yourself. Example: After working out for 30 minutes, reward yourself by watching an episode of your favorite show. As you continue the habit, you will stop craving the reward, eventually the habit itself will BE your reward. I noticed that I used to struggle with my morning routine in the beginning, and I couldn't wait to get on my phone to reward myself once I was done. After a few weeks of waking up at 5am, I noticed that I suddenly didn't want to be near my phone for that time, and the days I woke up late, I felt groggy and irritated. Remember how it feels when you DON'T follow through with your habit, and use the satisfaction you feel from completing it to drive you forward each day.
Are you ready to keep trying?
I've created a free PDF for you that breaks down each step of the habit process, into questions you can ask yourself and then implement into your daily life! If you are struggling to do more in the morning, or find yourself losing motivation with a current habit, this is a great resource for you!