Good thing—there’s never really one secret that fits all situations. It’s usually a matter of finding the right mix of tips and strategies to best fit your individual needs.
Here are 7 tips I’ve found helpful to keep good habits in my life.
Tip #1. Make a new habit stick by keeping it simple.
Every habit we’d like to acquire needs self-discipline, time, and repetition. Maybe you feel that this month it’s time to make some kind of change in your life: start working out, stop eating out so much, get more sleep, find more time to spend with family, or watch TV less. The key to keeping a good habit stick is to make it simple so you don’t find it intimidating, exhausting, and overwhelming. You can start with tiny steps: do a mini-workout at home for 10 minutes this month before you buy that gym membership. Start going to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual to give yourself time to de-stress and relax with a good book, so you don’t end up staying awake all night and feeling groggy and listless the next day. Prep and pack your lunch the night before so you don’t feel pressured to eat yet another greasy lunch at a fast-food restaurant.
Tip #2. Tap into your willpower early in the day.
When we start the day, we are often overwhelmed with the amount of things we need to do, so we tend to procrastinate on some of those things and postpone them for later in the day. That goes for new habits too. But what a missed opportunity! Think of it this way. We all have a finite amount of willpower that takes us through the day, so if you want to focus on your top priority—your new habit—work on it early. Practice a new skill before lunchtime while you’re still energized and focused on your top goals. Maybe practicing that skill is sketching a quick portrait in black and white or writing one paragraph of a short story. Don’t leave it for late at night when you might be exhausted from events that happened during the day.
Tip #3 . Create time in your schedule to practice every day.
This part is critical. It’s much less likely you will make any habit stick if you just practice it once or twice a week. Why? Because if you do, your brain will start thinking it’s an optional activity, something you just do on the side. Instead, you’ll get better results if you starting doing it more frequently so you brain will get accustomed to it, and eventually will adopt this new behavior as a regular part of the day. How can you do this? Schedule it in. Find a block of time (preferably earlier in the day) to work on your habit so that you’ll be successful at it. Mark it in your daily planner, or add it to your mobile phone monthly calendar, then set a notification to remind you an hour or two ahead of time when you should practice it.
Tip #4. Replace saying, “I can’t” with “why not?” when you’re faced with a challenge.
It’s such a small and subtle shift in your attitude, but it can reap big results over time, especially if you keep practicing it. You know the feeling when you’re trying to do something new and it’s just not going well? The first instinctive reaction is to say, I can’t! And that’s a human reaction. But the key here is to replace a negative statement with an open-ended and positive one. When we say, Why not? we give ourselves more power to make a positive change in our life. We leave some space open for possibilities, instead of shutting the door in our own face. It’s a matter of seeing things as doable and realistic, instead of making them appear abstract and even impossible to achieve.
Tip #5. Make your new habit a choice instead of a chore.
Here’s where you really get into the real reason to practice your new habit to begin with. When you start doing something different, always ask yourself, why am I doing this? What will this new behavior afford me? It’s important to stay connected to the initial reason for picking the new habit. Maybe you want to work out so you improve your health and lose weight. Or maybe you want to work on creative skills such as drawing, painting, or composing a new track with your band. Think about what this better version of you will look like after you’ve succeeded in making this habit a part of your everyday life. What will this feel like? How will it help you achieve bigger goals? Where will you go next? Choosing a behavior will make you feel stronger, more powerful, and more proactive about your life.
Tip #6 . No matter the challenge, resist the urge to quit.
The writer Seth Godin said, “Never quit something with great long-term potential just because you can’t deal with the stress of the moment.” That’s why it’s important to stop for a minute and assess the stress you’re feeling and where it’s coming from. If you’re stressed out about keeping up with a new habit, try to figure out why. Maybe it’s not easy to keep a healthy diet around friends who want to eat out in restaurants three times a week. Or maybe your ego is finding it tough to deal with not being the best in a kickboxing class or a hackathon you recently participated in. Fight the urge to give up whenever things get tough, hard, or even ugly. Know the difference between what feels hard to do right now and what’s good for you in the long run. Nothing truly amazing happens in one day or even a month. Next time you fall, do your best to get up, dust yourself off, and keep going.
Tip #7 . Reward yourself for keeping up.