9 ways to create new and successful good habits, and the 5 reasons why you fail to break bad ones
“Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what is left after subtracting your bad habits from your good ones.” – Benjamin Franklin
We all have clothes. Some are good and healthy habits, while others are bad and possibly even dangerous. Throughout our lives, we often set goals to try to create new good habits or break bad ones that we already have. Many people try over and over again to change their habits for the better only to finally find failure. Learning a new habit can be as difficult as breaking a bad one that you have struggled with for years. There are reasons for this and steps you can take to help ensure your success.
Establishing good, healthy habits can enrich your life in countless ways. When an action becomes a habit, it becomes automatic and you really don’t have to think about it much. Some of the healthy habits that people try to develop include; eat healthier, exercise regularly, meditate, complete household chores, or just take time to themselves each day. These are just a few examples, but basically anything you want to do on a regular basis that enriches your life and makes you happier can become a habit.
Here are nine simple tips that are easy to follow and can help you turn healthy activities into lifelong habits.
1. Take baby steps. – You can’t expect to dive in and be successful in developing a good habit. Start with small manageable steps. If you want to make healthy eating a habit, start by swapping specific foods or meals for healthier options. If you make sudden and drastic changes to your lifestyle, it is very likely that you will not be successful.
2. Take responsibility. – Tell a friend or family member whose opinions interest you. By telling a trusted friend or family member about your intention to develop a new habit, you promote responsibility. You are more likely to stick to your habit if you know that you will have to answer to someone other than yourself.
3. Treat yourself. – You should be proud of the fact that you are trying to make positive changes in your life. Reward yourself regularly when you stick to your new habit. Treat yourself to a pedicure or a warm bubble bath. Spend a Saturday morning sleeping or play a few rounds of golf on the course. Whatever it is you love … do it.
4. One habit at a time. – Work on developing one habit at a time. If you’re like me, there are a ton of new, healthy habits that you want to incorporate into your life. Focus on one at a time so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Developing a habit, such as exercising regularly, may seem like a small change, but it is not. When you start to develop a new habit of any kind, you are changing the way you live your life.
5. Make sure you really want it. – The more you want to make even small changes, the more likely you are to stick with them. Never start developing a habit that you don’t want just because you think, or have been told, that it is the right thing to do. If you try to force yourself to do something you hate, you will avoid it at all costs. If you hate going to the gym, don’t do it. There are many good habits that you can develop that will enrich your life and that you will enjoy.
6. Plan it.- Sit down and make a list of the good habits that you would like to develop. Prioritize the list and determine which habits you would like to develop first. Once you’ve figured this out, write a plan. By putting this in writing, you can refer to it whenever you need a little extra motivation and it will help you stay on track.
7. Be very specific. – Don’t just say, “I want to make a habit of drinking more water.” Instead, say, “I want to start drinking eight glasses of water a day.” By being specific, you know exactly what to do to develop your new habit and you won’t be overwhelmed. If it’s too vague, you could easily rationalize that you drank more water today than yesterday, even if it wasn’t the eight glasses you wanted.
8. Use tools. – Use all the resources you have at your disposal. You can make lists, journals, charts, spreadsheets … anything that helps you keep track of your goals. I often use sticky notes around the house. I will post reminders on the walls, mirrors, refrigerator, and anywhere else I think might be helpful. They may not look pretty, but they help me stay motivated.
9. Don’t berate yourself for slipping. – We all make mistakes from time to time. Just yesterday, I was eating some potato chips while watching TV. Before I knew it, the whole bag was empty! It happens to everyone. Realize this and don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember why you wanted to develop the habit in the first place, and then start over.
“A man who cannot bear to share his habits is a man who needs to leave them.” – Stephen King, The Dark Tower
Why is it so difficult to break bad habits? There are things we do on a daily, or even hourly basis, that we know are not good for us. We bite our nails, smoke cigarettes, choose unhealthy foods, procrastinate, lead sedentary lives, etc. We all have a bad habit that we would love to break, but we often have a hard time doing it. This is because once a habit develops, we rarely realize that we are doing it. It becomes part of who we are. If we want to improve our lives, breaking bad habits is a wonderful place to start.
Here are 5 common reasons why we often fail to break bad habits.
1. We expect results too fast. – We don’t develop our bad habit in one day, and we certainly can’t hope to break it in one day, either. Breaking a habit takes time. We must be patient and persevere in our goals.
2. We have a low level of self-awareness. – I’ve bitten my nails most of my life. I do it without even thinking and usually not even aware that I have been chewing on them until I feel pain or see blood. This is because I am not always aware of myself. We often go through life on autopilot, but when trying to break a habit, we must slow down and pay attention to everything we are doing. We must really try to live in the moment. If we develop a stronger sense of self-awareness, we can get rid of our bad habits as soon as we start practicing them.
3. We use our habits as an emotional crutch. – Many of our habits, such as smoking or turning to food when we need comfort, serve as a coping mechanism for stress or emotional pain. We need to find other healthier substitutes for these habits. When I was trying to quit smoking, I used to exercise whenever I felt an urge. Exercise took my mind off my immediate craving and helped me relieve my stress in a healthy way.
4. We don’t tell anyone that we are trying to break our habit. – Breaking a bad habit is extremely difficult. It is even more difficult when we do not have the support of our friends and family. We often don’t tell them out of fear. We believe that by not telling them, we can avoid disappointing them if we fail. To successfully break a bad habit, we must tell it to those we love and trust. They will give us the support we need and will also hold us accountable for our actions.
5. We are too hard on ourselves when we slip back into old patterns. – Just as developing new habits is difficult, breaking old ones is extremely difficult. We will all make mistakes from time to time. We must maintain a positive attitude and remember why we want to break our habits. Do you want to be a better role model for your children? Do you want to avoid a second heart attack? Do you want your nails to be pretty for your wedding day? Whatever your motivation, remember, there is a very good reason you decided to break your bad habit in the first place. When we slip back into our bad patterns, we need to take a moment to remember why breaking the habit is important. So we must start over.
I hope these tips help you feel guided to be motivated to break the habits you don’t like or develop new ones that you are proud of.
“Successful people are simply those with successful habits.” -Brian Tracy