Habits, as you already know, are important. They are the ones that determine the results and the kind of life you are living right now. This is because everything is a habit in life. It is what you do every single day that determines your success, not what you do once in a while. Thus, learning how to form a good and productive habit and make it stick is one of the keys to success that you must adopt.
“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.”
– John C. Maxwell
- If you want to know how physically fit you are, just take a look at your habits.
- If you want to know how financially successful you are, take a quick look at your habits and you can tell.
- If you want to know how happy or unhappy you are, study your habits and you will know the answer.
- If you want to know how successful you are in life, look at how you go through each day. What do you do, and what are your habits?
Aristotle said it well:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Most people are not living the life that they want because they don’t adopt right habits that can lead them there.
It is easy to understand, success is about doing the small little things each day and not about taking one big bold action. It is the accumulation of small efforts that lead to big success. Rome was not built in a day, my friend. And success takes time.
And because we can’t force the result to come to us and success requires time, habits become the key factor in our success.
Why Habits Are Important
Take a look at all the successful people who have accomplished amazing results in their lives. Entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Mark Cuban, and athletes like Usain Bolt, Lionel Messi, and Kobe Bryant, they are able to produce extraordinary results because of their habits.
Kobe Bryant trains every single day. The same goes for Lionel Messi. Famous authors and writers like Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, and Haruki Murakami developed the habit to write each day.
In The Paris Review, during an interview, this was what Haruki Murakami said:
“When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4:00 am and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for 10km or swim for 1500m (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9:00 pm. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long — six months to a year — requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.”
Can you see now why habits are important?
1. Habits make you more efficient.
This is because when an action becomes a habit, you require less willpower and motivation to execute it. The resistance to perform the action will be lowered and you feel easier to work on it.
If you are a blogger like me, the most important habit to develop is the habit of writing. It can be difficult at first because you may require a higher level of motivation and willpower to write at the same time and place.
However, as you slowly develop the habit of writing, you will notice that things become easier and smoother.
In my case, I find it no problem to write each morning. I kick-start my writing and chunking out content for about 2 to 3 hours from 8.30AM to 9AM each day.
Once the habit has been formed, the resistance to doing it will be lowered and you will find that writing is not as difficult as you imagine.
2. Habits structure your life.
A daily routine may sound a little boring, but it can provide a productive structure and sequence in your life.
When it is time to work, you will just work, without putting in much thoughts. Just like how you brush your teeth each morning, I bet that you don’t argue with yourself whether to brush teeth or not, right?
3. Habits save you time.
Imagine going through a day without a proper structure. It is like going through a weekend without any plan. Anything can happen. You may wake up late because you have nothing to do. You may waste time on social media because you don’t have a plan.
On the other hand, when you have a set of good and productive habits, you will be able to go through your day without feeling directionless and lost. Each day will be purposeful and you know exactly what you need to do and you do it subconsciously.
Habits can save you time, my friend. So stop leaving your life to chance.
Success is engineered, not happens by chance.
4. Habits get things done.
Want to overcome procrastination? Well, just turn the actions into habits, and you will never procrastinate anymore.
When an action becomes a routine, it reduces the chances that you will procrastinate on it.
5. Habits determine your success in life.
I guess that I don’t have to further explain this. We all know that habit is an important factor to high performance. Without habits, we have to go through everything without a structure.
With good habits, our success and the goals that we want to achieve will be more certain.
The Habits Formation Cycle
Now that you know why habits are important and how they can shape our lives, it is time for you to learn how to build good and positive habits that will make you successful.
This section is the most important of this article. The habits formation cycle is explained in the book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and also explained by Professor BJ Fogg.
Basically, habit formation cycle can be described using the 3R’s, which are Reminder, Routine, and Reward.
The first R, Reminder is actually the cue that Charles Duhigg mentioned in his book. It is the trigger that initiates the behavior.
For example, when your phone rings and you answer the call. The phone ringing is actually the trigger.
James Clear, the popular blogger writes that he developed the habit of flossing after brushing teeth. He bought a bowl and placed it next to his toothbrush, and put a handful of pre-made flossers in it. Every morning after he brushed his teeth, he saw the floss (trigger), he will reach it and floss.
The routine is actually the action that you are going to perform after the reminder. Just like after you have been triggered by your phone’s ringing, you will proceed to answer the call.
Answering the call is the routine. The routine is the habit that you want to form. It can be the exercise routine, or the habit of writing 1,000 words, etc.
Reward is a pleasurable factor that strengthens the entire habit formation cycle. After you performed the routine, you must reward yourself in some ways.
For instance, you can praise yourself, give yourself a pat on the back, or simply do a fist-pump and say “yes!”
Reward is important because it makes you want to do more of the action. Like how people train their dogs. When they request their dogs to perform a trick and the dogs obey, they will give a treat to the dogs. The treats are the rewards.
This explains how our habits are formed.
Therefore, if you want to build a new habit like the habit of writing, follow the process of the 3 R’s.
Steps to Forming a New Habit and Make It Stick
1. Create a reminder or a trigger to the habit you want to form
First, create a reminder or a trigger so that you will know when to execute the habit.
But before that, you must identify what habits that you want to form. Is it the habit of writing 1,000 words a day? Or is it the habit of jogging for an hour in your neighborhood?
Whatever you do, you must know the routine you want to develop and then create a trigger for it.
Twyla Tharp, one of the greatest dancers and choreographers published a best-selling book, The Creative Habit, and in the book, she writes:
“I begin each day of my life with a ritual; I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st street and First Avenue, where I workout for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual.
It’s a simple act, but doing it the same way each morning habitualizes it — makes it repeatable, easy to do. It reduces the chance that I would skip it or do it differently. It is one more item in my arsenal of routines, and one less thing to think about.”
Hailing the cab is the trigger for Twyla Tharp, what about you? What triggers you to perform the habit and take action?
Your triggers can also be visual like a vision board. Every time when you see the vision board, you remind yourself of your dreams and goals, and then you perform the routine of taking action.
2. Perform the routine and develop your habit
Second, perform the habit. If your habit is to write 1,000 words, then do it. If your habit is to exercise like Twyla, after you have been triggered, you must perform the routine.
If you cue your dog to perform a trick and she doesn’t want to obey, that means the habit formation cycle is not complete.
You must perform the action after the trigger so that it becomes a routine.
3. Reward yourself to strengthen the habit formation
Third, reward yourself after you have performed the routine.
You want to make your mind to think that taking action and performing the habit is something pleasurable, thus, reward yourself by doing so.
Like I mentioned above, you don’t have to give yourself a big reward, just a pat on the back will do or simply praise yourself.
You want to continue to do things that make you feel good. More importantly, you need to repeat the action for some time before it will be ingrained in your mind as a habit, thus rewarding yourself each time you practice your new habit becomes crucial.
Hence, give yourself some credit and enjoy each success that you have accomplished, no matter how small it is.
- After you have flossed one tooth, feel good and say “victory!” to yourself.
- After you do 10 push-ups, feel good and do your favorite fist-pump.
- After you have written 1,000 words article, feel good and shout “good work!”
As human beings, we tend to work toward things that make us feel pleasurable and move away from things that make us painful.
This is why you must incorporate some form of celebration to build and grow your new habit.
Repeat Your New Habit for 66 Days Continuously
I bet that you have heard that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. This is actually not true.
The 21 days to form a habit was first mentioned by Maxwell Maltz in his best-selling books that sold over 30 million copies. In the book, Dr. Maltz wrote:
“These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.”
Dr. Maltz’s finding was not supported by any study or research. And because the book was a best-seller, big names in the personal development industry bought into the idea and started to share with others that it took 21 days to form a habit.
Years later, Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at the University College London decided to figure out how long it takes to form a habit. And the study revealed that on average, it takes about 66 days before a new behavior becomes automatic.
The study also discovered that some habits that were easier to perform took less time to form while others that were more complicated took a longer time.
In other words, building a habit takes an average of 66 days and not 21 days.
Therefore, you have to repeat the habit formation cycle for about 2 months before your new action can become automatic.
What you need to do then is to try your best and not to break the chain. Use the Jerry Seinfeld Calendar Method to help during these 66 days.
Whether it rains or it snows, stick to your plan and perform the new action until it becomes your new habit.
The thing is that successful people have adopted productive habits, and hence, they perform and take action regardless of whether they feel like doing it or not.
My friend, this is the main difference between someone successful and someone ordinary.
The ordinary people are affected by their moods, emotions, and they need motivation to act.
The successful, on the other hand, don’t rely on their moods or motivation, they build productive habits that get things done.
Lower the Resistance to Performing Your Habits
Another important factor you need to consider when it comes to creating a new habit is to always start small.
You want to lower the resistance to performing the action so that it is so easy to do that you can’t say no.
When something is easy and you will do it without a doubt, and if you stick to it long enough, it will become your habit.
For this, you can follow the One-Minute Rule that I have explained in my previous post. Read the article to understand better.
The One-Minute Rule helps a lot in forming a habit and making your action consistent.
Habit formation is one of the most important keys to success because I believe that to produce extraordinary results in life, we need to be consistent with what we do.
And it is our daily actions that determine our future. It is what we do every day that counts, not what we do once in a while.
Now that you have learned how to create a new habit, what you need to do then is to go through the process and stick with it for at least 66 days.
Identify one success habit that you want to form, go through the routine, reward yourself, and eventually, things will become easier and automatic.
“Today is difficult, tomorrow is more difficult, but the day after tomorrow is beautiful.”
– Jack Ma
The process of developing good habits is not easy. Change is difficult, but when you get to the end, it is beautiful.
What habits do you want to form? What kind of action can make you successful? Leave your answers in the comment section below.