Habit Creation

"The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken."   ~ Samuel Johnson.

In about an hour I'll be giving a talk at the YMCA in Kailua about creating habits. Breaking bad habits and creating good ones is perhaps easier than we think it is. Everyone has set a New Year' resolution only to find that by the end of winter or early spring it has fallen by the wayside. Many of us think that the goal itself isn't hard and often we already know how to do it and yet success seems just out of reach. We can even identify all the things that get in the way of our success. We just can't quite get the momentum we need. So here are some tips for creating habits.  

1.  Break the habit or goal down into smaller, teenie, tiny steps or micro-habits. No step is too small in this case. Let's say you want to get in the habit of practicing yoga every day. Begin with taking out your yoga mat and setting it up. Nothing else. Do this every day and when it becomes automatic move on to the next associated habit for yoga. 

2.  Pair micro-habit with a trigger. In this case a trigger can be anything you already do automatically in your day. The trigger should be something you do daily and consistently. For example, when clients struggle with remembering to take medications at night I will have them pair it with brushing their teeth or flossing if that is something they already do each night. After a time the brushing or flossing becomes a trigger for taking the medications. 

3.  Reward yourself for the progress you make and for completing each step. 

4.  Evaluate your progress over time. A good example of this is measuring weight loss. We don't get on the scale multiple times a day to see if we are losing weight. We do it once a week at the same time to see what the net gains and losses are. Have realistic self-talk when you are evaluating your goals. Don't beat yourself up if you missed a day or your performance wasn't perfect. 

5.  Set lifelines for yourself. If you don't know what lifelines are, then read my first blog post which is on this topic of setting goals. 

6. Repeat these steps over and over and over. Keep in mind that the practice of is often more important than the habit itself. An old runners trick is to just put our shoes on and see how it feels, then saying we will walk down the street or around the block, eventually we end up running, but of course the first step was to put on the shoes. So as in step one of this list, if you want to be a runner, just start by putting on your shoes every day. 

There is an old saying that it takes 21 days to create a habit and maybe that is true, but I think we can also build long term success in smaller steps with micro-habits that can lead to lifelong changes.  What tiny thing will you start working on today?