One Habit at a Time: How You Create Lifelong Routines
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It’s hard to develop new habits.
We are so used to doing the same thing over and over again, so it often seems like it's impossible to make a permanent change.
There is a major a reason why most people fail with habit development:
It's impossible to change multiple habits at the same time.
Changing your routine requires a lot of mental strength and commitment. Like any muscle, it's easy to exhaust your willpower. Focusing on multiple habits makes it impossible to maintain this strength. What usually happens is you'll give up once it becomes too difficult to change these routines.
There have been extensive studies that show it's impossible to change multiple habits because ego depletion kicks in, which leaves our willpower in a mentally weakened state.
The simpler solution, is to focus on forming one habit at a time.
This post will explain why.
hanging bad habits requires a lot of mental strength, trying to do too much can exhaust willpower
Why Focus on One Habit at a Time?
A single habit can help you develop a daily routine.
For example, say that you want to read more. A daily habit would be to start by reading things that interest you.
The important thing is to start small. You don’t start off with reading a 400 page book. You'll feel overwhelmed and will probably stop following this routine.
Starting reading 15 minutes a day, then develop into 30 minutes then an hour.
By focusing on a single habit at a time, you're able to create a lasting change in your routine. It's easier to maintain this new routine instead of trying to juggle multiple actions at the same time.
How to Form One Habit at a Time
As we've discussed, the best way to make a permanent change is to focus on a single habit at a time. Here is a six-step process for getting started:
1. Identify what you want to change.
You don’t know what to change unless you put your finger on it. An example is to become healthier by losing weight.
The habit you'd like to develop is to exercise 30 minutes every day.
2. Know why you’re doing it.
If you don’t know why you’re doing it, then it will be less likely that you won’t follow through the habit at all. This will decrease motivation.
For this example, write down the reasons why you'd like to start an exercise routine.
3. Identify the bad habit and make a substitute for it.
If you don’t find a substitute for the bad habit, it’s easy to go right back to it after you’ve started to change it for a short time.
Going back to the exercise example, the bad habit would be eating junk food before working out. So in order to change them, you would have to find a substitute for whatever you eat before exercising. You would be better off with a salad instead.
4. Stack up your chances for the small wins.
You have to make it as difficult as possible to fail going back to your bad habits.
Using the same eating habits example, clean out your kitchen of all the bad foods that are lingering around. Replace them with fruits, veggies and a cleaner eating lifestyle. This will set you up for the small wins of losing weight which is your overall main goal.
5. Start the process of changing the habit.
Now since you’ve started the steps to prepare for the change, now it’s actually time to do the change. Create a daily metric for tracking this change and start the habit immediately!
6. Motivate by giving yourself a rewards afterwards.
Can you really exercise regularly. After a month of your new habit, reward yourself with a *little* bit of junk food. This cheat day will provide the motivation to stick to a new habit.
Focusing 100% on a single habit is the best way to change it. This dedication allows you to blast through those periods of hesitation and laziness when you're not in the mood to follow through with a goal.
Creating metrics and tracking your habit change will increase your chances of success
To see how I change one routine at a time, check out my 30 Day Habit Challenge series.