Creating a new habit is hard.
It’s so hard that we fail at it repeatedly.
We begin with great intentions, but inevitably we begin to slack off and ultimately drop the habit altogether.
And that does a number on our self-esteem. We feel like losers. So we pretend we don’t really need the habit — that we never wanted it in the first place.
But without the habit we hoped to create, we live a life of lesser-than . . .
- Lesser than the person we dream of being.
- Lesser than the person we really are inside.
- Lesser than our own best expectations.
- Lesser than what we know we are capable of.
If only we could figure it out, get it right this time, stay committed, try harder.
If you’ve tried to create a good habit and failed, then tried again, then again, then again, and continued to fail, you aren’t alone.
As I said, habit creation is hard. And it’s harder because most of us go about it in the wrong way. We don’t know why we keep failing. We think it has to do with personal weakness and lack of discipline. But most of the time, it doesn’t.
It has to do with a lack of knowledge and proper skills.
If you want to create a sustainable habit, you need to know what works and what doesn’t. You need to know why some people create multiple life-long habits while most of us keep failing.
Leo Babauta has created many new habits which he has now sustained for years. He’s lost 70 lbs., become a vegetarian, written several books and blogs, become an early riser, eliminated his debt and tripled his income, simplified his life, and become car-free.
What does Leo know that you don’t?
Katie Tallo has become a vegan, runs every day, is writing a novel, maintains a beautiful blog, has become debt-free, and is an award-winning director.
What does Katie know that you don’t?
Stephanie Wetzel has lost over 200 lbs., written and published a book, started her own business, created a health and diet blog, works regularly with a personal trainer, and eats real food daily.
What does Stephanie know that you don’t?
All of these people have been successful at habit creation. And like you and me, all of them have tried and failed, tried and failed, tried and fail, until . . .
They figured it out.
They figured out what was undermining their efforts, killing their motivation, weakening their resolve. They figured out the 8 reasons why they were failing at habit creation.
Is it time for you to figure it out?
If so, here they are — the 8 reasons that you have failed at habit creation in the past and how to succeed in the future.
Reason #1: Lack of Planning and Preparation
Boom, you just start. You want to create a new habit, so you think, “I’ll start this habit today or tomorrow morning or Monday.” But you don’t do anything to plan or prepare yourself and those around you. You don’t get yourself mentally, physically, emotionally, and practically ready and ripe to be successful.
Reason #2: You Start Too Big
Let’s say you want to lose weight. So you decide to start running, begin a diet, and count calories. That one goal of losing weight requires hundreds of major and mini new habits. Within a few weeks, if not days, you will feel completely overwhelmed and give up.
Reason #3: You Commit Too Much Time
Even if you decide on a small habit, the tendency is to over-do it in the beginning. Your brain and your muscle-memory have to become accustomed to a brand new behavior at a slow and steady rate. If you want to begin a new habit like running, writing, meditating, or anything that will ultimately require 30-90 minutes or more, don’t start at the optimum time commitment. Start with the least amount of time that’s easy to manage (like 5 minutes) and slowly work up to more time.
Reason #4: You Trust Your Memory
You think once you’ve committed to this new habit, you’ll remember to do it every day. And you may for a few days. But then you’ll forget, either consciously or subconsciously. You need a reminder, an already-established trigger that will jog your memory and spur you on to action — like using tooth-brushing in the morning as a trigger for meditation.
Reason #5: You Have No Accountability
Most of us don’t tell people when we start a new habit because we don’t want them to know if we fail at it. We keep it quiet, just in case. Well, that attitude dooms us to failure. It should tell us we aren’t really serious about creating this habit. If we were, we’d tell people. We’d tell everyone. Because we loathe looking weak or incompetent, we force ourselves to do the damn habit to avoid being embarrassed. You have to tell people, and keep telling them about every success and every failure. That keeps us accountable.
Reason # 6: You Don’t Acknowledge Your Successes
Accountability involves some negative reinforcement — the avoidance of embarrassment. But we need positive reinforcement too. All fear and no fun makes habit creation feel like a bad school day. You have to plan a reward system yourself to keep your motivation and positivity at a high level. Gold stars, a piece of chocolate, a nap, anything that feels like a reward will work to reinforce your habit.
Reason #7: You Neglect to Communicate
If you don’t communicate with those close to you about your habit creation plans and get their buy-in and support, you are setting yourself up for trouble. If your habit work disrupts the lives of those you love, and they aren’t prepared, they’ll be lobbing anti-habit bombs in your direction until you wave the white flag.
Reason #8: You Use Disruptions as an Excuse to Give Up
During the planning phase of habit creation, you should always create a “disruption contingency plan.” You may get sick. There may be a special event you must attend. You may need to change the time or place for your habit. Disruptions absolutely will happen — but they can’t be an excuse for stopping your habit work. Plan for them in advance so you aren’t blindsided by the unexpected.
You aren’t condemned to failure at creating new habits. There is a simple method for integrating habits into your life in a way that ensures they stick. With proper planning, preparation, small goals, accountability, rewards, and communication, you will address the problems that undermine habit creation before they ever occur.
A Resource for You: If you are considering creating a new habit and need a little help with a Simple Method for habit creation – if you need advice, accountability, and a community to get you over those rough spots – consider joining the next edition of The Habit Course with Leo Babauta, Barrie Davenport, and Katie Tallo . It’s all about creating new habits for life habits that last, habits that can lead towards the realization of your biggest dreams. Registration opens Tuesday, April 24, and the course begins April 30-May 25. There’s a short little video on the middle of this page with with info about the course if youíd like to watch.
Photo credit: ‘Stop it’ by Big Stock