Habits are a necessary part of life. They're essential to our survival because they allow us to perform various daily tasks without occupying too much of our mental energy – this frees our minds to concentrate on more important things.
For example, if you've driven a car long enough, you'll know that the process itself becomes almost automatic, and that this allows your mind to focus on the road, keeping an eye out for other cars, pedestrians, etc.
The problem with habits is that both the good and the bad can become equally ingrained into our daily lives – it's because of this that the combination of habits we possess have a direct impact on our success.
If you had a difficult time achieving as many goals as you would have liked to in 2015, and you want 2016 to be a more successful year for you, you can't expect to achieve better results by using the same strategies and by sticking to the same set of habits!
So how can you make the switch from bad to good habits? The first step involves being completely honest with yourself.
Good Habits – Bad Habits = Goals Achieved
Which of your habits are keeping you trapped in self-sabotaging patterns?
Be brutally honest with yourself. Identifying the habits that are detrimental to your success is important not only to show what patterns you need to eliminate from your life, but also because it can aid in the understanding of what you've achieved and how you can do better.
Think of your success in terms of this formula:
Good Habits – Bad Habits = Goals Achieved
How many of our goals we manage to achieve depends on the difference between our good habits and our bad habits. The more good habits we have, the more goals we are likely to achieve.
- Think carefully, do you have more bad habits than good ones?
- Does the quantity (and quality) of the goals you've achieved correspond to your good and bad habits?
Most of us have some room for improvement in the habits department. So how do we go about creating the right habits and actually making them stick?
How To Build Good Habits.
There's no point in simply identifying a good habit you want to have without thinking about how you're going to build it – **think of habit building as a process rather than a one-off event
The five strategies below can help you stick with your new habits and avoid the temptation to give up.
1. Visualise the process.
There's a clear difference between visualising and fantasising.
Research suggests that people who fantasise (for example, imagining how great it'll be when they finally achieve success) are less likely to achieve their goals than those who visualise the process of achieving those goals (for example, imagining what steps they'll need to take in order to finally be able to enjoy success).
Visualising will put your new habits into context and will remind you of their purpose.
2. Build routines.
Studies have shown that creating behaviour chains results in successful habit formation.
For example, instead of saying “I'm going to get most of my work done in the morning”, try to form contextual cues such as “I'll wake up at 7 am, I'll have breakfast, clear up the kitchen and then I'll sit at the desk and get some work done.”
3. Preserve your willpower.
According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the more decisions we make, the more our mental energy is depleted.
Find a way to create a routine for all your mundane decisions (for example, by creating weekly meal plans) in order to save your willpower for more important/difficult decisions.
4. Set micro-goals.
While dreaming big and planning big habit changes is important, it's equally as important to think about how your new habits are going to translate into your daily life.
For example, if your new habit is going to be to eat healthier snacks, setting specific micro-goals such as how many healthy snacks you'll have a day will help you measure your success and will make it obvious which areas you need to work more on.
Make it as easy to achieve as possible.
5. Avoid the “What the hell effect”.
In a study carried out by a group of researchers at the University of Toronto, it was discovered that when people on a diet believed that they had gone over the limits of their diet they were more likely to indulge in further eating than those who believed themselves to be within their limits.
This applies to habits in the sense that when you feel you haven't been able to carry through with your good habit for the day, you're more likely to accept defeat all together and fall back into your old habits.
Learn to recognise the triggers for this effect in order to avoid its consequences.
Put Results Before Comfort!
The saying “no pain, no gain” could not be more accurate when it comes to creating the right sort of habits to achieve success.
Be prepared to place more value on the benefits of the necessary changes than on the comfort of simply trying to make things work within your current daily patterns. Understand that your current bad habits are not getting you the results you want for a reason – they simply cannot facilitate neither the mindset nor the behaviour that results in productivity and goal achievement!
To give an example, if one of your goals is to become an early riser but you can't stop yourself from hitting the snooze button, don't give up your goal, give up your strategy – it obviously isn't going to work for you.
It's easy to use the failure of the alarm clock strategy to justify simply not being able to wake up earlier, but this would be lying to yourself.
Trying to work out different strategies such as going to bed a little earlier, or not eating a heavy meal before bed, take more effort than giving up, but unlike giving up, they actually stand a chance of leading you further along the path towards achieving your goals!
Remember, “Winners are losers who got up and gave it one more try” (Dennis DeYoung) so embrace the challenge and put in all the effort that you can muster!
Kirstin O’Donovan is the founder of TopResultsCoaching and author of 'Maximize your time to maximize your profits’. Kirstin is a Productivity coach, helping individuals to accomplish more with less, be more productive, make every minute count, and design their desired life. Free report -- Master Your Productivity -- www.topresultscoaching.com