Make success habits stick – 10 steps to transform your life
Why Are habits so important?
Because in the words of Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do.” We are essentially the accumulation of what we do on a consistent basis. Have a habit of exercising every day, and you become healthy. Benjamin Franklin summed it up this way: “Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.” Here’s the good news: there is a surefire way to change habits. I am a living testament to the power of a 10-step process that I have used to completely transform my life one habit at a time.
Step 1: Pick one thing: To start, pick one new habit to adopt — the operative word here being “one.” If you want to get more out of your day, you could commit to waking up just 10 minutes earlier than your usual time. Or, if you want to start exercising daily, you could commit to doing 10 push-ups in the morning, or taking a 20-minute walk after dinner. Maybe your desire is to be more in touch with your loved ones. One way to achieve that is to commit to reaching out to one friend or family member each day either by phone or email or by sending a note. Or, the other way you could go about it is to eliminate an old habit that no longer serves you. Would you like to give up caffeine, or reducing the amount of time you spend in front of the TV? Whatever you decide, picking just one new habit and sticking with it will give you the clarity of purpose you need to stay focused.
Step 2: Make it do-able – Great! Now that you have an idea of what habit you want to make stick, the next step is to get super realistic. Is it something you KNOW you can do daily? Be honest with yourself. If you’re trying to wake up earlier in the morning, it’s better to set your alarm back 10 minutes than going for a whopping two hour change from your previous waking habit. You want this to be something you KNOW you can do EVERY day. Or, if you’re trying to eliminate watching TV and you currently have a habit of watching two hours a day, then commit to reducing that by 25 percent.
Step 3: Quantify it – If it’s not something you can measure, then in weak moments you may find yourself making justifications and not upholding your commitment to yourself. And that’s a slippery slope. So, instead of committing to “eating more vegetables,” you’ll want to commit to something specific, such as “eat at least three servings of vegetables daily.” You want to be able to check the box at the end of the day, and say unequivocally: “Yes, I did it.” Set a minimum goal that gives you room to go further or do more, but at the very least, it is something you know you can meet the minimum and quantify it. Being specific about how you are changing your habits is the only way to ensure you’re creating a solid habit that will stick. Reflection: What are the quantifiable parameters of your new habit? What’s the minimum you MUST do in order to fulfill your commitment?
Step 4: Set a fixed time frame – I like 40 days. Yogic science teaches that it takes 40 days to create or change a habit. Some people prefer 30 days because it generally coincides with a month. Others go for 60 days. Whatever you decide, I would recommend against any less than 30 days because you want to make sure that you are at it long enough so that your habit takes hold.
In addition to picking a time frame long enough to cement your habit, understand that at the end of 40 days (or 30, or 60), you have the freedom to decide what to do next. You may decide you want to continue and adopt this habit into your permanent lifestyle.
Step 5: Commit 100%. – Now that you know exactly what you’ll be doing and for how long, it’s time to make it real by making a solid commitment. Anything less than a 100% commitment will work against you and in a moment of weakness you will likely waver and lose ground.
So make that commitment, from the heart, and know with every ounce of your being that for the next 40 days you are going to do this one thing that you are committing to.
Step 6: Track it – Keep a daily log. Just he action of writing your habit down as completed will help keep you on track. Your daily log doesn’t have to be complicated. One option is to post a calendar page where you’ll see it a lot, every day. Simply log your progress there. (Mine is taped to my kitchen wall, right in between the telephone and the water cooler… there’s absolutely no way I can it ignore it there!) Do you like to journal? If so, then start one dedicated to this goal and track your thoughts, emotions, struggles and triumphs there.
Step 7: Be vigilant during “lift off” – Be vigilant, especially the first 10 days. You’re creating new neural pathways, and that requires mental and emotional effort. It’s very important to keep yourself on track and in the groove as much as possible the first 10 days when this behavior is very new.
Think of a rocket and how much energy it takes to lift off. That’s what your first 10 days will be like. It may take serious conscious effort to stick with it day after day. But trust me, once you make it through the initial lift-off phase, you’ll be sailing into orbit. It will get so very much easier. Keep in mind, though, there’s no way to get into the “sailing in orbit” phase without passing through the lift-off phase.
Step 8: Focus on the higher rewards – Here’s the real secret to this process: While you may be creating a new habit that is transformational in a particular area of your life, the higher reward is who you are becoming in the process. Through this process you are becoming the kind of person who sets goals and works towards them patiently, consistently, diligently and persistently.
The higher reward is the character, strength and confidence you build in the process of the 40 days, that then can be applied to anything and everything else you do from that point on. The external results are wonderful and important in and of themselves, but they are really just the by-products of your consistent effort over time.
Step 9: Recommit! As you progress through your 40 days, it is important to recommit to this new behavior over and over. Your commitment on day one is important, but it’s only the beginning. Daily re-affirmation of what you are creating is necessary to keep the energy moving in the direction you want. Recommitment is also of critical importance if you happen to slip up and miss a day in your habit. Avoid punishing yourself if you experience any slippage, simply recommit as quickly as you can and take immediate action to get back on track.
Step 10: Celebrate each day – Celebrate this life-changing process you are engaged in every day. You are transforming your life in ways that, in this moment, you can only imagine. Celebrate who you are becoming on the inside, as well as the external rewards as they begin to manifest.
Reflection: What are the internal and external rewards and causes for celebration? How will you recognize yourself every day for doing the work to transform your life? You are well on your way to transforming your life, just by creating one new habit. Congratulations!
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