Want to create a new habit? Here are 4 tips to make it easier.

Struggling to convince yourself to get to the gym or to follow through on that new year's goal you set for yourself?

Welcome to the club.  

As human beings, we're instinctively wired to conserve energy and to be drawn to sweet foods.  

We've made massive modifications to our environments in recent centuries, which fortunately means many of us no longer have to worry about conserving energy to be able to run away from predators or stocking up before going for long periods without food.  However, our biology hasn't kept pace, which means it can be hard to get ourselves to run if nothing's chasing us or to resist that pint of Ben & Jerry's even though there's a bunch of kale in the refrigerator.

So please know, just because you struggle to embed the new habits you've chosen for yourself, there's nothing wrong with you.  It's completely normal. And there are some things you can do to make it easier to stick to them.

 

1. Remove temptations and distractions

If you can identify something that is getting in the way of you accomplishing what you want, remove it.  For example, if you want to remove sweets from your diet, don't bring sugary foods into your home.  If you want to break your social media habit, install a website blocker.  If you want to increase your focus, close your email program for portions of the day.  If you want to work out more, go straight to the gym after work instead of going home first where the lure of the couch might just be too much to contend with.

 

2. Reduce the 'activation energy' Required

Make it as easy as possible to do the activity you want to do.  For example, if you want to practice playing the guitar, instead of keeping the instrument out of sight in a closet, put it within arm's reach of the couch.  If you want to remember to journal, keep the journal out on your desk with a pen right next to it ready to go.

 

3. Identify a trigger to remind you

Use a trigger event or cue to remind you to do the action you want to take.  One form this could take is a 'when...then...' statement.  For example, "When it's 5pm, then I will drive to the gym."  Or, "When I finish brushing my teeth, then I will meditate for 5 minutes."

 

4. Chunk it down

Sometimes if the thing we want to do feels big and overwhelming, it makes it difficult to get started.  So think about chunking the activity down to its smaller parts.  For example, instead of dreading going for an hour run in the morning, when you wake up just commit to putting on your running shoes.  Then once they're on, just go outside. Then just run up the street.  By just getting started with these little chunks of the activity, you'll often find a momentum is created that makes it easier to do the thing you want to do.

 

I hope you find these tips helpful and want to close with a reminder about the importance of knowing yourself.  (It always comes back to self-awareness, doesn't it?)

Take the time to find out what works for you personally.  Focus on what you want but remember thinking alone doesn't create change.  So experiment, try something - anything.  Personally, putting something in my calendar helps me commit to doing it but I know that doesn't work for everyone.  So take the time to figure out what will work for you.