Habit Building to Last A Lifetime
I've had many strong phases where I'm extremely driven, motivated, energized, and focused in setting and attaining my goals. I have also had phases where I have felt none of those things. I believe I have just exited such an "off" phase, despite the fact that I recently have felt like things are going pretty well.
During my "on" phases, I track my goals, try to build healthy habits, and my mind begins thinking bigger picture type thoughts. At all the times in my past, none of the habits have stuck with me once I have switched "off" for several months. This got me thinking: now that I'm feeling that I'm getting back in the groove again, what can I do in order to insure that the practices I implement during my "on" phase stick with me even when I'm not feeling great?
Enter the 30 day challenge. In all of my prior experiences, even though I feel like I'm kicking ass, I take on too much at once. It doesn't feel like too much because you're "on" but shortly after that phase ends, you realize how overwhelming it all is. I attribute this as a lack of effective habit building.
So what is an effective habit, and how can you build one (or several?). Research has shown that habits shape our lives. We have a set of habits we follow whether we are aware of them or not. An effective habit is one that requires no willpower to continue the behavior or action. Establishing a new habit needs to take place within the window of replacing an old one, it is much more difficult and takes longer to build a habit off of no foundation whatsoever. For example, smokers who instead of smoking, take 5 minutes to sit and meditate once every few hours (when they would normally be smoking) have a much higher rate of success of quitting than those who quit cold turkey and replace the habit with nothing. These non-routine fillers end up causing the downfall of the good intention because the time that your brain says "hey, do something" ends up drifting inevitably to the craving of a cigarette and smoking.
Establishing a routine takes willpower in the beginning. This is why it is so critical to not take on too much. I personally have created a spreadsheet of about 20 habits and practices that I think should be a part of my daily routine, but this is the first time that I am not actively tracking how well I'm following along with implementing them all in my life.
I have narrowed the list down to two things that I must do every day, no matter what. These are brushing my teeth after waking up in the morning, and meditating every day. These two things are incredibly simple and don't take a lot of willpower or time. This was intentional. I wanted to do my first session of building a couple habits to be something that I could absolutely crush without trying too hard. I decided that these would have the best effect on my health as habits to cultivate and practice every day for the rest of my life.
There are, of course, other habits that I follow, but I don't consider them detrimental just yet. I intend to tackle them two at a time, in 30 day increments. If at any time one of my old habits falls off my practice, it goes back on the list and I do it another 30 days until it sticks again. So far, it has been relatively simple. I have replaced my morning routine of starting coffee and staring at inanimate objects for minutes on end, instead with going to the bathroom to brush my teeth.
Meditating has been a bit more challenging because I haven't been able to find a regular place in my day where the practice goes every day, which is a result of me waking up at different times every day. If I woke up with my alarm and never snoozed, I would have plenty of time to incorporate meditation into my morning routine. I have considered this fact in my habit building and intend to tackle early rising without snoozing as my next habit to build.
Now this can build into finances and money management in many ways. Perhaps you can build a habit of cooking at home for all of your food. Perhaps you make a habit of depositing all of your cash into a savings or retirement account whenever you get some extra income or cash for some other reason. It could be as simple as building a habit to get rid of things you don't use whenever you see them. Not only will this free up space, but if you sell said things, you can come up money ahead as well.
You can make creative challenges into habits, such as writing 1000 words a day if you would like to become a writer, or to spend free time learning new skills. These are all habits that can be built over time, all you have to do is decide on one that is important to you and go with it until it sticks. Just try not to take on too much and you'll be fine!
Consider that if you implement one or two healthy habits, one at a time, in 30 day increments, it will only take a year to be putting 12 or 24 into practice in your life. If you have been successful, you'll hardly notice that that habits have changed at all - because they take no willpower. Such is the beauty of a routine and habit!