The Simple, Powerful Guide to Forming Any New Habit

I want to share an important truth about life. This one thing can mean tragedy or bliss for you, depending on how you act on it. Ready? Here it is.

Our habits become our lives.

Everything you want to do each day results from actions you repeat and routines you develop.

If you can muster the self-discipline to create habits of personal growth, you’ll move mountains. You will prosper and know real happiness.

On the other hand, if you plummet into the dark cave of toxic habits and can’t escape, you will wind up trapped in a life of dissatisfaction and despair.

Beach Happiness

Photo Credit: Breahn Foster (Creative Commons)

My Story

Three years ago, I was overweight and addicted to a sedentary lifestyle. I was accomplishing the bare minimum in college and wasn’t confident in who I was.

I knew I was living unhealthily and could be doing more with my time, but it was so much easier to keep doing more of the same. I wanted to gain self-confidence, but I didn’t know where to begin.

I finally decided to make a positive change. With the help of a friend, I slowly developed an exercise habit. Over time, this one great habit sparked many other life changes.

I ended up losing 45 pounds of fat and gaining 20 pounds of muscle. I started eating a balanced diet and gave up TV and video games. I de-cluttered my living space and became way more productive. I developed unflappable self-confidence and began reading and writing every day.

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What I Learned

From this experience, I learned that the key to defeating bad habits is discovering the joys of better ones. Introducing even one beneficial habit into your life can start a chain reaction and transform your mindset.

By establishing one positive habit, you gain the knowledge and reassurance to duplicate it. One by one, you can replace harmful actions with rewarding habits.

This brief guide teaches you all you need to know to form any new habit. Remember: Many small changes add up to big life renovations.

Bookmark and reference it down the road if you’re not ready yet or think it’ll come in handy again later. Remember, I can tell you what to do. It’s up to you to be dedicated and do the work.

The Life-Changing Guide

1. Make a commitment.

It sounds intimidating to “commit” to something, but new habit formation requires a serious mindset. Promise yourself you’re going to make an honest, dedicated effort.

Do it: Think of one thing you’ve wanted to begin doing in your life. Visualize yourself doing it regularly. Now, decide firmly that you’re going to work towards that vision.

2. Start really small.

A lot of folks try to do too much overnight and become overwhelmed. You must begin with an exceptionally manageable task and work up from there.

For an exercise habit, this could mean walking around the block twice a week. For a writing habit, this may be writing something each day, even if it’s one sentence. Think tiny.

Do it: Brainstorm the simplest action you can do daily or weekly to prime yourself for your new habit. You cannot start too small. Make up your mind, and do it this week, or today even.

3. Find a trigger.

A trigger is an event stimulus that precedes the action of a habit. An example of a trigger could be getting out of the shower, which prompts you to brush your teeth. It’s helpful to align the practice of a new habit with a potential trigger.

After a while, the trigger will begin to naturally initiate the habit-doing mentality. If you’re trying to meditate in the morning, waking up might be your trigger. If you want to start going to bed earlier, reading a book for half an hour may be the ticket.

Do it: Figure out a trigger that can happen as often as the habit practice you want to form. The best triggers are events already in place. Be creative, and start performing your habit every time, immediately after you ‘trigger’ it.

4. Seek positive support.

Motivation is crucial to developing a new habit, and encouragement from other people is the most potent motivator. If exercising, find a partner. If writing, look for a community. If starting a website, tell a few friends.

Inspiration is positivity we seek out to keep ourselves energized. Find powerful quotes, moving songs, or other forms of art that fire you up and remind you why it’s worth it.

Do it: Before starting your new habit:

1) Establish the peer group or friend(s) who will be there to support you.

2) Build up an armory of inspiration. This could mean making a pump-up playlist in iTunes, bookmarking uplifting websites, buying a few great books, or sticky-noting powerful quotes above your desk. Seek out diverse sources to inflame your passion.

5. Build up gradually.

Set out a schedule of how you’ll increase time spent practicing your habit in the coming weeks. Add a little more time each week or every other week until you reach a point where you’re satisfied with how often you’re doing the activity.

For example, let’s say you’re starting to exercise, and you’re shooting for 4-5 times per week. You might start with 1 time per week for two weeks, then 2-3 times per week for two weeks, and so on. The key is to climb the peak slowly, not overnight.

Do it: Consider your attitude and time commitments, and plan out how great of weekly or bi-weekly increase in habit time seems feasible and appropriate for you.

6. Reward yourself.

When you successfully devote some time to your new habit, give yourself a reward, even if ever so small. Every time I finish working out, I reward myself with a half hour of relaxation time in the sauna to read or meditate.

Do it: Come up with a simple, enticing reward. It might be something you only let yourself do after your habit, like listen to your favorite band or take a nap. Think outside the box.

7. Write down your plan.

Put down on paper your trigger, your reward, who’s supporting you, why you’re committed, your schedule for increase, and anything else you believe is relevant to your success. Take this task seriously and focus on specifics.

Do it: I suggest typing up the plan, printing it off, and hanging it where you’ll see it every day. This is your manifesto, your declaration of dedication. Let it be your guiding hand.

8. Give it 8 weeks.

I can’t stress enough that habits don’t change overnight and that real effort and perseverance are necessary. In my experience, 6-8 weeks of sticking to your schedule will be sufficient for the habit to begin to feel natural in your daily routine.

Do it: Stick with it for 56 days. Don’t concentrate on some magical end result. Focus only on today, and take pride in each little victory. Celebrate the awesome fact that you’re doing something to change your life.

Wishing you the best on your journey…

Staying dedicated to a habit is no easy task. Even after years of practice, you still have to be conscientious each day.

If you keep taking action for long enough, you realize the immense value that lies in the struggle.

Everything worth gaining in life is worth earning. Only by challenging ourselves to learn and grow do we discover our most priceless treasure.

I’m here for you, and this blog is here for you. Be strong, stay golden, and believe in yourself.  You are capable of so much more than you know.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
— Marianne Williamson

Have you had success with these tips? What else has worked for you? Comment below.

About Jordan Bates

Jordan Bates is the Creator of Refine The Mind. He loves you. In 2013, he moved to South Korea to teach English, embarking on a nomadic journey that would lead him to 27 countries. In the process he became a writer, entrepreneur, facilitator, autodidact, and rapper, reaching millions of people with his words and ideas. He’s deeply curious about how reality works, how to live well, and how to liberate all sentient creatures in existence. Befriend him and/or get his free eBook on how to exit the world of traditional work and live a radically free life. Amor fati, humans.

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