a habit

Everyone views life a little differently. Some take it day-by-day, happy to make it through to see another. Some like to live the roller coaster.  They thrive on (whether they realize it or not) the rush of adrenaline that comes with those high points, as much as they thrive in wallowing when it all comes tumbling down. Just the way a child will gleefully continue to build onto his LEGO tower, though he knows it won’t be able to last, and then sit there crying when it actually does. We all approach this journey differently.

I used to be that kid. Constantly pushing and pushing to see when something would break. Why? I wanted to know if limits exisited. I wanted to know my own capabilities, good, bad or indifferent. And afterwards, I just couldn’t put my finger on why I had to start over or why relationships were ruined or why I had the hardship that I had. I didn’t know that it was a habit that I created for myself.

Humans are creatures of habit. Our bodies and minds want us to be stuck in a comfortable routine of homeostasis. Subconsciously, your inner self is thinking only about survival and not about success, “I’ve survived this far doing what I’ve always done, so changing can only risk danger.”

Habits stick because they’re comfortable. Like a warm blanket on a chilly morning, it wraps around you and allows for you to nestle in it. But we don’t grow when we continue to habitually do the things we do. The grow truly comes from being uncomfortable; from finding that edge where you are pushed just enough so that you can stretch into something new.

Understanding Habits

Before you can change a habit, you have to understand where it derives from, as well as what incentives will really stick. Here is a fantastic chart from  Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit:

Change-a Habit

NOTE: Charles is a really nice guy (met him at SXSW this past year) and the book thus far is great. I highly recommend it.

Maintaining Your New Habit

Is there a habit or two that you would like to kick and a healthier one that you would like to start? Here is 7 step habit-forming process that will help you reinforce that new habit:

1. Do it for 30 Days – The common consensus is that it takes about 21 days of consistency to make a new habit automatic or lose a bad habit. However, here is an article that argues that the length really depends on the particular habit. I say it’s best to go 30 days just to be sure. Don’t wait until the first of the month to start; you can begin forming new habits today.

2. Do it Every Day – Habits are formed through consistency, so follow through on your new habit every day. Do this even if the habit isn’t something you plan to do every day once it is established, like going to the gym. Stick it out for the 30 days, and then switch to a more realistic routine of a couple times a week.

3. Realize the Rewards – Never stop reminding yourself why you are forming the new habit. Take the time to think about the benefits that will come with your new habit and how they will improve your life. If the rewards are unclear then your motivation will falter.

4. Don’t Overdo It – “I’m going to change everything about my life starting today!” This is the affirmation of an overzealous habit reformer. Wanting to change is good, but if you aren’t realistic you are less likely to succeed and more likely to lose hope. Start simple by just choosing one thing about yourself that you would like to change and work on that for the next month.

5. Create External Reminders – Even if we have the best intentions to form a new habit, we can still just forget to do it. Creating little reminders or triggers can help you stay on track. For example, if you want to run a mile every day you can write a note to yourself, leave yourself a phone message, or just tie a string on your finger. These little rituals help support remembering.

6. Find Friendly Support – We are much more likely to follow through with something when we know that someone else is monitoring us. Find a friend who also wants to create a habit and check in on each other every day. Knowing that failure will not just disappoint you but your friend as well is deeply motivating.

7. Pavlovian Conditioning– This may sound a little extreme, but if you have a really nasty habit you can try to kick it by employing the “Rubber band Technique.” Wear a rubber band around your wrist, and when you find yourself slipping, snap it. Eventually, your mind will subconsciously associate pain with the unwanted behavior and will work to help you avoid it.

Apps To Help You

If you’re like me, then you live and breathe by your phone and its apps. My phone is my personal computer. So, I look for ways to keep me on track. Here is my TV segment on NECN around great apps to do just that:

Besides those featured in the segment, I like these as well:

43 Things. 43 Things gets straight to the point, “Changing your life is hard. Doing it by yourself is harder.” The website with its app allows you set three goals, share your progress, and people cheer you on. You even have a built-in accountability partner to keep you going when times get stuff.

If you have a few new years resolutions that you are looking to keep then you need something a little more robust such as the Getting Things Done or GTD. The basic principle behind GTD is to record the tasks externally, rather than trying to recall from memory. The tasks are also organized by priority, so you pay most attention to the tasks that really matter. That’s how you get hings done. Now, there are a lot of options out in the App Store for task managers and GTD apps, so it’s hard to find the one that will work for you.

Also, if you would like to take an online assessment to see where you get hung up within your productivity, try this.

And lastly, we have Way of Life which is the ultimate habit building app. Invest less than a minute daily to track, identify and change your habits with its unique red/green color system. The idea behind this app is quite simple: make a list of the “habits” you are trying to promote in your daily life, track those habits with a simple “yes” or “no”, and then look back at the patterns and make changes as needed. It is the minimalists way of keeping new year’s resolutions and making them habits.


I also asked on Facebook which tools they used to keep on track. Here are some of the answers I received:

 habit-christina inge

 habits-steve garfield

The habit-leslie kwan

 Have you ever dedicated yourself to kicking a bad habit or starting a new one? What tricks did you employ to get yourself through the first month? What surprising obstacles did you find on your way to productive habit-forming? Tell us your experiences. We would love to hear from you.

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