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Are you feeling overwhelmed all the time?
Does “being successful” feel too much or simply just impossible for you?
Perhaps you’re tired of feeling like you just aren’t making progress no matter what you do.
Or maybe like me, you sometimes feel frantic because you haven’t actually accomplished anything today? (“Stop looking at me like that to-do list.”)
Listen, I feel this way too. Probably more often than I’d like to admit, but it gets to me too. The overwhelm, the feeling that I’m not moving fast enough, the fear that I’m just spinning my wheels just being busy.
So what do you do? How to do let go of the overwhelm and move forward confidently?
A smart place to start might not be where you’d think. Sure, getting your to-do list in order is great advice, getting organized or spring cleaning your mind and seeking clarity, are even better places to start.
Before you run off to set even more goals, what if there was a better way?
You Need the Power of Habits
It’s easy to feel burned out when you’re working toward new goals. Starting out, your excitement will be enough to motivate you. But that initial enthusiasm will gradually wane and you’ll have trouble sticking with your new routine.
So how do you avoid losing steam?
A simple way to keep yourself moving forward is to create good habits surrounding your goals. When your new routine becomes habitual, you set yourself up for a greater chance of success.
Think of building new habits as a way to “automate” your success.
👉🏽 RELATED POST: How To Make a Habit Stick, Based on Science
Once you’ve created some good habits, you won’t have to consciously remember to do the things that spur your forward movement.
Let’s get you into a groove by creating new habits so you can keep slaying your goals!
How Do You Create New Habits?
It’s important to understand how habits form to be able to use them to your advantage. The science behind habit formation is surprisingly uncomplicated.
At the start of a new routine, your actions are all made consciously. Conscious actions are controlled by a specific part of your brain called the prefrontal cortex. This is considered the “decision-making” part of your brain.
However, repeating that same action over time creates a habit.
This habitual action gets triggered by the basal ganglia area of the brain rather than by your prefrontal cortex. Essentially the decision-making part of your brain “goes to sleep.”
It’s no longer involved in taking action!
The Habit Loop
Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, uses the idea of a “habit loop” to describe the way habits work.
A habit loop consists of three parts: the Cue, the Routine, and the Reward. Let’s use an example of smoking, a common unhealthy habit, to show how these parts interact.
The cue, or “trigger,” is what sets a habit into motion. Someone who smokes may get triggered by their morning cup of coffee, drinks with friends, or their daily commute. Each of these actions serves as a cue for their smoking habit, as they associate the action to the habit.
This is the performance of the actual habit or ritual. For smokers, this is the act of smoking. Pretty straightforward, right?
The reward is what happens after you perform a habit. Having a reward reinforces the habit by telling your brain that the habit leads to the reward. The reward for smokers comes from the hit of nicotine they get from their cigarette, which provides a feeling of comfort or satisfaction.
👉🏽 RELATED POST: Healthy Habits List: 10 Easy Changes with Big Results
How to Form New Habits
Both good and bad habits form the same way. They both have the same structure. This is actionable intel that you can use when you’re attempting to break bad habits or form new good ones.
Use the structure of a habit loop to create your own successful routine!
First, choose a trigger for your new habit. If you want to set up a habit of writing every morning, make your trigger “after breakfast” or “when I have my morning coffee.”
A few other ideas for triggers are:
- Brushing your teeth
- Checking your email
Pick something that will be easy to remember and that you typically do daily. To create a new habit, you need to use a trigger that happens frequently enough for the habit to stick.
👉🏽 RELATED POST: Why Habit Trackers Inspire Us to Be Better People
Next, commit to doing the habit daily.
Every time your chosen trigger occurs, perform the habit. By repeating your new habit every day, you build a foundation to make your action automatic.
But how do you make sure your good habit sticks?
There are a few things you can do to ensure your new habit is here to stay:
#1. Start Small
I mean very small.
👉🏽 RELATED POST: 6 Small Changes that Actually Make a Big Difference
#2. Plan to Fail
I’m not saying you’re going to completely fail. But you will have days you forget to perform your habit after your trigger.
The thing to keep in mind is consistency beats perfection.
Don’t beat yourself up for missing a day here and there. Show yourself some compassion and jump back into your habit routine the next day.
#3. Replace Bad Habits with Good Ones
This is known as “replacing the need.”
If you were trying to eat healthier, you might notice what triggers you to reach for a bag of chips or a candy bar. Replace the need by using that trigger to eat a piece of fruit instead. Choose a fruit you really like so it still serves as the reward to that trigger.
The same goes for replacing habits surrounding your goals. If you have a habit of watching TV after dinner each evening, you can use your dinner cue for a productive habit instead. Try replacing that 30 or 60 minute TV show with planning for the next day or brainstorming new ideas!
👉🏽 RELATED POST: 10 Habits that Teach You to Be Successful
#4. Find an Accountability Buddy
You don’t have to do this alone! Accountability partners are perfect for helping you stay on track. It’s best to find someone who is also working on building habits so you have something in common, but any sort of accountability buddy is helpful.
Get together with your accountability buddy to work on your goals. Meet at a coffee shop or at the library. If you know another person is expecting you to show up, you’re more likely to be there!
Set Realistic Expectations for Your New Habits
Creating a new habit that sticks takes time.
Quite a lot of time, actually. Don’t get discouraged if you’re not habitually performing your new task perfectly, even after a few weeks.
So, how long does it take to create a new habit?
An old myth claims habits are formed by repeating an action for 21 consecutive days.
But a recent study has shown it actually takes much longer, 66 days on average to form a new habit, and varies from person to person.
For some participants in the study, it took over 250 days for a new habit to stick!
Printable Habit Tracker Templates
Ready to form a new habit and make it stick? To automate your success with good habits?
Get your FREE printable habit tracker templates, with spreads for 30 and 31 days.
Habits are a simple way to take decision-making out of the equation and “automate” your success.
Your success doesn’t have to be complicated, simply get started today by replacing one “bad” habit at a time with one that is more helpful in reaching your goal.
Before you know it you’ll have “automated” your success and you’ll be well on your way to achieving your goals!
Ready to create new habits that “automate” your success?
More About Guest Contributor
Tina is the creator of Self-Worthy.net, a personal development, and wellness blog. She gives people the tools they need to manage stress, find joy, and live fully.