6 Practical Tips To Make Your Habits Stick


Are you trying to cultivate a new habit? Are you having trouble being consistent with this habit?

Our habits determine our quality of life. This month I’m doing group coaching with my readers, and I was intrigued to see that many of them have goals to cultivate new habits this month.

They include very useful habits like:
  • Meditate every day
  • Exercise 4 times a week or daily
  • Reading a new book a week
  • Waking up at 6am every day
  • Sleeping before midnight every day

Many of them have been meaning to cultivate these habits for a while, but have not been successful.

I realize that many people have difficulties making new habits stick and it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve cultivated numerous new habits, some of which require big changes, such as switching to a vegetarian diet and exercising every day.

By taking conscious actions, your habits can easily be a part of your life. Here’s 6 simple tips to make that happen:
  1. Know why you want this habit
    Why do you want to cultivate this habit and what does it bring for you? Some of us may want to cultivate habits like meditating daily and exercising daily, but why exactly do we want to do that? If you don’t have a clear reason, it’s not going to happen. For example, I switched to a vegetarian diet because I wanted to have higher mental clarity and have a cruelty-free lifestyle. I’m passionate about these reasons – having a higher mental clarity helps me to think clearer, while a cruelty-free lifestyle is in line with my personal vision. Because of that, it was extremely easy making the switch. While I hear of many people who tried to go vegetarian but failed after 2-3 weeks, I switched and never looked back.

    Identify the biggest reasons why you want to cultivate this habit. Think about what it helps you to achieve once you successfully make it a part of your life. Think about what it can give you that other things can’t. Write down these reasons.

  2. Try it as a 21 day trial
    Some of us might get overwhelmed with cultivating a new habit because it’s something we need to do for life. What if you just need to do this habit for the next 21 days? Suddenly it doesn’t seem so challenging. Most of you will think: “21 days, hey I can do that”.

    Why 21 days? Research has shown 21 days is the time it takes to make or break a new habit. Also, by focusing on a shorter time-frame, it helps you focus your efforts to make it happen. Once you successfully cultivate the new habit at the end of the 21 days, suddenly it’s very easy to continue what you are doing. Hence, don’t think about doing this forever, but rather just think about doing it for 21 days. If you like the habit at the end of the period, you can continue; otherwise you can ditch it. It’s a win-win, no lose situation!

  3. Make time for it in your schedule
    Slot in your new habit in your schedule. If it’s not in your schedule, you’ll likely leave it as the last thing to do in the day. Chances are by the end of the day, you’ll be so tired that you’ll leave it to the next day instead. In the end the cycle continues tomorrow and you’re going to end up not doing it at all. On the other hand, if it’s in your timetable, you’ll be reminded about it every time you see the calendar. You’ll also know not to schedule other activities during the time.

    I schedule my jogging sessions every morning, from between 5-6am. A big reason is because I like the coolness of the morning, whereas it can be quite hot to run in the afternoon. It’s also great to start the day with a great workout. Since it’s set at the time, I know I need to wake up at 5am to get it done. In any event where I’m unable to do it (say when it rains, or when I wake up later), I’ll reschedule it to the evening. That way, I can still make it happen even if it doesn’t happen the first time round.


  4. Identify reinforcing habits
    Our habits do not exist in isolation; they are interlinked with one another. For example, waking early and sleeping early are related, while exercising and healthy eating are related too. This is why it can be tough to cultivate a new habit, because other behaviors are reinforcing it. What are the habits related to the one you want to cultivate? Remove the habits that do not serve you, and replace habits that help you.

  5. Preempt things that can go wrong
    If you’re cultivating the habit for the first time, chances are things will go wrong. Too many things happen every day for everything to happen according to plan. The key is preempting these problems and coming up with solutions beforehand so you can immediately overcome them when these problems crop up.

    For example, a big obstacle that I experience with my daily exercise goal is that it rains frequently in Singapore. Because of that, I can’t go jog, since the running track does not have a shelter. In the past, I would give up my exercise session, and this marks the start of a chain of days where I skip my exercises. My thinking would be “Since I’ve already missed it yesterday, doesn’t matter much if I skip it today” . Learning from my past experience, what I do instead is I do a combination of resistance exercises and aerobics at home. This keeps up with the momentum.

  6. Track your habits
    Track your habits! When you track your habits, you’re more motivated to keep on track, since it’s a form of accountability to yourself. There are some great habit trackers you can check out below:

    • HabitForge – Tracks new habits through a 21-day period. If you miss the habit for 1 day, it’ll restart.
    • Rootein – Unlike Habit Forge, here you track your habit continuously regardless of whether it’s missed or not. It has a mobile version so you can track your habits on the go.
    • Joe’s Goals – Same as Rootein. There’s an option to place multiple checks on the same goal for extra-productive days.

    You can also use the traditional method of tracking – pen and paper. Simply draw a simple chat with the 21 days you want to cultivate your habit. Then, once you complete the habit for the day, put a tick beside it. As you see more and more ticks, you’ll be inspired to continue with your progress, and before you know it the habit is already part of your routine!

How about you?
What new habits do you want to cultivate? How can you apply the tips above to make your habits stick? Share in the comments area below!

Written on 12/6/2010 by Celestine Chua. Celestine writes at Personal Excellence, where she shares her best advice on how to achieve personal excellence and live your best life. Get her RSS feed directly and add her on Twitter @celestinechua. If you like this article, you will enjoy one of her top articles: 101 Things To Do Before You Die. Photo Credit: ? Redvers
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