Set And Reach Your Goals With This Practical Guide To Forming A Habit

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“To have striven, to have made the effort, to have been true to certain ideals–this alone is worth the struggle.” –William Penn

Writing is a huge part of my life.

Whether it’s writing life advice like I am now or copywriting to help a business’ product appeal more to potential customers you can see me writing away.

You know what though? Writing is something that you have to do A LOT if you want to become better. That is true for most things.

That is exactly why I wanted to make it a point to write on a daily basis. Writing in a journal, Microsoft Word, or anything to get my writing muscle pumping was important to me and I knew it was a habit that would be incredibly beneficial to me.

But guess what? Forming a habit is hard because the motivation is sometimes nonexistent. Without a doubt, you know exactly what I am talking about.

My motivation to write every day is stronger than ever before. In fact, I’ve written for at least 30 minutes on a daily basis for over a month now.

Whoa! That is a lot of progress and more importantly, writing is now a habit! Keep in mind that there were times I went weeks at a time without writing a single word (Skype and texting do not count.)

How did I form the habit? Easy. I took a little inspiration from Jerry Seinfeld who uses a similar method to forming a habit of writing jokes every day.

Buy a huge whiteboard. Get to the nearest store that sells whiteboards and buy the biggest one you can. Install it in your room or somewhere that you will see EVERY DAY. Make sure it’s something that you will not be able to miss or ignore.

If you’re not a whiteboard person, you can just buy a calendar. But that’s not as fun.

Write out the days of each month for the next 6 months. Get a marker and start writing out the days one by one for the next 6 months. June 1, 2, 3, and so on all the way until whenever.

Now what you do is every day you perform the task of the habit you’re trying to learn, you get to cross out that day with a nice huge X with a bright red marker.

The idea is that you’re going to see that beautiful chain of X’s after a week or so of doing it and you’re not going to want to disrupt the chain by missing a day.

It’s such a simple solution, but it seriously works the moment I tried it. I have yet to miss a single day because of this.

There have been several days where it’d be 11pm at night and I haven’t written. I look at my whiteboard and think to myself “Oh no! I have to produce!”

 

Bam, I rush to the laptop and brainstorm and write. There is no set quantity, but I make sure there’s at least a sense of quality.

Hold yourself accountable to not break the chain of red X’s. This takes a bit of self-discipline in itself, but this whiteboard method works for several reasons.

It gives you a visual reminder that you instantly understand. It also gives you an incentive. Who wants to ruin a perfectly good chain of continuing X’s? Sure, you can cheat, but you’re only lying to yourself if you do.

So yes, this method works. That is how Jerry Seinfeld manages to work on at least one joke a day. That is how I find the motivation to work on a piece of writing each day. And I do not doubt that you will find this to be just as useful for any habit you’d like to develop.

I know many people who say they wish they read more. Calendar method.

Then there are others who talk about how they wish they could meditate on a daily basis. Calendar method.

Want to consistently exercise? You know what to do. Calendar method.

It’s pretty interesting to see how something as simple as this can kick you into high gear. If you don’t want to invest in a whiteboard, buy an inexpensive calendar and give it a try. This really can become a game you play with yourself.

Best-case scenario is you develop the new habit. Worst-case? You have a new whiteboard. Maybe one day you’ll no longer need the whiteboard method.

Until then, you get to draw big red X’s.

Written on 6/9/2013 by Vincent Nguyen. Vincent Nguyen is the author of personal development blog, Self Stairway, where their motto is “Self-Improvement through Self-Reflection.” Vincent often draws through personal life experiences to tie into his life lessons. Follow Self Stairway on Twitter and Facebook.

Photo Credit:
Tung Nguyen Thanh

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