New Habits

It’s the end of another year and that signals a tidal wave of desire to develop new habits. Unfortunately, most people’s new habits won’t make it past January. This post offers you strategies and encouragement as you choose and pursue your new habit.

My Experience

I have seen success in developing several habits. In 2019 I began exercising regularly and lost 20 pounds. In 2020 I added a meditation habit. 2021 focused on journaling daily and 2022’s focus was on regular fasting (also referred to as time restricted eating or intermittent fasting). Last year’s focus was on creating content. This post is a product of that new habit.

These habits are still intact in my life. I didn’t start them and then cast them off. They all stuck. So, how did I do it?

Atomic Habits

First, if you haven’t read James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, stop now and get it. Almost all of my success comes as a result of using concepts he clearly presents in his book. Here are the ideas that helped me the most.

Are you sure this is what you want?

A new habit is hard to develop, right? It can be if you’re trying to begin the wrong habit. Let me explain.

Think about what kind of person you want to be and then think about what that person does. What is important to that person? Don’t assume you should be a runner, or reader, etc. Just because you know someone who went back to school and got an advanced degree, doesn’t mean you should. Your mother was right, just because someone else is doing it, that doesn’t mean you should do it.

For example, I don’t run. I did attempt to start running in 2019. Running is a good habit. I love the idea of being a runner. But, I had a problem. Running made my knee blow up. Initially, I was depressed and felt like a failure. But, I began to realize that I really didn’t want to be a runner. I wanted to be more active, get in better shape and lose some weight. Running isn’t the only habit that produces those results. So, I started walking daily, and that habit stuck because that was more in line with who I saw myself becoming

You are your own person. Forget the NIKE adds. You don’t have to; “Just Do It”. Especially if it doesn’t fit your vision of yourself.

Make it easy

Making a habit easy is counterintuitive. New habits are supposed to be hard, right? Well, they are if you don’t think through a way to make them easy to accomplish.

Before I started a daily exercise routine, I thought about when this exercise would occur. When would I have the time? Where would I walk? How far? How often?

I settled on this routine: I get home from work, get changed and walk out the door. It’s a simple and straightforward routine. Easy.

After a while everyone in the house knew my routine. I knew that I was making progress when my daughter texted me about doing something when I got home from work. Her message was something like, “Dad, when you get home and get back from your walk, can you…”. Everyone expects me to walk when I get home. Even easier.

Please note that I don’t get in the car and drive to the park for a walk. That would be a much prettier walk, but it would require me to add the step of getting in the car and driving somewhere. This would make it harder to accomplish. If you want to succeed in new habit formation, you must make things simple and easy at first.

What’s the focus?

Once I knew when I would walk, I employed another Atomic Habit principle. I focused on my actions and not on results. The plan was to walk every day. I didn’t pressure myself with a distance goal. And, I didn’t expect any weight loss. I was simply working a plan that I had developed.

Too many people quit their new habit because they don’t see results. It is good to expect some results eventually. Sometimes you might need to change your habits to achieve your desired results. But, most people expect the results to come too soon. Do a yearly inventory of your habits. What is working and what isn’t? It’s ok to drop a habit if it doesn’t fit your vision of who you are becoming. And, you should drop a habit that isn’t producing the proper results. But, you must give it time to work.

My goal was to be a person who exercised daily. Eventually I added the goal of getting 10,000 steps in every day. But, my overall plan was and is to just get out and move every day.

Keystone habits

Some habits are what James Clear calls, keystone habits.

…certain routines — keystone habits — lead to a cascade of other actions because of them.

Walking/exercising was a keystone habit for me. As I began walking regularly, I had a growing desire to change my diet and begin fasting. I also used the time that I was walking to listen to books and podcasts.

What’s next?

My next goal is Spanish. I will regularly listen to a podcast on the way home from work that develops Spanish skills. I found one that is 5 – 7 minutes long. Short and sweet. The goal is not to learn Spanish. The goal is to work on Spanish skills 5 days a week, using that podcast.

Will I learn Spanish? I don’t know. But, I know that I can control my effort. I can become the kind of person who is listening to and practicing Spanish. Results will come in their own time.

When you experience success in generating a new habit, you will gain momentum to attack your next habit. Good luck!

So… what habit will you begin this year?

For more on habit formation, read my post “3 Habits for life transformation”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *