It can seem impossible to break bad habits or to create new, positive habits. Most people have an ineffective approach. They try to go cold turkey and rely on willpower to force the necessary changes.
You already know this doesn’t work unless you’re incredibly motivated, and motivation isn’t reliable. It’s here one day and gone the next.
Create new habits more effectively by avoiding the most common mistakes:
1. Changing too much, too soon. A new habit is best installed in baby steps. If you want to spend two hours each day writing your novel, start with a single sentence each day. One sentence accomplishes something exciting: it gets you in the habit of sitting down and writing when it’s time to write. That’s the most important first step.
- Start with small changes. Then increase the amount of time and effort when the habit of beginning is in place.
- Seek behavioral changes that are so easy, you can’t possibly fail.
2. Relying on self-discipline. If your habit requires self-discipline, it won’t last. At most, self-discipline should only be required to make a habit of getting started. Habits are automatic. Self-discipline isn’t required to eat a candy bar or watch TV for most of us. If you have a habit of going to the gym, self-discipline isn’t required for that either.
- Self-discipline is a short-term solution.
- Seek behavioral changes that are so easy, you don’t need self-discipline.
3. Expecting a new habit to be easy to install. Change isn’t easy. You’ll become complacent and lazy if you expect a new habit to be easy to implement. We’d all be rich, in shape, and speak five languages if creating new habits were a simple matter.
4. Expecting a new habit to be difficult to install. The opposite is also true. If you expect the process to be exceptionally difficult, you’ll also struggle. The thought of doing anything that’s hard can be sufficient reason to never get started in the first place.
- New behaviors are easy to implement if you start slowly and have patience. It’s moving ahead slowly and having patience that are difficult.
5. Relying too much on information. Our society is blessed, or cursed, with access to an excessive amount of information. This can create two challenges:
- It’s very easy to believe that you don’t know enough to take the first step. There’s always something out there that you don’t know. The need to know everything before getting started can leave you stuck. There’s no prize for knowing the most. There is great success in doing the most, though.
- The belief that knowledge alone is sufficient is just as harmful. You might know how to do pushups, but that doesn’t provide the same results as doing 100 of them each day.
- The special forces have a motto that 60% is enough to take action. If you know 60% of the relevant information, you know enough to move forward. You can figure out the other 40% along the way. Spend 90% of your time doing and 10% learning.
Dropping your negative habits and adding new, supportive habits is the key to changing your circumstances. Unfortunately, our instincts about change are incorrect.
Tiny changes are easy to implement and build upon. But this approach requires patience and the belief that it can work. Remember: small changes add up to big results.
Avoid the most common mistakes when attempting to add a new habit to your life and you’ll find greater success in adding habits that make a positive impact on your life.