New year is here and especially this year we are all looking forward to a fresh start. New year is the perfect time to start any new habits because you have a fresh mindset, fresh planners and fresh energy. But it is also true that it does not have to be a new year to start a new habit and stick to it. You can start at any point if you have the intentions right.
Have you noticed that we all have the greatest intentions when we start new habits, but the excitement and enthusiasm comes crumbling down after a few days and we eventually give up. I know it has happened to all of us at some point in life. It is hard to stick to habits, but not impossible.
If you want to stick to your habits, then only having the right intentions is not enough. You need to have the right system in place. I have tried and tested numerous techniques and systems to be consistent with my habits. In today’s article, I am sharing a 3 part system that will help you stick to your habits.
PART 1 – Mindset
If you thought that this article was going to be only about tools and techniques, then let me surprise you with my 1st and the most essential part of our system – Mindset. Any productivity or habit building system is incomplete without the mindset part. If you have this part right, the rest of the system feels like a piece of cake. And if you ignore this very part of the system, your intentions are bound to crash.
There are 3 elements when it comes to the mindset part of the habit building system –
1. Change the identity
Identity by definition means ‘Your overarching view of yourself’. Your identity is what you perceive yourself to be. You need to align your identity to your habit.
Let me elaborate on this. Your identity needs to reflect the kind of person that would perform that habit. For example, if you want to start eating healthy food, then you need to identify yourself as a person who/ prioritizes nutrition. If you want to start reading books, then you need to identify yourself as a reader or a person who likes to read books.
Having such a mindset shift will make the entire system easy for you. In all honesty, changing your mindset is not that easy. It will take time, patience and perseverance. Some ways to build a new identity are –
- Start feeling your new identity. For example, whenever you eat healthy food, feel the feeling of ‘a new me’.
- Use a positive language. Instead of saying ‘I can’t eat that’ (which feels like you are blocking your identity) say ‘I don’t eat that’ (which shows that the thing aligns with your new identity).
- Feed your new identity with positive feedback. Every time you do that certain habit, consciously reaffirm yourself of your new identity.
- Write down positive affirmations at least 10 times every single morning. This is a part of ‘self-hypnosis’ that helps in changing your mindset.
You can work on this exercise and all the other exercises in the blog post using my habit builder worksheet which is included in my Habit Tracker Kit. You can check it out right here.
2. Understand your why
Your intention is a powerful tool when it comes to your mindset. Why do you want to start a certain habit? Having a clear understanding of why you want to bring about a certain change can help to stick to habits.
The important step to this is writing it down. When you write down a certain intention, it solidifies your mindset. Wherever you go off track, this intention or your why will help you get back on track. For example, if you want to exercise 5 days a week, you will write down your intention as – ‘I want to lose 10 lbs of weight to be more healthy / to fit into my old jeans / to conceive a baby, etc.
- Habit equation
This part is the latest addition to my habit building system. I have added this after reading ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear. The habit equation is Cue -> Craving -> Response -> Reward. Understand these 4 elements of any of your habits. What will be your cue, craving and reward. The response here has to be your habit.
For example, if you want to start reading everyday, your equation will be –
- Cue -> Sitting on my couch post my night skincare routine
- Craving -> To get entertained / to do something
- Response -> Pick up a book (instead of Netflix)
- Reward -> Putting a cross in the habit tracker
PART 2 – Environment
Once the mindset part is out of the way, we come to the physical world. You need to have an environment that nurtures your habit or that makes your habit easier to do. So make the necessary changes that you need in your environment to stick to habits.
For example, if you want to start reading daily, you will keep your book on the bedside table. This will make picking up the book much easier. Or let’s say you want to start eating healthier. Then you should put healthy food right in front of the fridge and the unhealthier options behind. If you were trying to start your exercise routine then having your workout clothes laid out at night can be a great way to make things easier for you.
Having a deprecating environment can make you give up on your habit. For example, if you wanted to start the habit of drinking 3 litres of water everyday. But your water bottle was always in the kitchen but you spent maximum time in your home-office. This would make keeping your habit a lot harder.
Here are some questions to help you do this –
- What habit are you trying to start?
- What resistance have you noticed towards this habit?
- What environmental changes can help you with that?
Improve your environment and then go towards the action part.
PART 3 – Action
Once your mindset and environment are prepped, action will come easily to you. But it is not short of its own problems and flaws. The third step – action, is your habit that you perform. In this part of the system we will see how to make this action a consistent one.
Let’s say you have your mindset on track, the environment is nurturing and everything is perfect for you to do that habit. You perform the action for a few weeks and then something unexpected comes by – you fall sick, you go on a vacation or you are just overworked and have no time for anything else. You stop performing your habit – and that is OKAY!! Understand that it is okay to not do something when you are sick or just taking a fun break or have other priorities at that point. Do not beat yourself up from that. But it is not okay to abandon your habits even when you have resumed your routine. Obstacles are going to come by and you have to decide if they are going to stop you.
For such obstacles, I like to use a ‘if and then’ list. Let me explain what this means. You have to sit and write down all the obstacles that can come up that you can think of. And then, you have to think of a contingency plan and put that down on paper as well.
For example –
- Habit – Workout 5x / week
- Obstacle mapping –
- If I fall sick, then I will do light yoga on those days
- If I am out of town, then I will do 30 minutes of walking there
- If I am feeling bored, I will put on a upbeat playlist and do a dance sesion
- If I am feeling too tired, I will drink a refreshing smoothie before my workout
Once you have this mapped out, you will save up on at least 75% of your excuses. And then you can cut yourself some slack when it comes to the rest 25%. Whenever you face an obstacle, check this worksheet to see if you have a contingency plan. This way you will be more likely to stick to a certain habit.
Use these strategies to stick to your habits every single day. And remember – consistency is the key! I have a habit tracker kit on my etsy shop that has a worksheet to build your habits. You can check it out right here.