How about any new behaviors that you’d like to adopt?
Exercise? Diet? Learning to play guitar?
In this article (and the next one) I want to take a brief look at Habit Forming – as it is really powerful stuff and something I’ve been meaning to write something about for a long time.
In concept, it’s simple (yes I do like my simple but powerful concepts), but there are some nuances, so we’ll cover those too and I’ll tell you why and how in a moment.
If you’ve ever tried to form new habits, you might know from experience that it’s not always as easy as it sounds…
Some Things You May Have Heard About Habits
“It takes 21 days to form a new habit.”
“Habits are sub-conscious repeated behaviors.”
“Habits are trained, repetitive behaviors.”
“Habits concern routine tasks…”
“Old habits die hard” (Old habits are hard to break)
“New habits are hard to form”
I could throw up a few more quotes attributed to Habits and Habit formation but you get the idea and have probably heard of at least one or two of the expressions above.
The last two in particular don’t bode well for what we want to achieve (no less than success).
How Habits Form
Wikipedia says this:
Now, I know wiki isn’t the absolute authority, but I think that this is a very good summary to work with.
We can therefore form new habits with a new behavior, or change existing habits by replacing an old behavior with a preferred, new one.
Our goal then, put simply, is to make new behaviors automatic.
How Do We Make New Behaviors Automatic (to Form Habits)?
Whilst the goal is simple and easy to understand, it’s not always so easy to implement.
The common thread in a lot of the expressions above are that if we do something for long enough, it should become a habit.
… but then there is the last one, “New habits are hard to form”.
So I’d like to look at two ‘levels':
- how to form new habits at a basic level (this article) – i.e. by doing something in a repeated way for long enough (I like to think of a month rather than 21 days, just to be sure)
- looking at the habit forming process in a little more detail (next week) – not to jam too much into one article, and also because I’d really like to get your experiences first too, in the next article, we’ll explore a little more of the process and psychology behind habit formation and why sometimes even if we try and form new habits by doing things repeatedly for a while (the obvious example being diets), the new habit doesn’t stick (and what to do about it)
As a good example of level 1, here is an interesting video which is a TED talk from Matt Cutts of Google, ‘try something new for 30 days':
The Problem With The ‘Try Something For 30 Days’ Approach
It doesn’t always work.
– but it doesn’t always (like Matt’s ‘giving up sugar’ example).
– because it depends on a few other things too, not least the thing that you’re trying for 30 days.
Are you enjoying this new thing (for example)?
Now over to you…
Please comment below to either give a brief example of any time you’ve tried to develop a new habit or change an existing one – whether it worked or not (please mention that too).
… because in the next article I’m going to cover why just doing something for 21/30 days may not be enough – and what to do about it to give the habit much more chance of sticking.
Image Credit: Lorena Stoica