Creating new habits is hard.
It's so hard that we fail at it repeatedly.
And that does a number on our self-esteem. We feel like losers. So we pretend we don't need the habit. Then we live a life of lesser-than . . .
- Lesser than the person we dream of being.
- Lesser than the person we really are inside.
- Lesser than our own best expectations.
- Lesser than what we know we are capable of.
- If only . . .
If only we could figure it out, get it right this time, stay committed, try harder.
If you've tried to create a good habit and failed, then tried again, then again, then again, and continued to fail, you aren't alone.
As I said, habit creation is hard. And it's harder because most of us go about it in the wrong way. We don't know why we keep failing. We think it has to do with personal weakness. But most of the time, it doesn't. It has to do with a lack of knowledge.
If you were trying to build a house, and you thought you could construct it using glue, the house would fall. You might try harder to re-build it, adding more glue, filling in more cracks, and using different types of glue to see what works best. But the house stills falls — not because you aren't working hard, but because you don't realize house-building with glue never works.
If you want to create a sustainable habit, you need to know what works and what doesn't. You need to know why some people create multiple life-long habits while most of us keep using glue.
Leo Babauta has created many new habits that he has now sustained for years. He's lost 70 lbs., become a vegetarian, written several books and blogs, become an early riser, eliminated his debt and tripled his income, simplified his life, and become car-free.
What does Leo know that you don't?
Katie Tallo has become a vegan, runs every day, is writing a novel, maintains a beautiful blog, has become debt-free, and is an award-winning director.
What does Katie know that you don't?
Stephanie Wetzel has lost over 160 lbs., written and published a book, started her own business, created a health and diet blog, works regularly with a personal trainer, and eats real food daily.
What does Stephanie know that you don't?
Steve Chandler sobered up, lost 30 lbs., has written 30 books, is a world-class coach and motivational speaker, and makes a whole lot of money.
What does Steve know that you don't?
All of these people have been successful at habit creation. And like you and me, all of them have tried and failed, tried and failed, tried and fail, until . . .
They figured it out.
They figured out what was undermining their efforts, killing their motivation, weakening their resolve. They figured out the 7 deadly sins of habit creation.
Is it time for you to figure it out?
If so, here they are — the 7 deadly sins that will poison the creation of sustainable, life-long habits:
Sin #1: Lack of Planning and Preparation
Boom, you just start. You want to create a new habit, so you think, “I'll start this habit today or tomorrow morning or Monday.” But you don't do anything to plan or prepare yourself and those around you. You don't get yourself mentally, physically, emotionally, and practically ready and ripe to be successful.
Sin #2: You Start Too Big
Let's say you want to lose weight. So you decide to start running, begin a diet, and count calories. That one goal of losing weight requires hundreds of major and mini new habits. You've given yourself the task of building a house with glue. Within a few weeks, if not days, you will feel completely overwhelmed and give up.
Sin #3: You Commit Too Much Time
Even if you decide on a small habit, the tendency is to over-do it in the beginning. Your brain and your muscle-memory have to become accustomed to a brand new behavior at a slow and steady rate. If you want to begin a new habit like running, writing, meditating, or anything that will ultimately require 30-90 minutes or more, don't start at the optimum time commitment. Start with the least amount of time that's easy to manage (like 5 minutes) and slowly work up to more time.
Sin #4: You Trust Your Memory
You think once you've committed to this new habit, you'll remember to do it every day. And you may for a few days. But then you'll forget, either consciously or subconsciously. You need a reminder, an already-established trigger that will jog your memory and spur you on to action — like using tooth-brushing in the morning as a trigger for meditation.
Sin #5: You Have No Accountability
Most of us don't tell people when we start a new habit because we don't want them to know if we fail at it. We keep it quiet, just in case. Well, that attitude dooms us to failure. It should tell us we aren't really serious about creating this habit. If we were, we'd tell people. We'd tell everyone. Because we loathe looking weak or incompetent, we force ourselves to do the damn habit to avoid being embarrassed. You have to tell people, and keep telling them about every success and every failure. That keeps us accountable.
Sin # 6: You Don't Acknowledge Your Successes
Accountability involves some negative reinforcement — the avoidance of embarrassment. But we need positive reinforcement too. All fear and no fun makes habit creation feel like a bad school day. You have to plan a reward system yourself to keep your motivation and positivity at a high level. Gold stars, a piece of chocolate, a nap, anything that feels like a reward will work to reinforce your habit.
Sin #7: You Neglect to Communicate
If you don't communicate with those close to you about your habit creation plans and get their buy-in and support, you are setting yourself up for trouble. If your habit work disrupts the lives of those you love, and they aren't prepared, they'll be lobbing anti-habit bombs in your direction until you wave the white flag.
Bonus Sin: You Use Disruptions as an Excuse to Give Up
During the planning phase of habit creation, you should always create a “disruption contingency plan.” You may get sick. There may be a special event you must attend. You may need to change the time or place for your habit. Disruptions absolutely will happen — but they can't be an excuse for stopping your habit work. Plan for them in advance so you aren't blindsided by the unexpected.