So, you’re ready to make a change and adopt a new habit. First, take a moment to check in with your mindset, as change begins here. It’s a common theme in our society that change is difficult and maintaining the status quo is easier, but is that true? Oftentimes, the thought of taking on a new habit appears to be daunting, but the actual habit itself isn’t that hard to do. Remind yourself of this. You can do this. Once you believe it, the actual adoption of the habit will become easier.
Adopting a new habit, however big or small, comes down to one thing: consistent action.
To increase your chances of success when adopting a new habit, it’s helpful to break things down into the following six steps:
1. Decide what your new habit will be. This is the first step. Get specific here. Will it be working out? Eating healthier? Going to bed earlier? Waking up earlier? Figure out what it is you want to do and why you want to do it. The why is important as it can serve as extra motivation.
2. Write down your new habit to make it both tangible and visible. You may tell yourself that you are going to do something, but when it’s not written down, you can easily rationalize your way out of it or even forget you committed to it in the first place. Write down your habit and place it somewhere visible, such as your bathroom mirror, refrigerator or the background on your cell phone.
3. Develop a SMART goal—one that is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound—and write it down. For example, if you want to wake up earlier, your SMART goal would sound something like this: “I will set my alarm for 5:00 AM Monday through Friday and get out of bed at that time for the next four weeks.” (For additional guidance on creating SMART goals, check out this ACE article.)
4. Plan your schedule accordingly. When will you act on your new habit and implement your SMART goal? If your goal is to go to the gym more often, will you go in the morning before you start your day? Or will you go in the evening after work? Be specific and put it in your calendar as you would any other appointment. If your goal is a smaller task, such as going to bed earlier, set an alarm on your phone to remind you.
5. Act on your habit and perform the behavior you set out to do. As mentioned earlier, it’s often the thought of the action that is difficult—not the actual action itself. Remind yourself why you are adopting this new habit. Everyday is a day to take action, so even when you slip up, don’t use it as an excuse to give up entirely. Just get right back to following your habit as soon as possible.
6. Assess your progress and redesign your habit if necessary. Check in with yourself periodically to see how you’re doing. If things are going well, keep it up and consider introducing a new habit if there are more behaviors you hope to adopt. If things aren’t where you hoped they would be, simply make some adjustments. Figure out where you are encountering barriers and determine how you can overcome them or use them to your advantage.