Habits – they’re the building blocks of success in any endeavor.
Learn how to master them and you’ll be rewarded for the rest of your life (assuming you’re willing to put in the work). But doing that is easier said than done.
For the past decade, I’ve worked on establishing dozens of new habits, including:
- Daily meditation
- Writing one-thousand words a day (and later three-thousand+)
- Rising early (as early as 3:00 A.M. for over two years straight)
- Drinking my daily recommended amount of water
- Daily physical exercise
- Saving money
And from that effort, I’ve found what I believe to be the three primary factors involved in making virtually anything a daily habit. They’re simple, straightforward, and things that anyone can implement in a very short period of time.
Good habits formed at youth make all the difference.
Forming new habits can often seem tiresome and complicated.
Make no mistake, it takes hard work to establish new habits. However, I’ve found that by working smarter and establishing certain foundational elements upfront, you can increase your chances of establishing said habit tenfold and even make the process a bit easier.
When it comes down to it, I’ve found that there are three primary factors required to consistently establish new habits:
1. Optimize your environment using the path of least resistance
First, you need to optimize your environment.
This is all about looking outward to your physical surroundings and figuring out how you can modify those surroundings to give you the highest likelihood of success. That is, to stick to this habit for as long as takes until it starts to become automatic and outside influences stop being so dangerous.
To do that, utilize what I call the path of least resistance. The path of least resistance is a very simple principle with a myriad of uses that will help you establish new habits.
The principle is pretty simple. When we do something, there is inevitably some amount of force that works against us. Think of it as the mental version of inertia. I like to simply call it resistance. This resistance is a form of pain we feel when attempting to take an action. Which, as a result, often keeps us from acting because we’re programmed to avoid pain.
This resistance is the result of many things, both outer and inner, but for the sake of this point, we’ll be talking about the outer resistance that we encounter when trying to establish new, positive habits. This includes:
- Distractions such as our smartphone, social, or T.V.
- The structure of our daily life
- And the positioning of physical items in our vicinity.
So, what are you supposed to do? It’s pretty simple: make what you want to do (whatever action is associated with the habit) easier to do and other potential distractions and barriers harder to get to or less obstructive.
For example, if you want to make drinking eight glasses of water a day your new habit, you need to remove other drinks like soda and juice from where they’ll be easy to access and keep your water next to you. Another thing you can do is keep your water in a cantine that’s easier to open than the twist cap of a typical store-bought water bottle.
Both of these things sound insignificant, but when added up they make a noticeable difference in either encouraging or discouraging you to act.
2. Get crystal clear on why you want it
Second, you need to get really clear on why you want to establish this new habit.
It’s not enough just to decide you want to wake up early every day, you need to have a really compelling reason why you want to rise early. Otherwise, believe me, it will never happen.
Take a few minutes – an hour even – to form a very clear picture of why setting this new habit is important to you and what it will allow you to do. Write this reason (or reasons) down on your smartphone, computer, or a piece of paper. Wherever you’re more likely to see it each day.
Also, make sure that when you write this reason down, you describe it based on the emotions you feel when you imagine having created the habit.
So, going back to our early rising example, imagine the emotions you’d feel if you were able to wake up in the quiet of the morning each day and have your peaceful little moment in time to journal, exercise, meditate, and get off to a running start for the day. How would this make you feel? It’s these emotions which will make your why really compelling.
Once you’ve done this, just make sure you’re looking at it once or twice a day so that you keep that reason top-of-mind.
3. Remove expectations (and pressure) by shifting to a lifestyle mindset
This last one is the easiest of all to apply, however, for that reason it’s also the easiest to write off and forget about.
Don’t do that.
This simple shift in your mentality, from that of a habit which you have a goal of “acquiring” to a long-term change you’re making in the way you live your life, transforms the way we think and act with regards to that habit.
It does a few things. First, and most importantly, it removes all expectations. All of a sudden, failure isn’t possible. If you’re making a new lifestyle change, it’s not about doing or not doing, success or failure – it simply becomes a matter of when.
Second, and as a result of this, a ton of pressure is removed from your shoulders. You no longer feel pressed to get up early, to go work out, or whatever it is you’re trying to do. This might sound bad, but really, you need to remove this pressure so that your motivation and energy for the task can take over and run freely.
It’s the same principle as when we’re stressed and trying to do something creative. When we’re overly stressed, our creative pathways shut down and we can’t create anything. By changing your mindset and removing these arbitrary expectations, you suddenly find it easier to take action (and habits established like this are healthier and more likely to stick).
Establishing new habits is tough, no matter what you do. However, I’ve found that these three things make setting and establishing new habits far more reliable. Plus, the habits you do set are stronger and last longer.
So, take these three strategies and apply them to implement a new, positive habit that will move your life forward.