It can be really hard to establish new habits. Especially when that habit is so different from your lifestyle as it is now.
I know because I’ve worked to establish dozens of new positive habits over just the last few years.
Part of the problem is, when we start a new habit, it seems like such a monumental shift from the way that part of our life is structured now; it makes it hard to imagine how we’ll create such a big change in such a (typically) short period of time.
Fortunately, there’s a simple strategy for bridging that gap and making the process of building new, positive habits far easier and more reliable.
Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.
– Warren Buffett
So, what is this great strategy which allows us to more easily establish habits and, in addition, to do so more consistently? As the title implies, it’s called a seed habit.
A seed habit is a smaller action which is associated with the larger behavior you’d like to establish as a habit.
What’s special about this? By picking a smaller, easier behavior to adopt and then moving your way up gradually you’re able to create a sort of bridge, planting a “seed” that can sprout into that new fully fleshed-out habit over time. This can make it far easier to establish new habits.
So, how does it work then? Let’s talk about how to take full advantage of this simple strategy along with some practical examples.
Using the seed habit strategy to establish new habits
To take full advantage of the seed habit strategy, the most important thing is to first find a small action you can take regularly which is in some way associated with the major habit you want to establish.
It doesn’t have to be super relevant, just make sure you’re carving out a time and place for a new habit which is done in a similar way. The idea is that you’re gradually stepping into this new goal habit slowly over time, each progressive stage bringing you closer to the actual habit.
This, at first, might seem like a waste of time. Why not just work on the habit itself? And by all means, if you feel like you can snap your fingers and set a new habit, be my guest.
However, the reality is, for the majority of us, if you want to establish a new habit you need to be willing to do a lot of work. And this work can be absolutely daunting when you’re first starting out. So much so that many of us discourage ourselves before ever even giving it a fair shot.
That’s why seed habits are so great. They remove that aura which big, new lifestyle changes can impose upon us and give us a clear path to creating real change in a dependable way. It might take a little longer than it otherwise would, but one thing is for certain– it’s a more dependable path for establishing habits.
So, what are some examples of seed habits? Let’s say you want to start working out every morning.
Establishing a workout habit can be hard enough, but rising early is one of the toughest habits to forge. At the same time? Forget about it. So, this is what you need to do to establish these two new habits, at the same time, using seed habits:
- Wake up thirty minutes earlier: Want to wake up at 5:00 A.M. every morning but you’re used to waking at 6:30? Start waking up thirty minutes earlier than normal. This is way easier than making such a drastic immediate jump and allows you to work your way up to rising early over time.
- And then do some quick stretches: Once you’ve gotten up, take five minutes to do some stretches. Do this from now on each morning. That’s all, just a few stretches and then you’re done.
- Then add an exercise or specific singular workout and so on: You’ve now established a few powerful seed habits, so now your job is to build on them progressively. Every thirty minutes earlier you wake up, add an exercise or a new stage to your workout. By combining these over time, you have more power behind each habit and have created a force that is hard to stop.
Here are some other examples of a seed habit:
- Habit goal: Biking a few miles several times a week.
- Seed: Going for a quick run around the block or doing five minutes on a treadmill (or some other form of physical exercise).
- Habit goal: Writing one-thousand words a day for your book.
- Seed: Writing one-hundred words a day or being paid to write daily as a freelancer.
- Habit goal: Drinking eight glasses of water daily.
- Seed: Drinking one glass a day or simply buy a new canteen and get used to drinking out of it daily (and then switching whatever liquid you place in it with water gradually).
Sometimes, a seed habit is just a smaller version of a larger habit. Other times, it’s related to the larger habit but different. In both cases, it’s a much easier behavior to adopt in the beginning which brings us closer to establishing that larger behavior over time.
And the great part about it? All that’s required to take advantage of this simple strategy is to 1) pick the habit you want to set and 2) identify a good seed habit to help you get started.
Creating a new habit is hard. There’s is no two ways about it. However, by using seed habits you can make the process of creating new habits a bit easier and more dependable over time.