Editor’s note: This is part of 30-day challenge series written by Hanane Anouna. You can follow along and read the full series here.
* * * *
Have you ever struggled with forming a new habit or keeping your own habits? How many times you tried to go on diet and you gave up after few weeks if not few days? How many times have you tried to commit yourself to 20 minutes of reading and failed?
You may all have similar goals but maintaining the motivation is difficult.
Let me first define what a habit is all about and how it is formed.
What Is a Habit and How Is It Formed?
Habits are the choices we all make every day without even thinking about them. When we start a new goal, or try to learn new skill, the subconscious mind will be working nonstop to embrace it.
After repeating the task many times, the mental activity decreases as the subconscious mind knows exactly what to do and how to do it. After one week, it functions automatically without even thinking like in the example of driving or brushing your teeth; and then the mind does not have to think anymore what to do.
There are different approaches on how you can build a new habit. One of these approaches, which came from a 1960 self-help book by Dr. Maxwell Maltz, thinks that 21 days are enough to form a new habit. Other formulas considered that a new habit usually takes a little more than 2 months and as much as 254 days until it’s fully formed.
Tony Robbins came with the 21/90 rule, which requires a complete commitment to a goal during 21 straight days, and then it becomes a habit. If the habit is maintained another ninety days, then it becomes permanent lifestyles.
However, in the book “Tiny Habits, the small changes that change everything” habits can be formed very quickly in few days, as long as there is a strong positive emotion behind that habit.
The book was published in December 2019 by Dr. BJ Fogg, after twenty years of research on the subject and considers that the 21 day habit is a myth. According to him, emotions create habits and not frequency and repetition.
He even thinks that some habits can be created immediately depending on their emotional importance to the person: if you buy your first car, then the emotional response to using that car will create an instant habit.
Fogg’ approach resonates more with me even if I did not have to go through the whole process that he described in his book. I believe any change can be immediate when it has a great emotional significance to the person, or has to do with his reason to live.
How to Install a New Habit?
1. Find the reason behind the change
You will never start new habits only by reading this article or watching a motivational video as you have to find a reason behind it. If going through diet is something that can save you from a serious health crisis, then the change will be obvious and automatic as it will be of a significance emotional experience to you. However, If the diet is something of a medium importance, then the reaction will be of a less intensity.
Ask yourself this: how will that habit help you achieve your goals? How it will improve your life or your relationships?
To make a change of behavior and start a new habit, one needs a great reason for that. Napoleon Hill in his book “think and grow rich”, talked about a burning desire as a first step to make any changes and improvement in your life. It is described as the first element to begin with, without which all your goals may remain unreachable.
2. Take baby steps
A goal is reachable only if you break it down into tiny actions, which can be installed on top of behaviors that are already part of your life. If you take a coffee break during a specific moment of the day, then you can add to it a new habit after taking your coffee.
According to him, when the goal has a great emotional significance, and working on it will make you feel good about it, then the good feeling will trigger the production of the neurotransmitters like dopamine in the brain, which will increase the likelihood that you will repeat the same behavior in the future.
3. Make the celebration
The celebration should be done immediately after a new behavior, (or while you are doing the behavior) so that your brain can make that behavior an automatic habit in the future.
But once the habit is created, the celebration becomes optional. Here some suggested celebrations. You can pick up what fits you or find new one that can celebrate your feeling of success or accomplishment. It can be one of these expressions:
+ Say, “Yes!” or “Yay!”
+ Do a fist pump
+ Smile big
+ Do a little dance
+ Clap your hands
+ Give yourself a thumbs-up
+ Think to yourself, Good job
+ Take a deep breath
+ Look up and make a V with your arms
+ Tell yourself, I got this
If you would like to change your life, start by changing your habits as they can tell a lot about your destination.
It will take time. It will need dedication. It will require sacrifice.
You will be tempted. You may fail. You may choose to rise again. You will learn. You may fail again. You will be judged and even rejected. It will need your patience. You will start approaching great results.
Your habits will be part of your nature and discipline will find no way to go away. It will be You, the new version of your inner you. Congratulations. You have achieved your goals.