Creating good habits is essential to success. Here’s how you can learn to harness the power of habit.
I’ve written a lot of posts about habits. How to make working out a habit, habits of successful women, habits that blast belly fat. Habits are a powerful thing. Research shows that 95% of what we do is the result of learned habits. Good, bad or indifferent, habits shape much of what we do in or day to day lives.
Take smoking for example. Smoking is a bad habit that people learn after repeatedly picking up a cigarette, lighting it and taking a drag. The reason people have such a hard time quitting is because smoking has become not just an addiction, but a habit for them. Once formed, bad habits can be hard to break. But what if we could replace those bad habits with good ones?
In general, it takes 21 days for an action to become a habit. The key to successfully building good habits is learning how to eradicate those habits that are debilitating, unhealthy, and just plain bad, and replacing them with habits that will help you grow. And you can do that by focusing on routines.
For example, my husband’s nightly and morning routines are now habit for him. Before bed, he makes his breakfast for the morning (so he just has to heat it up), gets out his coffee mug and packs his meals and protein shakes (he drinks 2 protein shakes and eats 2 meals while at work). He works out before work, so he lays out his gym clothes and packs his gym bag with his work clothes. He does this so that in the morning, everything is ready to go. He has zero decisions to make. He has established patterns for himself that are so routine, that he has no thinking to do.
You see the thing about habits is that they are things you do unconsciously. You don’t realize you’re doing them until someone points it out. I used to bite my nails, but I was never aware I was doing it until someone (usually my mom or husband) would point it out.
Same goes for smokers. I have known a lot of smokers in my life. And there are some things I’ve noticed. They smoke when they socialize. They smoke right after a meal. They smoke when they get home from work. These are habits they’ve created around smoking. It’s something they do unconsciously just like taking a shower or brushing your teeth before bed.
So how can we create good habits and get rid of the bad ones?
Identify your why.
First, identify your why. Why do you want to change the habit? Is it to be healthier? Because you want to read more or watch TV less? Because you want to lose weight? Whatever it is identify and write down your why. The same goes for forming new, good habits.
Identify your triggers.
Next, you need to identify your trigger points, or patterns that you’ve created around the habit. Say you want to quit watching so much television. When do you turn the TV on? Is it after putting your kids to bed at night that you automatically plop down on the couch and grab the remote? Or is it after cooking dinner that instead of sitting at the table you sit in front of the TV? Figure out what triggers the habit.
Decide on a replacement behavior.
Finally, focus on creating new patterns and triggers. If you want to watch less TV, once you put your kids to bed don’t head to the couch. Instead go to your room, grab your book off your nightstand and start reading. If you want to workout more, set a reminder in your phone to pack your gym bag the night before, then set another reminder to go to the gym say Monday, Wednesday and Friday right after work. If you want to stop hitting snooze on your alarm put your phone on the other side of the room so you have to get out of bed to shut it off.
Remember I mentioned above that it takes at least 21 days to form a new habit. Being consistent with your new habit is key to making it, well….a habit. 🙂 If you don’t watch TV before bed for 3 days, don’t reward yourself with a show the 4th night. You’re more likely to watch TV again the 5th, and 6th, and 7th night. When this happens you have to start over again and it’s that much harder the second time around.
Before you know it, that old habit will start to be present in your life less and less and your new, good habit will become part of your routine.
Try not to focus on more than one habit at a time. Instead think about one thing you’d like to change and charge full steam ahead.
If you want to learn more about habits, I highly recommend the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. It is eye opening.
What is one bad habit you’d like to break, or a new habit you’d like to form?
This is such a great post– bad habits are definitely so hard to break, but you’re so right that working on making a new routine is such a helpful step. I recently came across a pin that says the secret to success is in your daily routine & I’ve been trying to remember that!
I totally agree with that pin! Being out of a routine kills me. I’m trying so hard to get back into one now with baby but little ones are unpredictable.
This was so inspiring to read! I love the idea of replacing a habit with something productive and meaningful. I think people are always so focused on removing something from their life, but not enhancing it. Would love to read more posts like these!
Thanks lady! I think replacing a bad habit with something positive really helps it stick.
Such excellent points and great tips for new habits! It’s totally true. When I got pregnant with Otto, I realized that a habit of mine was always pouring a glass of wine to watch with the evening news. Didn’t matter if I had a good day, bad day or just a day, I always had one. Think of all the calories! Obvs couldn’t do that while pregnant… And honestly, I’ve started again just because I can… But like you said, we’re not even aware that we’re doing these things, we just do them. And becoming pregnant made me realize a bunch of things I just “did” that weren’t so healthy!
It’s amazing how life events (like pregnancy) make us see things from a different perspective. A glass of wine a night isn’t the worst habit though. 🙂
YES! I love how you talked about replacing habits. I think I could totally utilize this method. I need to make it a habit to work out, but it’s so much easier to not. Haha. I could replace one show with a quick workout and be golden.
Yes! Replacing the bad habits with good ones helps so much! You could easily do that girl! Or even workout while you watch a show. I do that sometimes, haha!
I think I’m going to start a new habit for the kids AND myself regarding exercise. I took Abbie to the track last night and for once, she enjoyed it. It’s tough because we have so many different activities during the week but I’d like to say every day at 8pm or something like that. Kids function better with structure/habits too!
Yes!!! I think that would be great for you to start with them Kelli! It’s really motivating to have others to workout with as well, and like you said the structure is so important!
Great post and insights here Tiffany!
I would like to get into the working out habit. I’ve committed to 5 days on one day off – and so far have maintained this for almost 2 weeks. Hopefully it sticks. I have been wanting to do something about my health and fitness but I really hadn’t acted on it until recently.
Thanks for sharing!
That’s great Jennifer! Routine helps habits stick! I’m here for support if you need it!
This is such an inspiring post! I love having a routine – it makes everything so much easier! I’m working now on drinking more water daily using an app called coach.me. Just take a look at it. I’m sure you are going to like it.
Thank you! I’ll definitely check that app out.
This is awesome! And I especially agree about only tackling one thing at a time. You don’t want to get overwhelmed!!
I really want to get back into the habit of working out before work! It’s all about the prep before hand though. The setting of the alarms, laying out the clothes, having everything for work packed….moving the alarm clock across the room 😉 These has really helped me to get my booty in gear!
Doing all those things has really helped my hubby get up for work early to get his workout in. You’re right; it’s all about the prep.
Once summer rolls around I am so much better about working out in the morning! But I have to get in the habit!! I broke the habit of biting my nails and I am so happy about that!!
I was a nail biter too! Just so bad, but so glad I broke it as well.
Love this and the 21 day ritual is so true. I see a lot of people subscribe to this and if you can commit to 21 days, you’re (mostly) golden. I started a 21 day arm toning … almost done with the 21 days but now I’m thinking, why would I stop? 🙂
Habits so crucial to everyday life. I will have to check out the book you recommended. Last year I read Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin and still continue to use her habit journal. I doesn’t matter whether I try to change big ones or little ones. Changing habits is hard. Definitely 21 day consistency and beyond for a habit to really stick. I’m visiting today from the #shinebloghop.
I’ve read her book as well. You are right Bonnie; changing habits is hard but so worth it if we can do it!
I still smoke a few cigarettes a day, and you are right, there are certain times of day, certain activities that trigger that craving and make it hard to quit completely. #shine
Oh Jeremy I hope that’s a habit you want to work on to break. My parents were smokers and I loathed it as a child. Sending you good vibes!
Hi there, Tiffiany! This is my first time linking up with the Shine Blog Hop. Thanks so much for hosting!
This is a fantastic post. I really appreciate the clear explanations of your points. I am definitely a sucker for routine. For me, it all revolves around gaining momentum. After my first week of going Paleo, even though the diet had not become a habit as of yet, there were enough successful days under my belt that it wasn’t worth it to me to stray from my plan.
Again, thank you for hosting the blog hop, and I’m excited for the ones to come! Hope you’re having a wonderful weekend:-)