7 Strategies and tactics for habit creation
We continue with our followers’ much wanted topic about habits. This time we will give you 7 very practical and straight to point ideas how to easily build new habits. Some are strategies, others are tips and tricks and almost all of them are personally tested (except the last one) by us and are proven to work. You can choose and try one even today, right after you read this article. Which one would you like the most?
#1 Attaching new habit to an already existing one
This tactic may not be among the most popular, but it is definitely very effective. Using it we avoid one of the most common mistakes in habits, namely just to decide that we want a completely new habit.
If you remember from the previous article, habits need a kind of key. When such does not exist, it is more difficult to start a completely unusual action just “like that”.
That is why the solution is to attach the new routine action we want to another, which we do every day anyway.
“We have to be very conscious to decide what to repeat. As a large part of our daily life is automated and we do large part of them unconsciously, with ease – these are what we call our already existing habits.”
By choosing an old habit that will “pull” the new one, we will imperceptibly implement it in our daily lives.
Examples how to attach a new habit to an old one
We have noticed that this tactic gives especially good results in the morning routine. Somehow it feels natural.
If you want to force yourself to drink more water during the day, think about the first thing you do after getting up and attach the routine to it. For instance: you brush your teeth – you drink a glass of water. To make it even easier, you can leave a bottle of water in the bathroom right next to the toothbrush.
Or if, like Nikki, you’re used to starting the day with a meditation or other ritual, you can add something else to it. To fill in your diary, review your goals for the day, practice yoga breathing or whatever you want.
The idea is to build a sequence – as soon as you finish the old habit, it’s time for the new action. Until it becomes a habit.
#2 A chain reaction in habits that is built around a foundational one
This tactic is to take that base habit, around which everything else revolves. If you don’t have one, you won’t get the other habits.
The name of this tactic in English is “keystone habit”. Interesting is the association with the word “keystone”, or foundation stone. Do you remember in ancient European cities there are arches on the doors, found in different places, which are built of large stone blocks? At the top they are gathered by a trapezoidal, as if wedged in the middle between them, often bearing the coat of arms of the whole family. It keeps everyone together in a solid construction. Without it, everything will collapse.
It is the same with this so important habit. Sadly, it is not always as obvious, as we would like it to be.
Examples for a chain reaction
One of the most essential habits, according to us, that is a milestone for all other habits is going to bed early.
Yes, you have read it correctly, go to bed early. It is important, for it is the reason for an early wake up and all the other series of desired activities we want to do in the morning.
After some experiments, Ivan realized what was actually preventing him from going to bed early, and that was the late dinner. So he came up with some rules: if you happen to come home from work or social engagement after 8pm, just don’t have dinner. For some it may sound as a punishment 🙂 but for Ivan it is a solution.
Nikki also had some obstacles in developing this basic habit of going to bed early. Until everyone in the family was used to cuddling pillows in time, there were bedtime alarms that literally rang every evening.
Another example of a basic habit is sports. Many people like us have noticed that when they introduce physical activity into their daily lives, it indirectly affects their desire to eat healthily.
Who can help?
Let’s point it briefly – the second tactic is used to figure out which is the main habit you have to build on if you want to have all the rest in chain. Analyze the situation with the help of your goal buddy during your weekly meeting.
He can ask you questions that you haven’t thought about so you could get to the bottom of it – what do you basically lack in order for the other routine actions you want to start.
#3 Never break the chain.
It is a funny habit tactic. It can be easy to use, or it can get on your nerves – it depends on the type of person you are.
“It is about the following: when building a new habit you have to promise yourself that under no circumstances will you break the chain. Otherwise – missing one day only or a maximum of two, the countdown starts again”
It normally happens like:
You start something new with enthusiasm. For example, you run in the park in the morning for 5 days. By the tenth day, you don’t think it’s such a brilliant idea anymore, you start to forget why you started doing it at all. But knowing that if you miss, you’ll have to start over, you’ll quickly reconsider.
Who does the third tactic work for?
The danger of restarting could be really challenging and nice for the challenge-lovers. This is how Niki built his meditation habit, which he has been following every day for more than 3 years.
But it can also discourage you if you are one of those people who tend to give up more easily. When you have to interrupt due to some external circumstances, it is possible that this will deepen your limiting belief that you are incapable of perseverance and encourage you to give up trying at all.
That is why it is important to be aware and remember why we want to introduce a new habit in our lives – what is the big reason!
Exceptions – or where the catch is
We are all human and everything happens. Therefore, we can still set in advance the condition that in certain situations is permissible to break the chain of 21 days until the habit is built.
But the key to this point is not to look for excuses, but to identify obstacles and come up with a strategy. What do we do when something prevents us – how do we catch up, or how do we set up the next day to continue in spite of everything.
“The point of not breaking the chain is to build a new neuropath. If we compromise, we signal to our brain that there is a loophole. And we want exactly the opposite – to program our brains for a new action, which over time will become automated and serve us in the long run.”
#Start with something small
This is one of our favorite goal tactics – it’s so funny and easy to be applied that it’s worth trying it right away.
The idea in short: you start a big habit with something small and easy, such as doing only ONE push-up. Once you’ve broken the difficult moment of leveling on the floor with your hands, it’s almost certain that you won’t stop at the first one and do a few more. As time flies, you will become better and better and soon you’ll get used to it.
Why people underestimate this way of building habits.
It is simple: it’s because of the expectation that one habit will make THE change, and the only push-up does not bring them one.
People start looking for results, using their new habit in the very first days, that’s why they tend to underestimate the small acts and details, which are considered not that important. While, in fact, the real purpose of the habit and its result is not the targeted kilo indicator on the scales, but something much more important – the new neuropath in the brain that tells us – ‘Hey, this is your new routine’. Everything else will come further as a consequence of the habit.
#5 Control your surroundings
Eliminate anything that would prevent you from creating your new habit, and surround yourself with supporting things and people.
It is not a secret that we are a product of our environment. What we get surrounded by has a direct impact on our daily lives. But the good news is that we have control and we can change it.
Examples for surroundings change
If you want to remember to do something, put some objects to remind you. To drink water – you need to have it by your side. To “force” yourself to go to the gym, it should be easy for you – just have a bag with T-shirts, sneakers, and a towel ready. Prepare all of them in advance and thus it would be easy for you when the subtle moment of hesitation comes – “to go or not to go” for a workout.
Following the same logic, make it as difficult as possible to do what you are trying to give up. Don’t keep your favorite chocolate or chips at home. Instead, fill boxes with sliced carrots, for example. So, when you want an afternoon snack, you won’t just be able to reach 450 calories, but you’ll have to eat vitamins.
Last but not least, surround yourself with people who would support your new habit. Communicate with people that workout and eat healthy and enjoy the effect of the social support, which is the thing we so excitedly repeat and insist on.
#6 Work only over one new habit at a time
Enthusiasm is not always our friend.
Very often in our workshops we have witnessed how people get so inspired to change their lives starting from tomorrow that they set an awful lot of goals and want to build a dozen of new habits.
The rule in the Goal-buddy system is no more than 3 goals for the quarter. Let one of them be for habit building, but not more.
What to do instead?
If you are sure that you can build 4 new habits starting from Monday, here is a good idea:
Work on creating just one with one of today’s strategies and tactics, and you can try to replace the rest by giving up something else. For example:
- drink tea instead of coffee in the afternoon;
- instead of coming home from right jumping from the car, go around the neighborhood for a short walk;
- or instead of grabbing the phone in the morning for a half-hour scroll, sit down and fill in your diary.
#7 Award yourself
We confess – this is the only one of our proposals today, that we have not tried personally.
But so many people swear by its effectiveness that it’s worth a try.
In short, to support our efforts to build a new habit by “rewarding” ourselves for a successful action. If you went to work out, then pamper yourself with a sauna. If you have done a good job, relax for half an hour with a good book.
What can “slip you up”?
There is a study, that surprised Ivan very much. He has recently read how a group of people started exercising 3-4 times a week, but a few weeks later they gained weight instead of losing it. It turns out that they used a reward for their new habit… but not exactly the right one. Along with regular physical activity, they started eating high-calorie food more regularly, simply because they decided they deserved it after the tiring stint at the gym.
This experiment shows one thing: it is important that the reward we choose is relevant and is really in the roadmap of our main goal, which is the main reason to build the habit itself. If the reward actually prevents us from achieving it, then it is worthless.
And having mentioned this mistake, it’s time to reveal the topic of the next article – the most common mistakes in developing a new habit. Expect it soon.
What are you going to do today?
Perhaps, you are to think of an existing habit which you can use to attach a new one? Or which one is the most important to use and to change your daily activities on its base? Do you like the idea of the habit chain and would you break it? Or just start with a small step and try to reach your limits? Probably, you may change your environment and make it easier for you. Or choose a habit to work on in full focus, and a few more – not that positive – to change with something new and good for you. And reward – what reward would you give yourself?
We will be happy to have your comments below the article and together to continue discussing this exciting habits series.