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Have you already tried to start a new habit and failed?
I did. And more than once.
I bet that you did too.
See, from times to times, we get a burst of motivation to start something new to change our lives.
But it doesn’t last. Why?
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Why do we fail at starting new habits?
Let’s imagine a situation you may have already experienced.
For example, you have been thinking of starting to work out to lose weight and strengthen your body.
Today, you tell yourself: “Starting tomorrow, I will work out for 1 hour 4 times a week”.
You feel pumped out, ready to take all the challenges of the world. Ready to take control of your health for good this time.
You change outfit and head up to the gym and put your muscles and your heart at work.
It is hard, you feel the sweat flowing on your face and in your back.
But you feel happy to finally take action and start dreaming about your new body.
The hour is finished. You are exhausted but feel good and motivated to come tomorrow for another session.
The next day, you wake up with difficulty. You are so tired. And your muscles hurt so much.
You start your day, go to work, do your chores.
And in the evening you sit on the couch and feel all the tiredness and muscle pain.
You planned to go to the gym, but you don’t feel it. At all.
“That’s ok, I will go tomorrow”. And you feel motivated again.
The following day, you feel better, but your muscles still hurt. Even more.
When comes time to go to the gym, you manage to go to it and start working out. But it is way harder. You lack energy and it is painful.
You stop before the end of the hour and go home, feeling a bit down.
“Alright, next time, I’ll do better”
But the next time, you have a quite busy day and don’t feel so much going to the gym.
And a few days pass.
You motivate yourself to go another time.
Then nothing for one week. Then two weeks.
And you go back to the ‘normal’. Working out has become a mere wish. Not the reality you expected. And your body is just the same.
You feel bad.
Even a little depressed and angry about yourself at the same time. You blame your lack of motivation, of willpower.
It seems that you won’t ever be able to change your life, to get this body you dream of.
Why did you fail?
I have good news for you, the problem is not you.
You are like everybody and you have the abilities to make it happen.
The only problem is that the way you take to change is wrong.
You rely on your willpower and you set too big goals from the start.
If you are not used to doing physical exercises, it will take you a huge mental effort to fight against your existing routine.
Your brain wants you to stay in your comfort zone. You will have to fight against it.
And our energy and willpower are limited.
Don’t count on them.
You have to find the right system.
How to start new habits that stick?
Then, what is the solution to start any new habits efficiently?
I learned the solution from a Standford University behaviour scientist BJ Fogg. He has written a book called Tiny habits (#AffiliateLink) which I recommend strongly.
I want to share with you in this article the two main points you need. With those two “secrets”, you will be able to start new habits.
Start small, very small
The first one is to start small, very small.
Let’s go back to the example above. Instead of trying to work out 4-5 times a week for 1 hour, you should start with 5 minutes every day.
Yes, 5 minutes. It sounds ridiculous but it works.
Or even less.
Yes, even if you only put on your workout outfit and do something else and no exercise at all.
Because your brain won’t set any barriers to this. It will be seen as a routine, not an obstacle you have to overcome.
Make it so ridiculously small that you can’t find any excuse not to do it.
The effort will be so small that your brain won’t fight.
Let’s take another example: reading.
Maybe you want to set the habit of reading every day.
Start with a page or even better, one paragraph. One sentence. One word!
If you focus on doing this every day, it will soon become a habit and you will start to spend more time.
Because when you start an activity, you are likely to spend a bit more time than 1 or 2 minutes on it.
After a few weeks of doing this tiny habit, you will be able to make it longer if you wish.
“Anchor” your habits
The second “secret” is to use your existing daily routine.
Your brain loves routines.
So you can use them to your advantage to set up new habits.
The most efficient way is to incorporate your new habit into existing routines. To anchor them as Fogg says.
For example, I am doing a few stretching exercises, plank, and push-ups every morning. I do that always at the same moment of the day.
I wake up, drink a bit of water or fruit juice and do my exercises.
No need to think about it, I just do it.
And it becomes quite natural.
And if I could do it, you can too.
I have failed all my life to set new habits. Now that I know this system and I experienced it in my own life, I can start any new habit from day 0.
And I can keep these habits for as long as I want.
Powerful I tell you.
If you failed to start new habits, don’t blame yourself.
You have all the abilities to succeed.
There is nothing wrong with you. You are not so special that only you in the world cannot be successful.
You only need the right system.
Let me remind it.
Start small and incorporate (“anchor”) it into your daily routine.
That’s that simple.
Have you started a new habit successfully with this system? Do you struggle with your habits? What is the main obstacle you meet?
Let me know in the comments!