Forming habits – Setting up for success

Retraining your brain is a lot easier when you’re a kid, not just because your brain is much more receptive and can create new connections much faster than when you reach adulthood, but also because your environment is suited for focusing on what you’re doing.

When you’re overwhelmed by life’s responsibilities, it can be hard to break out of your shell and form new habits.  There is hope, though, you can still learn to rethink how you think, if you have the right approach.  Here are a few tips to help get you started.

Habits

Keep it Simple

When trying to teach yourself how to do something new, you can’t just jump right in the middle and mimic the actions and expect to succeed.  Rarely will you be able to get over the hurdles of confusion and frustration from repeated failure using this method.  Most people learn gradually, by adding one piece at a time, so that even in the face of failure, your progress keeps you motivated.

Don’t dwell on the end goal

What this means is, don’t go from reminding yourself of the destination, to focusing on it while you’re trying to accomplish the steps to get there.  Walk before you run, as they say.  Successful habits take hold when you can start to predict how fast you can get to where you want to be.  This won’t happen if you are constantly measuring yourself up against the future you.

Fitness is the most obvious example of forming habits gradually, rather than jumping right out of the gate and giving it your all, only to feel depressed that you are so far away from your ideal strength or weight.  This is why so many people give up on their New Year’s resolutions, they never see progress after their first month or so, because they are looking in the wrong places.  The measuring stick should be that you can persist and increase your intensity every time you show up to the gym.

Branch off from another habit

This strategy is the non-obvious way to insure the long-term success of your habit-forming process.  By exploiting a habit you already have, you can train your brain to handle your new habit with the same urgency, which is half the battle to forming a new one.  Eventually, you’ll get to the point where you start feeling like you’re missing something when you neglect your new habit.  Once you’ve reached that point, you are already well on your way to reaching your goals.

Get friends or family to help

Just telling someone about what your goals are and how you’re going to reach them can be enough to motivate yourself to stay the course.  A good friend or family member will be the voice of reason when you are becoming too passive or are making excuses.  Most people can’t simply program themselves like a robot and form a new habit all on their own.

Those exceptional stories you hear about perseverance don’t tell the whole story and give off the wrong idea that you’re weak if you rely on others to help you along the way.  Don’t listen to that, everyone gets a little help from others, whether that is as an example of what they aspire to become or what not to become.

 

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