4 easy steps to build habits that last

Building healthy habits might sound difficult and overwhelming. But it is not the case if you follow the right techniques and put yourself in the right mindset. 

It’s less about having strong willpower and more about setting yourself up for success. This blog post will show you exactly how to do that.

We all have habits that we follow every day. We get up from bed, brush our teeth, drink water, have some food. We follow the same patterns every day that turn into second nature over time – we repeat them subconsciously. 

Scientists who study habit formation state that many people try to create habits in a wrong way. Think about bold New Year’s resolutions to start exercising, lose weight or start eating healthy. These resolutions are often made without taking the steps needed to set ourselves up for success. They are way too big and overwhelming, and often lack a strong underlying reason or purpose as to why one needs to create a new habit. 

Here are 4 steps that we suggest you follow to build strong foundations for habits that stick:

1. Clarify the purpose and aspiration

2. Explore many different behaviors

3. Match yourself with specific behaviors

4. Implement tiny behaviors 

1. Clarify the purpose and aspiration

I believe that the most important thing in habit formation is the purpose or an underlying reason why you want to do something. What drives you, what motivates you to do something? Then take action that gives you a feeling of fulfillment. 

Ask yourself a question ‘What is my aspiration?’ It can be a wellness, nutrition, fitness or other goal that you have in mind. You can come up with a few aspirations, but pick only one of them that is the most important for you and write it down. 

“My aspiration is _________________________ .”

2. Explore many different behaviors

The second step is to explore the ways to achieve your aspiration. Here, we don’t want to overwhelm ourselves with big 5-year plans or resolutions. The purpose is to explore and think about a wide variety of ways that would allow you to reach your goal. 

Ask yourself a question ‘If you could do anything to achieve your aspiration, what would you do?’ List 30 or more behaviors that you could do. Feel free to list crazy and unrealistic behaviors, and down-to-earth stuff that you can easily do.

Write it down. 

“My aspiration is _________________________ .”

“If I could do anything to achieve it, I would:

1. ___________________________________

2. ___________________________________

3. ___________________________________

4. ___________________________________

5. ___________________________________

30. ___________________________________

3. Match yourself with specific behaviors

The purpose of the 3rd step is to find the behaviors that you can do (you have the right ability and enough motivation) and they will help you to achieve your aspiration (they are efficient). 

Not all the behaviors will match you perfectly, so you need to be careful with selecting them (you don’t want to feel overwhelmed, do you?)

First, take a look at your list of behaviors one more time and pick the behaviors that you can do. Add a letter “C” to each of them (I Can do it!)

Second, pick the behaviors that can help you to achieve your aspiration. Add a letter “E” to each of them (it is Efficient!).

Finally, pick the behaviors that have “C” and “E” letters. These are the behaviors that match you – you can do them and they will help you achieve your goals.  

“My aspiration is _________________________ .”

“If I could do anything to achieve it, I would:

1. ___________________________________

2. ___________________________________ C E 

3. ___________________________________ 

4. ___________________________________ C

5. ___________________________________E

30. ___________________________________ C E 

4. Implement tiny behaviors 

Now that you have the behaviors that match you, it is time to start implementing them! Let me give you an example here. 

Let’s say my aspiration is to “have more energy during the day” (I suppose everyone felt the crashes that happen after lunch in the afternoon). That was one of the things that I wanted to remove in order to be more productive during the day.

I listed the behaviors that could help me achieve this aspiration. And they were the following:

1. Have more coffee 

2. Have an energy drink 

3. Exercise in the morning 

4. Exercise after lunch 

5. Change what I eat 

6. Sleep for 8 hours 

7. Have a nap after lunch

8. Stop working when I don’t have energy

9. Work at night

10. etc…

I was able to do most of them, but only some of them were efficient (for example, coffee and energy drinks help in the short-term, but they aren’t sustainable in the long-run). 

Therefore I chose to experiment with #5 – changing the way I eat, as my crashes were usually happening after lunch, and started experimenting with it in small steps.

“Small” is an important keyword here as we don’t want to overwhelm ourselves with big plans. 

My very first experiment was to avoid animal-based products (such as beef, chicken, eggs, dairy) from my lunch meal twice a week and test how I feel during that day. 

Remember the aspiration? This behavior should help me to achieve it. If it does – happy days, I can continue scaling it. If it doesn’t, I can drop it and move to another behavior. 

  • My aspiration is to have more energy during the day
  • In order to achieve my aspiration, I will: follow a plant-based diet twice a week
  • I will start this Monday

And guess what, it worked for me. My 2 lunches per week turned into a full-fledged plant-based diet. It made me feel better than ever, more energetic, sharp and mindful. I started by building a small habit which I scaled later. 

What about you? In order to achieve your aspiration, what will YOU do?

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