The simplest way to change your life for the better, even in the busiest of schedules, is to form habits. And no, I’m not just talking about making your bed and flossing your teeth (although those are good, too).
Our habits, the things we do every day, are the building blocks of who we are. Our good habits can lead us to happiness, peace, and success.
We all love to look at weight-loss before and after pictures. The amount of dedication they had to transform their bodies is astounding. And it started with changing their habits.
Famous artists, writers, musicians, and actors have built their careers on the daily habit of practicing their craft.
Great thinkers and innovators have daily habits in their lives like reading, studying, and pondering that have built their minds up for greatness.
If you want to become anything or to re-invent yourself, start with your habits. What do you want to do with your life? Who do you want to become? (Maybe just a less-stressed mom?) Habits will get you there.
7 Tips on How to Make New Habits Last (and Change Your Life):
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1. Tell NO ONE your goal (except any teammates/partner).
A lot of what motivates you to complete a goal is the pleasure of becoming what that goal is. That pleasure can be won too early if you brag that you are going to lose 20 pounds, for example, and all your friends encourage you and congratulate you for this change- before you even get started.
Do the behind the scenes work first, and wait until other people start to notice your changes. That congratulations then, is a truly earned reward and it will motivate you to keep going, especially because by then you’ve picked up some momentum and increased willpower.
2. Find a partner to do it with you.
There’s a lot to be said for having someone in the trenches with you. They keep you motivated when you would have given up.
Find the right partner- like your husband, sibling, or close friend. Someone you can’t hide from, who knows your strengths and weaknesses, and will help you avoid your pitfalls.
I am currently writing a novel (a lifelong dream of mine) with my husband. We work on it together in the evenings after our children go to bed, and there are some days that I just don’t feel like even thinking about it. But he encourages me. We get the ball started and the brainstorming and writing justs rolls. Other nights, I have to put a fire under him. I will put on some of the music that inspires us to think of our characters and we can’t help but start to imagine new scenes for the novel.
3. Do it daily.
Get yourself into a rhythm. It’s easier to remember to do your new habit when it is every day (or at least every weekday), and thus, easier for the habit to stick. Try to do the habit around the same time each day or after you’ve just finished something else (like exercising after you wake up).
4. Remind yourself.
Remind yourself with notes. Put sticky notes on the mirror, on the fridge, on your computer. Anywhere you will be when you need to do what you said you would.
Remind yourself with notifications. Set timers on your phone’s alarm or notifications on your calendar app to help you remember. Make appointments with yourself and keep them.
Remind yourself with external triggers. This is one way to build on the habits you already do. Say you want to start a habit of daily reading. You already eat lunch everyday, so your “trigger” to help you remember to read could be lunch. So everyday after you finish your food, you will open a book and read a chapter. These triggers work better when they are very specific. This is how healthy routines are built.
Remind yourself by tracking your habits and finding more motivation.
5. Reward yourself.
You can attach want-to-dos to have-to-dos. I struggle with cleaning the kitchen and washing the dishes. One thing that I love to do is listen to podcasts. So I made a deal with myself that I can only listen to podcasts when I am cleaning in the kitchen. Yesterday, after the dishes were done, I still wanted to listen some more, so I started scrubbing the oven and the cabinet doors. I totally tricked myself into it, but man did the kitchen look nice and feel nice to be in.
I also hate folding laundry, so I made a similar deal with myself for that habit: watching my favorite TV shows. Now, I only get on hulu when I have laundry to fold. I do all my laundry folding only once a week, and it has become a time I truly look forward to.
Another spin on this idea is to withhold the thing you want, until after you have accomplished the thing you have to do- this works well for things you can’t do simultaneously. Like eating chocolate and scrubbing toilets. It’s like telling your child they can’t play video games until after their homework is done. Yes, you are an adult, but no one is going to make you act like one except yourself. :p
Reward yourself with something bigger. After keeping your new habit for a month or so (whatever length of time you decide on beforehand), reward yourself with anything you want that won’t set you back on your goal. If you are trying to lose weight and you have eaten healthy for a month, reward yourself with going to see a new movie or buying a new book or app you’ve been wanting. By rewarding the habit keeping (eating healthy) rather than results (like weight lost) you will more likely keep your habits in the long run.
6. Plan for lack of future motivation.
Motivation is high when we set our goals, so our expectations for ourselves are lofty. When motivation becomes low- those lofty goals feel just too far out of reach. Some days you may not do your new habit, then you might not do it for two days or three days. Then it is lost.
The best way to combat this feeling is to set yourself up to win by starting small and doing it at a sustainable pace. Set the bar low for yourself at first.
For example, If you want to be an artful parent, create a habit that will bring elements of that into your home every day- like a sketchbook by the dining table to doodle in together after dinner. Forget about your perfectionist plan to paint on easels with your 3 year old every morning.
If you want to be a published author, take 30 minutes after the kids are in bed to write.
If you want to be a fit mom, it doesn’t have to be an hour in the gym every day. It can be 20 jumping jacks in the morning and 10 pushups at night to get you started.
Forget your ideal, ambitious, perfect picture. Doing a little towards your goals each day is better than letting an excuse (like not having time or energy for your ideal method) keep you from doing nothing at all.
You can do more on days that you can, but by setting the bar of entry low, you are much more likely to dive in day after day until this new habit is a part of your identity.
If you think about your new habit and plan about it too much, the habit you want to create for yourself might begin to seem like a daunting and scary change. The best thing you can do is just begin. What was once a big daunting plan will begin to seem more doable- because you are doing it. You are taking small steps on a path that leads to the destination you want to go. Karen Lamb once said “a year from now you may wish you had started today.” Don’t live to regret not starting- begin today. In the book The 5 Second Rule, Author Mel Robbins says there is no such thing as motivation, all we can do is resist the urge to hesitate by jumping into action. When we act on something we know we should do we will propel ourselves forward toward our goals- regardless if we feel like it in the moment. Her 5 second rule helped her to stop hitting the snooze button, drink less, save her marriage, and save her career, and it is helping countless more people change their lives. You can listen to this book for free with a trial membership to audible. Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks.
These 7 tips can transform your life.
If you believe that you can change- you will. All it takes is moving forward habit after habit.
With each new habit, keep it to yourself unless you have someone in the trenches helping you out, create a rhythm with your new habit- preferably daily, set reminders for yourself, reward yourself, and plan for a lack of motivation in the future.
And probably the biggest tip is to just start. When you have a bias toward action in your life, things will get moving where you want to go.
This Post is Part of the Habits that Last Series:
Create a new life for yourself with less stress.
- Habits that Last: Less Mom Stress is Possible (Series Beginning)
- 7 Tips on How to Make New Habits Last (and Change Your Life)
- 4 Steps to Breaking a Bad Habit For Good
- How a Habit Tracker Can Keep You Motivated to Reach Your Goals (Free Printable)
- 5 Stress-Causing Habits No Mom Has Time For (and How to Stop Doing Them)
- Keystone Habits: Transforming Your Life by Changing the Way you Define Yourself
- 7 Simple Habits for a Tidy, Less Stressful Home
- How to Find Time for New, Good Habits (and Finally Reach your Goals)
- How I Changed My Unhealthy Habits as an Overwhelmed Mom (and You Can Too)
- How Busy Moms Create Balance with Weekly and Daily Routines
- A Morning and Evening Routine that Will Change Your Life
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