Many people underestimate the importance of habit building. But your life is basically an amalgamation of all the habits you have formed since being a young child.
Think about it.
Let’s take the way you spend your mornings. Every morning, you (wittingly or unwittingly) perform a long series of habits. Answer these questions to get an idea of your own personal morning habits:
- Do you wake up to an alarm clock?
- Do you brush your teeth right away or head to the kitchen for a cup of coffee first thing?
- Did you prepare the coffee the night before?
- Are your clothes laid out for the day?
- What type of clothes do you typically wear?
- Will you be exercising before work?
- What type of shampoo do you usually use in the shower?
- Is there a certain place you hang your towel in the bathroom?
- Where do you start brushing your teeth — in the back? In the front? Which side?
Each of these little ceremonious activities are actually habits that you have formed over time. Changing just one of them can alter the entire course of your life.
If you’re looking for ways to change your habits for the better, use these tips:
1. Identify what you want to change.
You won’t have an easy time changing your habits for the better if you don’t know exactly what you want to change. So, start by making a list. Sit down with a pen and a pad of paper, and let your mind flow. Write down what you dislike about your day-to-day activities. For example:
- Do you wish you had a better nighttime routine?
- Do you wish you got up earlier?
- Do you dislike the fact that you buy lunch every day at work?
- Does it bother you that you always feel like you’re in a rush?
All of these things can be changed with better habits.
2. Understand why you do the things you do (what motivates your unwanted habits).
Some aspects of better habit formation have to do with forming new quality habits. On the other hand, you may need to work on undoing negative habits too.
If you have a negative habit that you want to undo, it’s important to figure out why you do that habit in the first place. For example, if you walk to work every morning and always pass a doughnut shop with amazing-smelling doughnuts, you might start stopping into the doughnut shop to buy and eat a doughnut every day.
If this is a habit you want to stop, you have to realize that the reason you’re stopping into the doughnut shop every day is that you’re passing it — and it smells great.
In order to break this habit, you’ll need to either stop taking that route to work — or even do something that seems sort of funny like holding your breath and looking the other way as you pass the shop.
This sort of thinking can help you break bad habits.
3. For the things you must do, automate whatever you can.
Automation is your friend when it comes to good habit building. After all, you can’t forget to pay a bill if it’s on autopay, right?
Looking for ways to automate your life is the ultimate habit hack.
For example, you know you’ll need toilet paper for, well … ever. So, why not start getting an auto shipment of toilet paper instead of making yourself put it on the list every time you see that you’re almost out.
Likewise, if you take medications, you should look into online prescription services. When you get prescriptions online, it’s less likely you’ll forget to order them or pick them up.
4. Change your habits slowly and in small increments.
Once you start thinking of small things you’d like to alter with new habits, chances are you’ll have a long list of changes to make. That’s great, but don’t rush into biting off more than you can chew. Instead, prioritize what’s most important.
Take one habit at a time, and work on it. Don’t feel the need to change drastically either.
If you want to eat less at dinner, just aim to have one instead of two helpings for each dish. If you want to start flossing better, have your goal be to floss just one tooth before bed each night.
Let yourself rise to the occasion and meet your goals. Otherwise, discouragement will take over, and you may very well give up altogether.
When you really stop and consider the sum of your life, your habits are what make up everything about you — from how you feel when you wake up in the morning, to how you dress, eat, and interact with others.
In essence, habits are the building blocks of your life. Therefore, investing in your habits and learning how to improve habit formation can change your life for the better — or worse. Why not make it for the better? Use the tips above to help facilitate the life you want with better habits.