Habit formation is a systematic process to turn a new behavior into an automatic response. It is challenging and equally fun experience to adopt if you possess the right mindset to achieve your set goals and objectives. While beneficial, habit formation requires a knowing your specific needs and transforming a goal into a measurable action. This demands consistency and an ability to overcome a myriad of challenges guaranteed to come your way.
7 steps of habit formation:
- Make the ultimate decision
- Don’t entertain exceptions and distractions to your new habit
- Notify others of your new plans
- Envision your new habit
- Use positive reinforcement to your advantage
- Be committed to persist
- Don’t hesitate to reward yourself
In this article, I shall explain habit formation, the science behind habit formation and the steps to form a habit. At the end of this article, you will be in a better position to build new habits.
Quick facts about habits
Why do new habits emerge?
According to seasoned scientists, the brain is continuously searching for new ways to save effort. When uncontrolled, the brain is powerful enough to convert any routine into a habit based on its constant processing capacity. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should follow to every routine that you’ve been pursuing. Instead, it’s important to evaluate the need to transform each behavior into a habit and make appropriate changes according to your goals.
Can the brain stop working?
Whenever a new habit emerges, your brain slowly decreases its decision-making capacity. It diverts its focus to other tasks while taking the time to understand and incorporate the new behavior. This pattern will continuously unfold unless you find a new routine to occupy your mind. For instance, taking up physical exercise can distract your mind from consuming junk food. Unless you stick to the physical exercise routine, your craving to consume junk food (past habit) will always prevail.
Can a habit disappear completely?
Habits never disappear despite common belief. They remain encoded in the brain and remain advantageous to us. For instance, learning to drive from beginning after every vacation can be a daunting task if your brain hadn’t mastered the skills beforehand.
Once the brain identifies a consistent behavior, it automatically registers it as a habit. Unfortunately, the brain can’t distinguish between good and bad habits. This means that bad habits are always lurking in your subconscious, reading to strike once the right trigger is activated.
How long does it take to form a new habit?
Forming a new habit is not easy. It requires meticulous planning, rigorous effort and more importantly, the unwavering commitment to achieve the desired goal.
The duration to form a new habit varies in time. It depends on your specific habit and your motivation. It can easily take a week, two weeks or even several years. The time it takes is largely dependent on your emotional drive to form the new habit.
A common example is the goal of weight loss and physical fitness. They could drag this goal for years without meaningful progress. Sometimes a serious enough trigger, such as the possibility of contracting a fatal lifestyle disease, can jolt them back into serious physical exercise routine. They will immediately cut down on alcohol and smoking, change their diet and experience substantial changes within a few months.To sum up, entertaining the thought of losing their life might have lasted a minute, but it motivates them to maintain a healthy lifestyle henceforth.
Debunking the 21 day habit rule myth
Most lifestyle experts can confidently advise you that 21 days is sufficient to develop a new habit. Well, this sentiment couldn’t be further from the truth. Believing that you can develop a new habit within 21 days isn’t just a myth but creates unrealistic expectations for people keen on developing new habits. Instead, the 21 day rule should be considered to be an opportunity to lay a strong foundation on your path to acquiring a new habit.
Seasoned athletes have been reported to spend substantial hours daily harnessing their craft. For basketball, soccer or tennis players, they have consistently pushed their limits by practicing countless times before mastering a single winning shot. They might fail occasionally but it doesn’t dampen their desire to keep getting better. While such practice sessions have yielded exceptional results, it’s critical to note that courage, hard work and discipline are important in maintaining these habits over time.
3 Phases of habit formation
1. The honeymoon phase
This phase is often characterized by the hype and confidence that the new habit will be easy to learn. The honeymoon phase stems from experiencing an inspirational moment from motivational speakers or witnessing progressive growth.
During this period, self-motivation radiates within you and you begin making improvements in your life. However, the honeymoon phase usually ends and keeping up with the huge challenge ahead proves to be a testing period.
2. Fighting through the obstacles
Once reality sets in, it’s common to experience challenges keeping up with the new challenge. With each passing day, the temptation to fall back to your old habit proves too strong to bear. However, you can navigate this turbulent phase by completing at least 3 milestones during this stage. Here’s a sneak-peek of what you should do:
Recognize your new reality
Understanding your new reality from the beginning is critical to fighting through each obstacle. During this stage, it’s imperative to have a winner’s mindset to tackle each setback effectively. Remember, giving up soon enough makes it much easier to lose the next challenge.
When faced with obstacles to form the new habit, consider asking yourself important questions that will jolt you into reality. For instance, queries such as “Am I prepared to handle the consequences of quitting?” and “Is my goal worth pursuing?” will help you neutralize any negative thoughts and fuel your confidence.
Project your life
If internalizing and recognizing your new reality haven’t jolted you into prompt action, then envision your life in 3 or 5 year if you do not make urgent changes. However, you need to be honest with yourself by setting realistic expectations.
3. Second Nature
The second nature phase is widely considered to be the silver lining in your tumultuous journey. You have begun learning the new skill and your constant efforts are yielding excellent results. While you might have a grip on the new habit, you’re likely to experience various distractions in your quest and fighting back is critical to your success.
Eradicate discouraging thoughts
Often, you might be tempted to quit when obstacles to developing the new habit becomes strenuous. In this case, entertaining thoughts such as “This isn’t working out as I had planned and there isn’t much I can do” can lower your self-confidence.
There’s nothing wrong with taking a holiday or falling sick. It’s just life. Nonetheless, it’s equally important to practice delayed gratification if you are to master your new habit. Having sharp focus helps in weeding out distractions that can neutralize your trajectory and motivation.
Having developed the new habit, you can reward yourself by engaging in constructive leisure activities within the boundaries of moderation.
Envision and thrive of positive success
One’s success is attributed to their mindset. Having a positive and growth mindset opens your mind to abundant opportunities that elevate your success. While it’s easier said than done, reaching this summit is undoubtedly challenging but worth it at the end.
7 Steps of habit formation
If you’ve ever prepared a meal, then you must be familiar with a recipe. In the recipe, it is equipped with sufficient ingredients and instructions. Forming a habit is like following a systematic sequence of events as well.
1. Make the ultimate decision
Make a decisive decision to form a new habit. By making a decisive decision, you are automatically inclined to adopt a certain mindset and behavior. For example, rising and exercising each morning demands that you set an alarm, getting up once it goes off, changing into your exercise clothes and beginning your routine.
2. Don’t entertain exceptions and distractions to your new habit
Making a decisive decision doesn’t count for much if you aren’t willing to practice unrivaled focus. This strategy requires one to avoid making excuses or rationalizing every setback experienced. Simply, hold yourself accountable to every decision you make going forward.
If you’re determined to wake up at 6:00 AM each morning, then practice the discipline to stick by this rule.
3. Notify others of your new plans
Notifying your closest friends and relatives of your proposed habit can assist you in a myriad of ways. For instance, their constant monitoring and evaluation can be a source of feedback. This can keep you on your expectations.
Additionally, they can also motivate you when the going gets tough. By encouraging you to persist, you are less likely to give up compared to managing a solo exercise without motivation or monitoring.
4. Envision your new habit
Envisioning your new habit is a visualization exercise to ingrain the habit. The more you envision practicing the habit, the faster and easier your subconscious mind incorporates it into your daily routine.
5. Use positive reinforcement to your advantage
Setting a proposed habit as your new goal isn’t enough. It’s important to use repetitive affirmation to expedite the adoption speed. When you constantly reaffirm to complete your habit, you are more likely to complete them. In most cases, you are motivated to go an extra mile and set new achievements.
6. Be committed to persist
Your commitment to persist despite the frequent challenges speaks volumes about your motivation. While you might feel comfortable, knowing your expectations and subsequent actions makes persisting easier.
7. Don’t hesitate to reward yourself
Striving to learn a new habit without rewarding yourself can be a boring and less-inspiring endeavor. Rewarding yourself reaffirms the need to reinforce the habit and develop new ones. Soon, your positivity radiates beyond your current habit. It might even influence your friends and family to form new habits as well.
Types of habits
Habits aren’t the same across various professions or behavioral traits. Each habit is unique depending on the nature of activities conducted.
These are habits associated with intellectual attributes such as acute perception logical thinking and good observation. These habits rely on the unique ability to reason before testing conclusions and making sound decisions.
These habits are manifested through character. For starters, helping the less privileged is derived from innermost feelings and emotions. These habits speak volumes about an individual’s generosity, and present their character.
Motor habits are related to the muscular movements of a person. They revolve around physical actions such as walking, standing, exercising, sitting, and running.
Importance of understanding habit formation for behavioral change
Habit formation has a critical role in behavioral change. It helps in monitoring and evaluating our current behavior with an eye to transforming them positively. If you’re planning on behavioral changes, here are a few reasons to understand habit formation for behavioral changes.
To exercise control over our actions
It’s human nature to believe that you’re in control of your actions. However, this isn’t necessarily true. Quite often, rational choice can be elusive despite thriving in new environments. For example, you might have a hard time locating cutlery drawer in your kitchen despite your familiarity with the kitchen.
Alternatively, you might also find yourself driving to work while you had intended to visit a different location. This pattern of behavior is attributed to specific past triggers. You need to address these past habits before new habits can form effectively.
Pillars of habit formation
Habit formation doesn’t just exist independently. It is supported by a combination of pillars to help you make positive momentum in your habit formation.
Monitoring provides an avenue through which you can track, reflect, and measure your behavior. With monitoring of parameters, you can make adjustment to your current behavior to reach your proposed habit.
Most people can be quick to make verbal promises to change their habits. However, only a few have the courage, commitment and consistency to turn a verbal promise into action. More importantly, it’s in your best interest to prioritize your habit formation on a schedule. This can help you move beyond the initial hesitation.
Relying on someone else to hold you accountable for your actions is the surest way to exercise your commitments. Rather than expect immediate success from a solo effort, feel free to enlist the assistance of a trusted friend or colleague to help keep you on track.
Create ideal reward system for habit formation
Much has been discussed regarding the benefits of rewarding yourself after mastering various habits. While much emphasis has been on materialistic items, it’s important to delve deeper into the type and need of a reward system.
Most experts believed that you should reward yourself at the end of each milestone, either on a weekly or monthly basis. However, this strategy hardly makes any meaningful impact, especially when the reward is infrequent or too large to make any meaningful progress. For instance, going on a shopping spree might hurt you financially in the absence of a sound budget.
An ideal reward shouldn’t be a materialistic item that offers immediate gratification. Instead, it should offer a lasting impression beyond your habit formation.
If your efforts are geared towards achieving a certain reward, you are less likely to persevere to the end. Also, over dependence on materialistic item can question your motivation when the item isn’t available anymore.
Habit formation is an extensive process contrary to common perception. It demands absolute focus, commitment, and dedication to neutralize old behavior and adopt new habits. It will have its fair share of ups and downs.
Embarking on habit formation is an effortful endeavor. And to form your habit successfully, it’s important to rely on sufficient assistance and guidance from your trusted peers. Their unbiased approach and perspective are refreshing when navigating various tedious setbacks.
What can I do when I fall back to bad habits? You can channel your efforts into neutralizing the triggers associated with the bad habits. Afterward, prioritize on adopting the new good habits to the letter.
Is habit formation hereditary? Certain habit traits are hereditary and can be transferred to offspring during birth. However, they must be activated before they can play a significant role in their lives.