I love habits, goals, plans and all things related to ridiculously long to-do lists. I’m a total self-improvement junkie. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, but it’s always fun to continue working towards new habits.
But whether you’re looking to stick to a New Year’s resolution or just make a few changes to reach your goals, ditching bad habits for healthier ones is hard work. You can keep your goals small and have a way to measure progress, but you’ll still stumble a few times. And it can feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle.
Luckily, there are ways to make the journey a little easier. Let’s look at a few ways you can set yourself up for success when creating a new habit!
1 – Focus on One Habit Instead of Many Habits
If you’re like me, you might fall off the wagon with a few of your usual habits from time to time. Then, in a whirlwind of motivation or frustration, you decide you’re going to start eating healthier, sleeping more, and exercising 5 times a week. Oh, and don’t forget that you should floss every day.
Sound familiar? It often feels like the perfect plan at the time, but it’s not a way to set yourself up for success in any one of those areas. You’re much more likely to be successful if you start with one habit and focus on what it takes to make that change before moving on to your next habit.
2 – Know Your Habit Tendency
Are you someone who sets a goal and won’t give up on it no matter what, even if it is no longer serving you? Or maybe you’re someone that can meet goals if you’ve promised them to others, but you’ll throw in the towel if you’re the only one watching.
In Gretchen Rubin’s amazing book, Better Than Before, she breaks down four personality tendencies and how they relate to creating habits. Upholders want to know what should be done and they’ll do it, Questioners want to know ‘why’, Obligers need accountability, and Rebels want freedom from their own and others’ expectations.
You can take the quiz to find your tendency here and discover what methods may have been holding you back in the past.
3 – Figure Out How You’ll Make Room
This is the piece of habit advice I need a reminder of the most.
You’re going to start doing something in your life that you haven’t been doing. So, you need to decide what else you’re going to add or subtract so that you have time for that new thing. Will you need to get a babysitter to accomplish your writing goal? Will you need to cut out a TV show so you have time to go to the gym?
Instead of making a plan to add or subtract things, I often expect to be able to “do it all” by working harder and multitasking more. That approach is a recipe for disaster. I end up overworked, stressed, failing, and feeling like an idiot for not having a better plan.
So, figuring out how you’ll make room is a crucial step when you want to create a new habit.
You might even find even though this habit is ‘good’, it’s not a priority in your life right now. Is the new habit worth more time away from your kids? Is it worth giving up the only remaining downtime in your life? (Rest is IMPORTANT!)
If the answer is no, that’s not a failure, it’s a success.
You’re living your life according to your priorities. You can save the new habit for another season of life when you have the space for it. There is no need to feel guilty for not doing things that aren’t as important to you as the things you’re doing!
4 – Go Beyond the Buddy System. Find a Community!
Working towards a habit with a buddy is a great way to improve accountability as well as your odds of success. But what if you don’t have any buddies that are interested in your habit? Or what if you thrive off the buddy system and want to use it to be even more successful.
Find a healthy habit community!
A habit community could be specific to your own goals or simply a community of supportive people are striving towards a healthier, more fulfilled life.
Working towards a financial habit? You can join us over in the Smart Money Mamas Community!
Want a group that is full of people working on different habits? Zen Habits could be perfect for you!
Changing our behavior and striving towards a goal is more fun when we share the process with others. Just remind yourself not to fall into the comparison trap when you join these groups. You’re all working together to improve. Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.
5 – Automate, Automate, Automate
When creating a new habit, you want to make it as easy and automatic as possible.
Want to journal every morning? Put your journal next to the coffee maker so you see it as soon as you grab your morning cup.
Want to do yoga every day? Leave your mat in plain sight and connect it to another habit you already have, such as committing 15 minutes to yoga after brushing your teeth.
People often overlook the power of automation. And that’s unfortunate because it’s a key to success in so many areas of life. It lightens your mental load!
Automation removes the need to make a decision about doing your new habit.
I could decide that when my kiddos fall asleep for a nap, the first thing I’ll do is a short workout at home. Instead of planning to “go to the gym more,” I could plan to go to the master’s swim class on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 6:30 am. The planning and decision making is done, all I have to do is find my goggles and set my alarm.
One of my favorite books this year was Atomic Habits by James Clear. He discusses all the cues in our life that trigger us to do either good or bad habits. To build better habits, we have to make our surroundings cue us to do healthy things more often than unhealthy, automatically.
Can’t Figure Out a Way to Automate Your Habit?
If you can’t find a way to automate your habit directly, find ways to remind yourself to do it or automate other things in life to free up the mental energy needed to succeed with your habit.
Have you heard of decision fatigue? It’s a real thing.
The more we have to make decisions throughout the day, the harder it is for us to use self-control and make the right decisions later in the day.
This is why creating a meal plan or wearing a uniform can leave us with way more energy to tackle the real challenges in our day. They are habits that reduce decision fatigue. Otherwise, we get home at the end of a busy day of decisions and the weight of having decide what to make for dinner has us pulling out the takeout menus.
6 – Celebrate the Successes, No Matter How Small
It’s easy to dismiss a small step on your way to a larger goal as something that isn’t worth celebrating. Don’t do that to yourself! Celebrate your successes no matter how small.
Just like the power of compound interest, what makes the biggest difference in the long-run are the little things we do every day.
Let’s say each night for dessert you ate one Oreo. It’s 45 calories, what’s the big deal? And skipping it definitely isn’t something to pat yourself on the back for, right?
Think again. One Oreo every night adds up to 16,425 calories in a year. That’s 4.7 pounds of fat you could put on from just your one evening Oreo. (And we all wonder why we’re slowly gaining weight as we age…)
Celebrate the small victories.
Did you make it to the gym once this week even when your goal was to go three times? Don’t beat yourself up. You made it to the gym! Was it more than you were doing three weeks ago? Then celebrate.
Small improvements are always a healthy goal.
Building Better Habits
Every effort to find space in our busy lives for better habits moves us closer to our long-term goals. Breaking a long-held routine isn’t easy, but you can do it.
Celebrate your small successes, find ways to carve out time for your habit, and lean on a strong community. The life you want is within reach, mama!
What habit would you love to build in your life? Share in the comments!