Your Guide To Adopting Habits (And making them stick!)

So…it’s New Year Resolutions time! Everyone scrambles to prepare for the new year with resolutions we want to keep. But the thing is, adopting and ingraining habits in our system is a tricky process. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

First of all, we need to have a word about what you think habit is, what it’s compiled of. All habits are broken down to three components:

  1. The Cue or Trigger: In simpler terms, why your conscious pushed you to take this habit in the first place.
  2. The Action: How you go through with your plans regarding said habit.
  3. The Reward: This is the part where your brain receives its reward for taking the Action.

Easy enough, right? Well, here’s the problem. Almost %90 of habits are met with eventual failure. Why? Two reasons. One: because the 2nd component of a habit—the Action—is approached recklessly. Two: people fail to reward themselves for their newly adopted habit.

In approaching a habit, one cannot spontaneously make vain promises to ingrain it in their everyday life. Habits are tricky; our brains are trickier. So, in order to avoid a failure on the matter, here’s something to consider:

  1. Don’t attempt to take much Action: I bet you’re thinking why? Life is busy, and we all have other already-there habits we have to stick to. In order to ingrain a new habit, you need to approach it carefully. You can’t force a diet on a body that isn’t familiar with it. We don’t go from junk food to healthy food in two days! It’s like treating a reluctant child; you need patience and subtle methods that intensify over time.
  2. Learn from your bad habits: Do you know why bad habits are, unfortunately, our favorite? Because their reward system is almost faultless. If you’re smoking, cigarettes are providing your brain with chemicals—harmful, yes—that keep you happy. If you’re lazy, you get more sleep! Good habits, on the other side, don’t offer instantaneous rewards. It takes time, and you need to accept that.

So what can you do about that?
Improve your reward system: Eat a small bar of candy after your workout. Take a break after an intense work session to play some video games. It’s okay! Give your brain and body what they want so you can continue to achieve what you want. Be moderate.
Change your environment to make your Actions easier: How, you ask? Here’s an example solution: Prepare your ‘healthy’ breakfast for the next day before you go to sleep. Put the veggies in a bowl you see first thing in the morning; hide the Pizza leftovers. Do what you can to make your Actions less stressful on you and your conscious.

One crucial concept to always remember: Habits are daily goals. Don’t set yourself up for failure by unrealistic goals & expectations. Relax. Think of your habit as something you need to do only for today…and repeat that every day.
Finally, after 20 days of sticking to a habit—you’ll get there!—keep it steady. Don’t miss a habit twice and don’t overwhelm your body with big habits. Break your habits down in chunks (divide 100 pull-ups into 4 sets of 25’s, etc…)

We recommend an App: FabulousIt is incubated at Duke University Behavioral Economics Lab. Give it a try!