How to Build a Habit in Just 5 Steps

by | May 7, 2019

Before we jump into the practical tips, let’s take a closer look at some common misconceptions about building a habit. Many people think it takes a tremendous amount of willpower to stay consistent with your new habits, others think that it’s impossible to pull it off unless you get rid of all your guilty pleasures in life.

As a hedonist myself, I’ve got good news: building a new habit has nothing to do with restraining yourself from experiencing exciting and enjoyable things in your life. As a matter of fact, the better you become at cultivating new healthy habits, the easier it will get to tackle even the hardest problems in your life.

Here are 5 steps that will help you cultivate any habit you want. If you want to listen to the audio version of this blog post, click here:

1. Start with ‘Why’

It’s important to have a great reason to incorporate a new habit into your life. Don’t underestimate the power of your monkey brain! If it doesn’t see gratification at the end of the tunnel, chances are it will try to stay in the way of achieving your end goal, which in this case is cultivating this new habit.

What do I mean by that: imagine that you want to wake up every morning at 5 AM. You’ve seen a couple of videos on YouTube that suggest you should try this, so you decide to give it a go. So far, so good.

What happens, though, is your monkey brain starts clouding your judgement with snarky comments like ‘Oh, come on, it’s too early… Just 10 more minutes. Besides, it’s so warm and fuzzy here, don’t be too hard on yourself…’

While it seem like a good idea at the time, what actually happens as a result is that you can’t cultivate this new habit and get frustrated with yourself. Instead of beating yourself up, here’s how to find your ‘why’ and focus all your energy on remembering the reason behind building the habit:

Ask yourself the following question: Why do I want to build this habit? Answering the question, especially on paper, will give you more clarity and help you focus on the big picture instead of wondering what to do every single day and getting lost in the details.

Let’s say you’ve found your ‘why’, now what?

2. Do Only One New Thing at a Time

Building a habit is hard, especially if you want to do many new things at once. So, the best way to cultivate a new healthy habit into your daily routine is to actually do one new thing at a time.

Let’s go back to your new habit of getting up at 5 AM.

If you’re not a morning person like me, than getting up at 5 AM can seem like a bit of a stretch. So to ease yourself into your new daily routine, I advise you to try with a little bit more realistic hour.

For example, if you get up at 7:30 now, try setting the alarm clock for 7 AM or if you’re a truly brave individual which I want to congratulate you on, set it up for 6:30.

And that’s it. No implementation of other new awesome habits like meditation, journaling, making to-do lists, etc. Just getting up earlier for 21 days straight.

Let me tell you why it’s not a good idea to do many things at once. Your brain can quickly become overwhelmed by all the mandatory new things and you will find yourself looking for distractions and you’ll start procrastinating as a way of protecting yourself from the new, big, scary things that you have to learn how to do.

So, start slowly and work your way up to the next new habit.

3. Keep Track of Your New Habit

I’ve learned this one from James Clear, the master of building new habits. He suggests that you should adopt the “never miss twice” mindset. For instance, maybe I’ll miss one workout, but I’m not going to miss two in a row. Maybe I’ll eat an entire pizza, but I’ll follow it up with a healthy meal. And so on.

The best way to keep track of your new habit is to have a calendar where you can check off every time you manage to do the thing that you want to a make habit of, for instance, waking up at 5 AM.

Every time you do it, you cross the day off. And if you forget or you just don’t feel like doing it, you leave the box empty.

What will happen is that you’re not only going to be able to track your progress, but it will also be easier for you to stay consistent with your new habit.

4. Anchor Your New Habit to an Established Habit

Let’s try out a new example. Eating a healthy breakfast every morning sounds great but what can you do to make it easier for yourself to build a habit out of it?

Let’s say you drink coffee every morning. To cultivate the habit of eating a healthy breakfast, say to yourself the following sentence: ‘After I make myself a cup of coffee, I’ll sit down and have breakfast.’ or ‘While I have breakfast, I will enjoy a page or two from my favorite book.’

By anchoring your new habit to an established habit you will make it easier for yourself to stick to it and before you know it, it will become a part of your daily routine.

5. Reward Yourself for Sticking to Your New Habit

We all love rewards. In fact, our brains always prefer short-term pleasure over pain. That’s why it’s so hard to implement the seemingly scary new habits into our lives. So, how can you use that information to your advantage?

Reward yourself for achieving a milestone when it comes to your new habit.

Let’s say you’ve been consistent with your workouts this week, so as a result you can reward yourself during the weekend: with a day at the spa or you can go to the movies or splurge on a product that you’ve been saving for.

Every weekend, think of a reward that you’re going to get yourself if you manage to stay consistent with your new habit. That will not only work as a powerful incentive but it will also make you look forward to doing your next workout!

What you will notice in a few weeks is that you won’t need the rewards anymore because your brain would have become familiar with what you’re doing and that’s exactly what we aim for when it comes to forming new habits: making the unfamiliar familiar.

Watch this video if you want to learn more on how to train your brain for success and get out of your own way.


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