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The Secret to Creating Lasting Habits

For many of us, 2020 has upended our established routines or habits. As we get ready to move into the busy holiday season, it can be even harder to get back on track. Consider what habits you’re missing in your daily schedule.

I want to challenge the idea that in order to create a new habit you have to channel a certain superhero level of will-power. In fact, I’ve found that the people who appear to have the most will-power or self-control are not actually making those habitual decisions each day. These routines, whether it is running every morning or meditating before bed each night, have actually become automated. The subconscious takes over and these routines are in fact being made on auto-pilot. But how do you go about creating these automations to keep you on track?

Looking Forward

It can be easy this time of year to put off starting any new habits or personal goals. The downside to that is in doing so you actually add to your stress. Feelings of guilt or disappointment that you didn’t create a habit can be very discouraging. But you’re not alone. Just because you haven’t been successful in the past doesn’t mean you can’t be successful now. You just need a fresh outlook and a plan. 

The Habit Loop

To automate any decision or habit, you need to create a habit loop. As we walk through the steps to create a habit loop, I encourage you to think about your goals and use these simple steps to work toward accomplishing them.

  1. Create an activation trigger. The key to setting yourself up for success when establishing a new habit is to think of a natural cue that you can use to remind your subconscious of what you want to do. If you want to start journaling at the end of each day, set your journal out after making your bed in the morning so that you can’t forget each evening.
  2. Think through your response. This is the behavior that you want to become second nature. Make sure that whatever activation trigger you choose naturally elicits the result you want without having to make deliberate choices. The goal is to reduce the number of decisions you have to actively make each day. This practice frees up energy to focus on areas that require more creativity and innovation—and relieves stress.
  3. Focus on the reward. By thinking about the feeling you will get when you accomplish your goal, you help to set yourself up for success. If you want to start exercising every day, focus on the extra boost of energy you have throughout the day after working out.
  4. Give yourself time. Creating lasting habits takes time. Research varies depending on the habit you are trying to create, but give yourself 60–90 days before the habit truly becomes second nature. A lot of people aren’t able to successfully create a new habit simply because they don’t give themselves enough time for it to become automated.  

I encourage you to use the rest of 2020 to create habits that will help propel you into a successful 2021. If you like to check things off, use the StreakTracker in your Full Focus Planner. While many of the challenges of this year have been outside of our control, we do have the power to determine what steps we will take to finish out the year strong. 

What habit can you start today?

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