Day 6: How Not To Suck At Building Habits
Estimated read time: 5 minutes
As we dive into the depths of Week 2, let's have a little #RealTalk on what this is all about – habit building.
Because habits, as we mentioned in the piece on Evening Routines, when directed towards what matters, habits are what will allow us to stay on track, reduce the willpower we need, and move further, faster.
Time and time again, it happens. People come out of the gate blazing, riding the high of starting something new, and as things get tough and the energy dwindles, so does their ability to stick with it.
A few weeks in the ambition and goal is all but a distant memory and they are back to the same old routine, stuck in their ways and not getting what they want.
We don't want that for you – or any of us.
So stick with us and take a read.
While most people focus on goals – the "where you want to go" – it's habits that will get you there and it's where most of your energy should be spent.
Once you dial in the right habits, life becomes so much simpler.
Why We So Frequently Fail
People don't suck at habits. We are actually really good. What we suck at is building the right habits.
Most of us fail at doing that because the environment and structure around them sucks.
They don't want to drink, but their friends drink, so they end up having a few.
Or they know they'd be better off going to the gym than binge watching Netflix, but the remote is more accessible than their gym shoes, so they end up on the couch – 600 seasons deep in the latest Netflix Original.
What's worse, these bad habits created by bad environments create a self-reinforcing negative loop. They lead to the belief that we suck at creating good habits. Then things get difficult and we buy into that, losing our will to keep going. We stumble and fail and this reinforces our belief that we can't do it. The whole thing spirals back to where it began and we end up back on the couch binge watching Friends and spoon feeding ourselves ice cream, rather than getting to the gym.
So, How Do You Fix This?
(and bring a little faith back into yourself)
You fix this by creating the right environment for yourself to succeed. This isn't done by making big changes, but rather a bunch of small ones that keep build on each other and keep you coming back.
1. Start Super Small.
As we mentioned in Day 2: Why Your Goals Will Fail (And What You Can Do About It), tiny actions are the key to success.
See, we have this ability to downplay what it takes to accomplish our big goals, yet overestimate the effort it takes to overcome a series of small goals.
It’s the consistency of chasing and accomplishing tiny goal after tiny goal that will get you where you want to go.
Starting small helps change the narrative.
Start small gives us small wins, which build into proof points that you can create good habits. Start showing (and telling) yourself you can accomplish this, past failures don't matter, and despite temporary setbacks, you're going to succeed.
Then make the habits so easy you can't possibly fail. This helps create a positive reinforcing narrative and builds momentum. It also builds trust with yourself.
If you want to form a habit of writing – form the habit of writing 5 sentences.
If you want to form a habit of running – form a habit of getting your shoes on and walk for a minute.
If you want to form a habit of meditation – form a habit of sitting in a chair silently for 30 seconds.
Set the bar for success as low as you can, make sure you nail it again and again, and go from there.
2. Progress Gradually.
Starting small might seem silly, but keep in mind that your doing to prove that you can do this. From there, you'll gradually add more. Move from five sentences to 10 – from one minute to two. Keep focused on building the routine and let the gradual increases become your new normal.
3. Go All In.
We have a simple rule at Chasing Sunrise and it goes like this: no f*cking maybes. It may sound harsh, but so many times we straddle, half in-half out, neither fulling embracing something or moving on to the next. That ain't no way to live.
If you have a habit that will get you to where you want to be in life, it's worth going all in on. And if you're not sure you have the confidence, just remind yourself that if you believed in Santa for 8 years, you can believe in yourself for at least 21 days.
4. Create Social Accountability.
You'll be seeing this one work throughout. The power of having people hold you accountable is something else. Tell people you’re going to do your new habit and ask them to hold you accountable. Hell, maybe even set up a consequence for not pulling through.
Having people you are accountable to not only holds you to it, but allows you to go through the fire with other people – in this case, hundreds of others.
5. Create Structure & (Unmissable) Reminders.
If you allow yourself to ask if you should do your habit each day, you're giving yourself the opportunity to skip out. Create a structure that doesn't give you the choice. Complete your habit at the same time each day (say 4:30AM), without question.
To remind yourself make your reminders absolutely unmissable. Have it taped to your toothbrush or print out a life-sized version of yourself holding up a sign. Whatever you have to do, make sure it's there every day and absolutely unmissable.
Pro tip - own the fact that you want this. Feel free to put up reminders anywhere and everywhere they will serve a purpose. It might seem silly at first, but no one will be laughing then when you're smashing your dreams.
6. Keep Notes & Check-In.
Most people dive into creating habits and then rely on their memory to remember how it's going. We end up with a cluttered mess of recall and aren't actually sure what worked. As you begin to incorporate good habits, take some time to keep notes throughout the date.
Write down what you notice, what's hard, what's easy, what helps and what doesn't.
Make this really simple so that it's almost brainless to do. Then, at least once a week, go through your notes and see how the habit has been going. Have you been sticking to it? Failing? What’s helping? What’s not?
Doing this frequently helps you understand the environment you’re in and how it effects you. It'll let you make small tweaks frequently and get better, faster.
7. Listen To Yourself.
You can have all the knowledge in the world, but if you aren't paying attention to how it's working for you, it's useless.
Paying attention and mindfulness are two of the most powerful tools in building habits. Pay attention to when you have the urge to procrastinate or pick up your phone and distract yourself (it's totally normal and okay to have these distractions). Pay attention to how your mind tries to rationalize what it's doing (we're masters at this) and remind yourself why your habits are important and what they sticking to them will give you.
8. Enjoy It.
This is something most people skip. They get so focused on the habit and the work behind it that it becomes a chore they need to do before they move on to the next thing.
Not only will your life continue to feel like a hamster wheel, but you'll eventually get burned out and give up.
Change your perspective to look at these habits as an opportunity to learn. It's some time to focus on yourself, do something that matters to you, and inch yourself closer to what you want in life.
Take a few minutes every time you're building a new habit and remind yourself why you're doing it, why it matters, and enjoy the fact that you're working on it.
Wrapping This Up
All of this will do nothing if you don't actually implement it, so with that in mind, I want you to create one simple habit you want to do each morning.
Make it stupidly simple, write it out on a piece of paper (similar to what you did with your Minimum Enjoyable Action) and for the next 15 days, I want you to do it.
Build it up until it's something that is so stupidly simple, you almost forget your doing it.
If you can do that, you've just unlocked one of the most powerful secrets to life.
Oh, and for getting all the way down here, here's some mellow morning vibes.