Like setting SMART goals, creating new habits that you wish to have in your life and easily maintaining existing ones is a lot easier if you work with your strengths (and a little chemistry). The actions you take will be much more sustainable and the consistent results you produce will be astounding.
As James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, says, “Success is often a result of committing to the fundamentals over and over again.”
The fundamentals of habit setting are as follows: are you making it obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying? In other words, how desirable are you making this new behavior and how easy are you making it on yourself to begin and maintain it.
Check off those four boxes and you have a pretty good chance and setting habits that you’ll stick to. To make them truly sustainable for you in this season of life, also consider these 5 additional guidelines to make your habits second-nature.
Before we get too far into habit building, let’s talk chemistry. It’s a very logical way to approach achieving habits and it reduces the friction you may feel when setting and following through on your habits.
In chemistry, there’s a concept called activation energy. Very simply stated, if you want a chemical reaction to occur, there must be a minimum amount of energy available. Think about lighting a match. Just brushing the match against sandpaper won’t do anything and too much force will break the match. When there’s the right amount of energy (AKA you move your hand fast enough), the match has the energy it needs to burn.
Same with habits. There’s a minimum amount of effort you have to apply daily to get moving with your habits. Wishing it will happen won’t do much. Similarly, setting a goal to send 100 reach-out emails a day seems insurmountable. But sending one email a day? That doesn’t require much effort. Then, you can build up to 5, 10, 15 emails as you build up energy.
Here’s another place you can use chemistry to help you as you create new habits: add a catalyst. This is a booster that will supercharge the beginning phase, reducing the amount of activation energy you need to expend. Thus, the chance that you’ll “go too hard too fast” and burn yourself out on your habits is greatly reduced.
Say you want to form the habit of daily movement. You can reduce the friction of starting this habit by applying the concepts of activation energy and tying this habit to a foundation you already have. When you use that foundational touchpoint as a catalyst to get you going, you’ll find that it’s so easy to zoom away with your habits.
Commit to a sustainable action (like doing restorative yoga for 10 minutes) and make it so easy on yourself, it’s almost harder not to do it (unroll your yoga mat, place it in the middle of the living room in front of your TV, and sleep in the clothes you’d wear when doing your practice).
Then, when you wake up, grab your glass of lemon water as you usually do and begin with your Cat / Cow poses. Pretty soon, the act of settling onto your mat will follow your morning lemon water without you thinking about it.
Tying your newly-set habits to a routine you already have is a common tip to help you form sustainable habits. Then, it becomes muscle memory you already have with another habit that gets you going. Pretty soon, your body will just do it because you’ve formed that mind/body connection.
I really recommend reading this article from James Clear about applying the activation energy and catalyst principles to your habits and how you can use chemistry to help you make sticking to your habits easier!
The other day was one of those days where everything seemed to take twice as long and require additional trips up and down the stairs to complete. It could be so easy to slip into frustration and then destruction and totally sabotage myself, my habits, and my work day, ensuring nothing would get done and I’d go to sleep in a spiral of crappy feelings.
Instead, I expected I’d have a down day eventually when coming up with those new habits. Because of that, I created a backup plan for the times when life goes pear-shaped and I only have five minutes between calls to center myself instead of my usual 15.
When you’re setting goals, it’s so easy to play Pollyanna and assume things will always go well. I commend you for being a glass-half-full person when it comes to adding new routines and habits into your day!
But that isn’t the way to go when setting new habits. Instead of being totally thrown off when something happens (and something will happen) and having to scramble in the moment, expect that there will be a wrench thrown in your plans when you’re setting goals or habits. Then, plan for that interruption!
Set up an if/then scenario for your habits:
If you anticipate a stumble as you’re forming new habits, you don’t have to scramble and either half-heartedly go through the motions or drop it entirely and tell yourself that story that always comes up when you don’t follow through. You can do a modified routine and feel good that you kept up with your habits even in the midst of a hectic day. When you plan for chaos, you can navigate it with more ease and grace.
Everything, whether it’s setting, forming, and maintaining habits or manifesting your dream house begins with an intention. The power of being in alignment with your intentions is so important, it’s the first step in my foundational 5-step process to create an aligned business. So, it’s no surprise it’s the first step to creating aligned habits!
When you begin with intention, you have a clearly defined why. This will see you through when things get tough and your if/then formula is still a slog. You can check in with your intentions and remind yourself why you’re moving forward with this habit.
Further, when you’re in alignment, you will find that the habits will flow. When something is off and things are a struggle, even after checking in with your why, it may be a sign that your habits are out of alignment with your values. Take a look at the 5 stages of commitment and make sure your intentions and habits are in that fully aligned, full commitment phase. If not, go back and set a new habit that is in alignment with what you desire to be, do, and have.
When you want to form new habits, you likely aren’t doing it for you as you stand right now in this moment. You’re doing it so the you of the future can be financially secure, physically fit, mentally strong, and so on.
So, remember, the daily actions Present You will take are stepping stones to where you’ll meet Future You. Take those steps daily so you can meet that future version of yourself and so that version of yourself is the brightest, boldest version of you that you can be.