Whenever a new year rolls in, many individuals are motivated to take on new habits to improve their lifestyle. The most common goals are to exercise more, have better financial wellness, and eat more healthily. This act of setting goals is good in itself because it helps a person acknowledge what they can improve and then plot an action to attain a long-term vision. However, achieving these goals and maintaining habits don’t come easy.
Some people may start off doing so well with their new habit, but eventually have a difficult time keeping it up. There are plenty of reasons why this occurs, such as demotivation, burnout, or even unexpected changes to present situations. It’s always frustrating to fall off the wagon, so before setting your goals, here are some tips that can help you manage your expectations and make habit formation a more doable journey.
1. Don’t go too big too soon.
When it comes to setting goals, it’s much better to take small steps. Setting goals that are too big might end up discouraging a person if they fail to achieve them. Aiming too high begs for a quick, almost instantaneous change from a person, which is why some people give up too early. Behavioral change occurs gradually, so set the foundation first and adjust your goalpost as you deem fit.
2. Choose progress over perfection.
Contrary to what people may think, missing one day will not hinder your progress. Everyone can get off track sometimes, but the difference is your commitment to getting back on track and continuing your progress. Aiming for perfection is taking on an all-or-nothing mindset, but habit formation is more complex than that. Don’t beat yourself up over one slip-up and stop dwelling on it. Just bounce back quickly and don’t miss your habit twice.
3. Add to existing habit blocks.
Tying a new habit to activities that are already part of your daily routine will help you be more consistent. By adding to an existing habit block, such as morning or bedtime routines, there’s a greater likelihood of habit formation. For example, if your morning routine is having breakfast and brushing your teeth afterward, you can add the habit of taking vitamins right after breakfast. Similarly, you can try a new skincare routine by tying it with your bedtime rituals. Building upon a well-established routine will help your new habits stick.
Social support is an important factor in habit formation. Self-monitoring is adequate, but some people benefit from reminders and motivation from people who are going through the same challenges. If you intend to exercise more frequently or try meal planning, digital support systems from social media groups consisting of like-minded people can be helpful. Knowing that someone else understands the struggle, and believes that other people to overcome it as well, is a powerful inspiration.
5. Change your environment, too.
Create a physical, social, and digital environment that makes it easy for you to stay on track. You can report your progress daily through a Twitter thread or even rearrange furniture and decoration to help you form your habit. If you want to exercise more often, carve out some space in your room to allow you to do it often. Setting up a work area to create a clearer distinction between work and rest may also be helpful to those who want to avoid electronics right before bedtime. Making small adjustments in your daily environment will be beneficial.
Consistency is important because you need to repeat the habit enough times that your brain craves the reward you get from it. Forming a new habit to the point that it comes automatically to you can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days, but do not let this number unnerve you. The more difficult you think a habit will be, the longer it will take for you to form it. Remember to focus on your goal and your motivation behind it, and trust the process.