Start A New Habit
Hello and welcome back friends, it's a brand new week. It is time to get into a new goal. This goal is a stepping stone to any dream that you want to achieve. You can accomplish any dream if you just start building a habit to achieve your dream. Today, I am going to give you the exact steps to build any habit that you want.
But first, you guessed it right. Happy Moment of the week
Happy Moment of The Week
Last week, it rained a lot here in New Jersey. You know my love for rain. My sister always teases me about my love for a rainy and gloomy atmosphere. Being Londoner she always craves for a sunny day and here I am going on and on about my love for a cloudy day. The other day it was raining the entire evening. I was just sitting next to a window, looking at the rain, hearing the sound of rain. I don’t know what got into me but I stood up from that chair and asked Mihir if he wanted to come with me downstairs in the backyard. We went downstairs and played in the rain for almost half an hour. We jumped in the puddles, ran in the rain. We both were completely drenched. I felt like I was in school again. I don’t remember when was the last time I did this, I don’t remember having this much fun in so many days, Oh I wish I can just feel that way every moment of my life. It was just an amazing feeling. I will absolutely love to do that again. It was definitely my happiest moment of the week. How about you? How was your week? Did you do anything fun this week? What was your happy moment of the week? Don’t forget to tell me your happy moment of the week in our facebook community - Morning Cup of Sunshine Community.
The Journey Begins !
Alright, let’s start our journey towards starting a new habit. Have you heard a saying by Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” Habit is something that you do consistently. Not for a day or two but for your whole life. Habit is something which is part of your lifestyle. It is your second nature. Do you ever have a thought like “I wish I could workout everyday”, “I wish I meditate every day”, “I wish I had a habit to plan for the upcoming week on Sunday evening.” All these wishes and dreams become true when you decide to act on it and then keep on doing those things consistently day in day out. But this is easier said than done. Sometimes, it is really difficult to form a new habit. Have you heard a term Inertia? It is a tendency to do nothing or remain unchanged. It is difficult to get out of your comfort zone. I totally understand this. You are so used to doing certain things in certain ways and then suddenly you decide to do the same thing in a different way, your brain feels the extreme resistance. Because it is so used to work in a certain way. Imagine, you are so used to waking up late in the morning but suddenly you decide to wake up early everyday. I know you are chuckling, nodding your head there right now. This is your inertia, a fancy scientific name given to laziness. Is there a way to get over this inertia and work your way towards a new habit? Of course there is a way and today we are going to start this journey together, For this episode, I want you to think about one specific habit before we start discussing the steps. Pick a specific habit. E.g. I want to wake at 5.00 am everyday. Or I want to write at least 5 lines in my journal everyday. I will dedicate at least 30 minutes everyday to work on my hobby. Pick only one habit which is specific and small. Okay Have you picked a habit that you want to work on? Are you with me till this point? Okay great. Let’s start then. Shall we?
Step 1 : Plan and Prepare
I am sure you must have heard about smart goals. Smart means Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. This is absolutely applicable to your habits too. The habit that you want to work on has to be Smart. I want to wake up everyday at 5.00. Look at this habit. It is SMART. If you just say, I want to wake up early. It is not specific. What is early? If you are a professional working in shifts and you decide to get into the habit of waking up at 5.00. It is not realistic for you. Don’t set yourself up for failure by deciding something which is not possible for you in this season of life. It is okay, you don’t have to do it just because xyz is doing it. You choose to work on only those habits which are going to help you improve your life and can be sustained your entire lifetime. Now that you have planned which smart habit to work on, it is time to prepare for blending that habit in your life. If you want to wake up at 5.00 am in the morning, you need to set up an alarm for 5.00. Right ? If you want to go for a run everyday as a first thing in the morning, then you need to lay out your workout clothes the night before, maybe even keep your shoes ready too, just for an extra boost of motivation. If you want to get in the habit of reading every night before bed, then keep the book on your night stand, maybe set a reminder on your phone to remind you to keep the phone down and pick the book up. If you want to complete 10K steps everyday, set an alarm for every hour and when that alarm rings, walk for 5 minutes. I hope you got the idea.
There is another way to prepare yourself to start a new habit. I am a very visual person so if there are reminders in front of my eyes, that works wonders for me. Are you a visual person too? If that is the case, prepare a vision board. If you just google vision board, you will get tons of ideas. But the idea is to create a board with the pictures, sayings, quotes and anything that motivates you to work on your habit. You don’t even need to get all fancy and go buy a beautiful cork board. If you want to absolutely go ahead but otherwise, a simple paper will work too. Just write down your habit in bold colors. Then be creative, just add pictures from magazines laying around your home, pictures of people who inspire you, pictures that make you happy and give you energy to work on your habit. It’s your canvas to be creative. The goal here is to create a visual reminder that you can see everyday. If you want to get into a habit of healthy eating. Put pictures of green veggies, fruits, health quotes on your vision board and stick it to your fridge or pantry. Everytime you want to open a fridge or pantry to munch on some snacks, you will see your vision board and I guarantee you, 9 out of 10 times you will pick something from that board instead of some salty or sweet snack. This really works wonders. Try it this month and you will see a huge shift in your mindset. Okay so now that we have planned and prepared for a new habit. It is time to work on the new habit. So, let’s start. Step No 2 - Consistency is the key to success.
Step 2 : Consistency is the key to success.
I have discussed this at length in the episode Persistence over Perfection. Any task when done consistently is bound to give you the result. You climb the mountain by putting one step in front of the other. Right ? Think about your habit, the one you want to start. What are the actual steps you need to perform to work on that habit? If you want to start a habit of running, then you actually need to run. Right ? Run for a mile but everyday. Or even smaller, walk for a few minutes and then run a few minutes but get outside everyday. If you want to get into a habit of writing, designate time and place for your writing and be there, write at least a few lines everyday. If you listen carefully, I am using the word everyday. This is an extremely important word. You need to do this everyday, not once a week, not only on weekdays or only on weekends. Every single day spend at least a few minutes working on your habit. I know if you want to get into a habit of working out then shouldn’t there be a rest day? But my take on this is slightly different. I know rest day is important, but instead of just being a couch potato on rest day, you can do a light workout. Maybe just take a walk, or hike. Don’t do your usual intense workout but move your body for at least 30 minutes even on rest day. Do you agree?
Step 3 : Build a Community
I firmly believe in the power of community. You heard the story of my amazing friends who motivates each other to work out. There are days when I absolutely don’t want to work out but this amazing group keeps me on my toes. The daily updates that we give each other is one of the biggest reasons why I work out everyday. You need all the help till the habit that you are working does not become part of your lifestyle. Friends, family are the biggest cheerleaders for us. If you want to start working on your side hustle and planning to make it part of your daily routine, find people who have similar interests. Become each other’s accountability partners. It always helps to have someone with you in your journey. To be successful, you need to be extremely committed, dedicated to your goal. But there might be days when you don’t feel like working on your habit and that’s when if you have someone with you on this journey, it helps tremendously.
I have a trick to tell you. This might sound a little bit weird or uncomfortable at first, but trust me it works. When you decide to work on a habit, at the very beginning of this journey, declare it to the world or at least to someone who is not your immediate family. Now you know, people are watching, at least some of them or maybe they totally forget about it but in your mind you think that they are watching. So you start following the action steps just because you have already told everyone. I know this sounds a little silly. I agree that you should work on a habit because you want to and it’s good for you. But as I said earlier, in the beginning stages of habit formation, I am ready to take any help that will help me keep motivated. I was a fresher out of college, just starting my first job. I had one of my seniors who always used to come to the office a little late. He really wanted to come on time but somehow never made it before 11.00. One day in our daily stand up call, he mentioned that he is going to be in the office at 9.00 from tomorrow. Next day, he came exactly at 9.00 and greeted us with a bright smile and said see I made it. Can you believe if he kept on doing this exact same thing everyday for the next few months as if he was accountable to us. It worked wonders for him. Do you want to try this strategy? See if it works for you.
Step 4 : Reward yourself.
You are making something beautiful out of nothing. You are creating an entire new habit which never existed in your life before. Isn’t it worth celebrating? Have you ever seen the sticker charts for kids? It works so well for my kids. My daughter did not want to sleep in her room for the longest time and we all had a very disturbed sleep for months. Then I came up with an idea, I put up a small poster board in their room, just wrote down all the days of that month and told her that if she sleeps in her bed the whole night, she will get to put a sticker in this chart. Once the entire board is filled, she can have a gift at the end of the month. You won’t believe it worked right from day 1. She was so driven to get a gift that she did not climb out of her bed from that day. This week try this for yourself too. Create a simple reward chart. Put it someplace where you can see it easily. Mark your progress. There are thousands of different ways to create a reward chart. Just google it, see which one you like and prepare it for yourself. Seeing your progress everyday will keep you going. But there is a catch here. Have you said this to yourself? I will buy a new dress once I am at xyz weight. I will buy a pair of shoes when I run at least so and so miles. No, don’t push your joy aside just for some number. Instead of focussing on a number, just say I will buy a dress if I work out for 30 straight days. That is a better way of thinking. But I would suggest you to go even further, don’t wait 30 days to reward yourself. Celebrate the small victories in your journey. I will treat myself with a new book if I read for 15 straight days. I will treat myself with my favorite coffee if I work on my passion for a week. I will treat myself with a nice massage after 15 days of working out. Enjoy the milestones for sure but make the actual journey fun. Dance to your favorite tunes as a workout on your rest days. Life is really precious. We sure have dreams to see, goals to achieve and habits to form but that does not mean you should be all serious and stern the entire time. Have fun while working towards your goal. Laugh a little, be silly sometimes just enjoy your journey.
Step 5 : Contingency Plan
There are bound to be some unexpected events, engagements which might derail you from your journey. What I suggest is plan for those events in advance. If you know about the guest coming and visiting you for a few days and you will be busy with them, then plan to wake up at least 10 minutes early to work on your goal or if you are not a morning person, set aside 10 minutes from your day to dedicate to your goal. If you want to cultivate a habit to learn a new skill for your professional growth and you are not able to spend 30 minutes like always because you are always out and about with your guests then just listen to some audiobooks on those subjects while doing your morning chores. You just need to factor in the unexpected and be a little creative. There are two absolute corner cases to consider here. One are you using some event or an incident to derail from your progress on purpose? It is not the event that is causing this but your excuse. Are you making an excuse just out of laziness? Always always check your motive very honestly. If it is just your inertia, then don’t let that sit for a while just get up and get going.
The second corner case is at the other end of the spectrum. If your body is telling you to take a break and it is definitely not just inertia, you are really not feeling well then give yourself grace and take a break for a day. It is okay to take a break if you are physically unwell. It is okay to take it slow some days. But don’t stop completely. Don’t fall into old habits. Don’t fall into a vicious circle of losing the traction on weekends and then restarting every Monday. It is okay to listen to your body and take a break but don’t let that break extend beyond what it requires. It is time for some tough love. No breaks if you are just being lazy. Okay ? Remember 30 days? Unless you are physically unable to work on your habit no more breaks. Do you agree? Great ! Now it is time for a bonus step.
Step 6 : What after 30 days?
I asked you to work on your habit for 30 days. Does that mean you stop working on yourself after 30 days? Does that mean it is okay to stop waking up early in the morning after waking up at 5.00 for the last 30 days? No, of course not. So what are the next steps? What after 30 days? If it has become part of your routine and you feel you are doing it without any additional efforts then you don’t even have to worry about it. You will keep on doing it. You will fall in love with that habit. Before I started journaling in March, I always felt that this is an additional overhead in my already bulging to-do list. I won’t be able to sustain this habit. It is not worth the efforts. But I still kept on writing in my journal for 30 straight days. I didn’t even realize when I fell in love with this journaling. To be honest, it does not take more than 10 minutes. I write only two things, the things that I love about today and the dreams I want to work on. Ever since I started writing about the things I love about today, it gave me a complete fresh perspective to look at the small things in my life intentionally. One of my dreams that I wrote in my journal was to start a podcast, you know that I already achieved it and I am loving every single moment of it. But that does not mean, journaling came naturally to me. There were days when I simply forgot to write in my journal. But for the first 30 days, if I realize that I have not written into my journal at any point of the day, I used to get up and write into my journal. Even if it was 10.00 at night. But now, if I forget and I give myself grace and then write into my journal the next day because I trust myself that I will write into my journal for sure. The point of going on and on about this journalling is that you will get to a point where your habit will become easy and natural to you. Then you can take a little leeway but till then I would suggest that you keep on doing the work relentlessly. There are no shortcuts here. You have to put in the efforts. But just think of it as an investment for your beautiful and amazing life. I read a quote from Dale Carnegie. It goes something like this “Feeling sorry for yourself, and your present condition, is not only a waste of energy but the worst habit you could possibly have.” Isn’t it absolutely true? Do not waste a single moment from your precious life by feeling sorry about yourself. Let’s get to work, shall we?
On this note, let’s recap what we discussed today. Today’s goal is all about setting a new habit. We are here to understand the step by step approach to formulate a new habit. So let’s quickly recap the steps we discussed so far.
Step 1 : Plan and Prepare
Step 2 : Consistency is the key to success.
Step 3 : Build a community
Step 4 : Reward yourself.
Step 5 : Contingency Plan
Step 6 : What after 30 days?
The action items for this week are
Think of a habit that you always wanted to work on
Think of granular tasks you need to perform for working on this habit.
Work on this habit consistently for 30 days Rain or shine.
I am really curious if these steps help you build a new habit. Please let me know your feedback in our Morning cup of Sunshine Community on facebook. I started a new segment there, called Follow up Friday, so every Friday, post your progress, success stories or struggles that you see while working on these action items. I would love to hear from you. As always share this podcast with your friends and families, let’s spread more joy and happiness around the world. As Jim Rohn said, “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going”