I recently watched a brilliant Ted Talk by BJ Fogg about how to form habits. Habits shape your life. They can make you fit or fat, happy or sad, procrastinate or produce. You can use them to learn languages, run marathons, change your diet, strengthen your body, concentrate your mind and be kinder to yourself and others. The problem, though, is that they’re often hard to stick to and when you don’t stick to them, it’s hard not to beat yourself up about it. So here are some tips about how to stick to them.
You need to have to want to form the habit. This might sound obvious but what’s interesting is how part of you might want to do something, for example run twice a week, and another part of you would rather stay in bed. You can boost your motivation by having a clear goal you’re working towards as well as by having support from other people: such as training with a group or a friend.
It doesn’t matter how high your motivation to floss your teeth is if you don’t have any floss! Maybe you want to practise yoga but don’t know how. The first step might be finding a teacher, book, or youtube video you can learn from.
This one if often overlooked. You need a trigger to remind yourself to do the habit, otherwise, even if you really want to do it, and know how to do it, you might simply keep forgetting. It’s a good idea to use an existing habit. An example would be flossing after you brush your teeth, or stretching after you get out of bed.
Make it tiny
Pretty much everyone I’ve ever spoken to who’s meditated before, would like to do it regularly, but they don’t. They feel they don’t have enough time. I often don’t floss because I’m going to bed later than I’d like and want to save time. So make it tiny. Meditate for one minute. Do one yoga stretch of a single press up. This week I’m going to follow BJ Fogg’s advice and try only flossing one tooth! The idea is that once it becomes a habit, it’s easy to do more.
We’re so good at beating ourselves up for not doing things. BJ suggests that every time you complete one of your habits, you say to yourself “I’m awesome!” He’s American though, so I guess the British equivalent would be to congratulate yourself with “that wasn’t too bad!”
When I first started meditating, knowing I only had to do ten minutes per day was small enough to stick to. After ten days, fifteen minutes was fine, then I managed to do twenty minutes per day for a year, only missing a handful along the way. Now I meditate for 45 minutes, do some stretching, have breakfast and then read for 20-30 minutes, almost every morning.
So have a go, choose a micro habit, a trigger and a reward. Let me know how you get on! I’ll report back on the flossing…
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