This past year, I decided to change one habit — and that one habit changed my life.
I wrote a minimum of 500 words every single day this year. That commitment resulted in 52 blog posts, more than 50 guest posts, over 200,000 words, and three published ebooks.
One major inspiration for this change was Zen Habits — a blog where Leo Babauta dispenses simple, clear habit-building tips. That guidance mixed with my own method of trial and error helped me establish this life-changing habit.
I went from sitting on the sidelines, wanting to write, waiting to become a writer, to being a writer — and a prolific one at that.
These seven steps are what got me there. And, whatever new habit you're considering implementing (or giving up) this year, use these strategies to help you achieve your desires:
1. Get clear on why you're doing it.
A habit that you take on for others or because you "should" won't stick. The more a habit matters to you, the more likely you are to stick with it. Knowing why you're doing something is crucial to seeing how important it actually is. Imagine how this habit will change your life. Visualize how you’ll feel. Does it bring you closer to your goals? That's a great reason to stick with it.
2. Take the smallest step each day.
Trying this myself, I learned you don’t have to set a big goal or be super-ambitious with the habit you’re working on. You just have to do it — every single day.
Momentum and consistency far outweigh hours spent or difficulty attempted on any project. Starting an exercise habit? Take a walk around the block. Writing? Start with 100 words a day. Meditating? Start with 30 seconds. Pick something you can stick to over time.
3. Remove the obstacles in your way.
Don’t overcomplicate it. Break down the process into its fundamental parts, so you’re taking the simplest of steps, one at a time. Lacing up your shoes and walking around the block is better than driving to a park. It removes a barrier to entry. Practicing an instrument at home daily beats meeting up with a group or attending a class. One's way easier than the others.
Get rid of anything standing between you and your goal — travel time, a dependency on others, financial constraints all take away from your attempts.
4. Focus on one habit at a time.
At the beginning of a new year, you’re likely to feel ambitious and set all kinds of goals to meet, habits to create, new things to try. In this case, though, doing less is the best choice. Choose whatever habit is most important to you, and only when it really feels like a habit, move on to your next challenge.
5. Try, try again.
The key to building up a habit is to do it consistently. But sometimes life gets in the way. If you stop for a day or two, it isn't derailing all your progress. It's not a video game in which you have to start back at zero. The progress you made still counts, so get back up and keep going.
6. Hold yourself accountable.
You can tell a confidante or family member about your habit, mention it on social media, or share it with your partner. It doesn't matter whom you tell, as long as it's someone you can trust to hold you accountable by checking in with you every couple of days.
If someone else knows about the habit, you’ll be more motivated to keep it up.
7. Reward yourself.
You don’t have to take a dance break when you've met your daily goal, but feel free to take one if you feel like it.
A reward can be as simple as doing something you enjoy doing right after you finish the thing you told yourself you'd finish. Check off a wall calendar, call a friend, or spend a few minutes watching your favorite show.
If you learn to expect something that makes you feel good when you complete your goal every day, you'll become more enthusiastic about it, in anticipation of the post-habit happiness bump.
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