Webster’s English Dictionary defines habit “as a usual way of behaving; something a person often does in a regular and repeated way.”
Anything that is repeated over a period becomes a habit, and of course, we all want to develop only the right habits and shed away the bad ones. This leads us to the question of why should we develop good habits?
Repetition becomes a habit
Habit becomes a discipline,
Discipline leads to productivity,
Productivity achieve goals,
Goals keep you motivated,
Motivation gets success,
Success leads to reward and recognition,
Reward and recognition give your life a meaning
And a meaningful life provides happiness
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As an example, let’s take the habit of exercising to achieve the goal of physical fitness.
You embark on a physical fitness program and do some vigorous exercise, only to find your body sore the next day. You skip it for a day. One day break extends to a week or perhaps a month.
You feel optimistic, yet again, the same cycle continues. You know that this will not help to attain your fitness goals. Sounds like you? Well, read on!
You must commit to yourself that come what may, exercise you will, even if it is one single push-up per day, without a break for four weeks. If you have been firm on your commitment and did not miss a single day of physical exercise, no matter how minuscule, for a couple of weeks, bravo! You have developed a good habit of doing some physical activity every day.
You will know that doing some physical exercise has become your habit when, if you miss it for a day, you feel a void.
You are addicted to physical exercise, and you look forward to the time that you be exercising. You start prioritizing your time and stick to your fitness schedule despite all odds of work, family pressure, lousy weather, temptation, or distraction. The habit has become a discipline, a way of life.
You have been consistent with your physical fitness routine for a couple of months, and results are noticeable. Maybe, you have lost weight, your body is leaner than before and is more toned. Your exercise habit is becoming productive.
You continue to exercise, making incremental changes to your fitness routine, and the result is visible. You reach the first fitness goal that you had set for yourself. You can perhaps do twenty push-ups at a time. Your habit of daily physical exercise is leading you towards your goal. It’s time to reach for the next achievable fitness goal.
You have achieved the first fitness goal and feel confident and motivated to reach the next target. This motivation will drive you to train harder and better.
Your motivation makes you achieve several goals that you set for yourself. Achieving each goal keeps you motivated. The cumulative achievement of these goals would lead you to your main goal, say, reaching the ideal body weight for your height. Once your main goal is achieved, you would feel satisfied and successful.
Reward and recognition
The primary fitness goal is achieved, and you are being noticed with admiration. People are walking up to you to ask you for your fitness story. This is a reward and recognition that you have gained for cultivating your exercise habit.
You are feeling confident and now ready to reach your second goal, developing six-pack abs, for example. Your life has a path to follow, you cannot afford to binge on junk food or alcohol. You are happy to maintain your eating habits because you are now on a path of fitness, and you know you can do it.
You are leading a meaningful life with higher energy, better health, attractiveness to the opposite sex, and gaining all the significant attention. Your good habit of exercising is giving meaning to your life.
You are nearing another primary fitness goal, your fan following increases, you feel wanted, and this feeling gives you satisfaction.
This is the cycle of a good habit and how the pattern is formed and reinforced in your life. The question is, why developing a good habit is essential?
Forming good habits is essential because a good habit can give desired success and happiness.
Forming a habit requires a firm commitment with yourself, dedicated time, and willingness to go beyond the comfort zone. Starting small is the key.
To form a lasting habit, make a tiny adjustment to your life, never overdo, or over-commit your time and resources. Once you feel too outstretched in life, you may give up at the very first compelling opportunity.
If you need to save money, start saving a little every day, by making a small sacrifice, say, you are in the habit of ordering soda with your lunch daily. Avoid that soda today, to save $1. Repeat this every time you eat out, soon, you may not feel the urge to drink soda with lunch anymore.
Starting good habits is easy, provided you know which habit you want to cultivate, and are willing to make a firm commitment with yourself.
Do not forget, “Repetition becomes a habit.”
Here is a step by step plan:
1. Make a firm commitment to yourself
2. Start small
When we talk about cultivating lasting good habits, we need to start small so that they become an integral part of us. Never try to do too much too soon. Even if you do one push up a day and increase it by one push-up every week, you would be able to do 52 push-ups by the end of the year. This is excellent progress.
Refer to your previous New Year’s resolution, did you make any progress? Chances are that you have not, and you are where you were last year. This is because you wanted to achieve your goals a bit too soon. This time around, go slow and start small, but consistent.
3. Be consistent
You have chosen to inculcate the habit of fitness; you must take time away from your busy schedule to exercise. Exercise small but every day. In a few weeks, you would be looking forward to some physical activity as this has now become your habit.
4. Keep a diary
Write down everything you did in a day to achieve your goal. Say, you did five pushups today and avoided the soda, you are becoming a fitness freak, as you are not only exercising but are also taking care of your diet. In no time, you would have an authentic success story to narrate to people.
5. Make small and easily achievable goals
Most people give up on cultivating good habits when they try to overreach or make unrealistic goals. Making small achievable goals will keep you motivated. If you start with one push-up a day and increase it by one every week, your first goal ideally should be to complete five push-ups at one time within one month. Easy isn’t it? Make your next goal, only after you have achieved the first one. But again, make it a smooth and achievable target. Habits tend to stick once you are making positive progress. Creating a goal of running a marathon within three months is unrealistic, especially when you find running 500 meters difficult today.
6. Celebrate your success, no matter how small
After every goal achieved, you must celebrate your win. You will need to decide your reward with every goal completed.
7. Do not be too hard on yourself
There will be days when you are under the weather and would want to give up. Remember, ‘repetition becomes a habit’, so continue to stick to your commitment to move forward towards your goal, no matter how small steps you take.
8. Have faith in yourself
You must feel confident and have faith that you can do it. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.
9. Visualize success
The power of visualization is vital to keep you motivated and on the path of success. So, you must visualize your goal every day.
10. Monitor your progress periodically
You must go back to the drawing board to monitor your progress after a reasonable time. I advise a monthly progress review or a quarterly progress review so that you remain on the right course and make any minor additions and alterations to your routine or habit. If you had started with one push-up every day, monitor your progress at the end of the month. How many push-ups can you do after a month? Say, you can do five, well you are making progress. Did you miss your exercise on any day during the last month? If the answer is No! you are being very consistent and physical exercise is becoming your habit. But, if you missed a few days, you must analyze what were the compelling circumstances that made you skip your fitness regime? Are you facing any difficulty in continuing the exercise? If the answer is no, then it’s time to step up a bit more, just a notch above, say now you will do two sets of five pushups every day with weekly increment of one push-up. If, however, you are still struggling to do five push-ups as per your preset target, continue your routine and re-assess your situation again after a month.
Finally, forming right habits and a good habit is easy, provided you have a compelling desire to change your life for the better, to make a firm commitment to yourself, to consistently give time for that habit. You must remember to start very small so that you can easily adjust your routine and resources.