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7 Tips For Developing Good Habits

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We all want to live better lives.

It could be better health, better relationships or eating better food. One thing which stops us from moving from good intentions to real action is often the inability to follow a plan consistently. For our intentions to have real meaning we often need to nurture good habits.

Unfortunately, this is not an easy task. What’s even worse is that the bad ones (habits) seem to come to us as if it’s second nature and without us having to even try at all.

“The unfortunate thing about this world is that good habits are so much easier to give up than bad ones” – Somerset Maugham

Here are some tips I’ve picked up on how to grow good habits and snuff out the bad ones (no pun intended for the smokers).

No.1 – Do not over achieve
Take it easy. There are many things we want to change in our lives. It can’t be done all at once. Pick one habit you want to work on. Worry about the rest another time. You may want to stop smoking, start running, eat breakfast, stop swearing and start waking up on time…ALL AT ONCE! This is a recipe for disaster. Choose one. Focus your energy and time on one habit.

No. 2 – Keep at it
Some of our habits have taken years to mature and have hardened in our lives like concrete. Do not expect these to be broken overnight. There are bound to be ups and downs in our journey. If we plan to, say, go for a scheduled run but got distracted by our urge for supper, don’t be too hard on yourself. The last thing you want is to dwell on your failure, and wallow in self-pity about what a poor sod you are for having such lack of self-control. Pick yourself up and try again. Eventually a good habit WILL set in.

No. 3 – Keep distractions at bay
If you want to quit smoking, don’t hang around smokers. Just the sight of your mates smoking will make you weak in the knees. Flee from temptation (not my quote but from the Bible). We have to take positive steps to ensure we succeed in our habit-making goals. Do not set yourself up for failure but set yourself up for success. Here some reflection is necessary. Ask yourself: What is it that caused me to fail the last time round? Identify the cause and take all effort to remove it. Don’t put yourself in vulnerable positions where your desires will get the better of you.

No. 4 – Do it for 10
Some say that we should commit to an action for a month (i.e 30 days) before it will set in and become a bona fide habit. Unfortunately, most of my efforts don’t pass a week. So i’ve come to be more realistic and target to work on something 10 times in a row. If you can do that then you stand a better chance of going to 15 times in a row. Mark my words for some difficult habits (e.g exercising), 10 is a lot!

No. 5 – Get your loved ones in
It helps if you can have someone lurking in the shadows ready to make you feel guilty whenever you go against what you set to do. Better still, get a friend, companion, family member etc. to give you positive encouragement to achieving your targets. They can always remind you of what you set out to do. You can also tell them to repeat a mantra you have already pre-planned if you slip up. For example, “Tell me that i will die of a heart attack if i don’t go for my run”. This often works best up in your face and in an aggressive tone.

No. 6 – Don’t put it off
If you want to develop a habit of eating breakfast every morning, let that be the first thing you do after you wake up. (Pre or post teeth-brushing is up to you). Don’t give in to checking your emails, having that chat or reading the news first. Get it down. First thing. The longer you put it off, the harder it gets to do it and you probably will drop it altogether.

No. 7 – Check your motivations
I hate taking out the trash at nights. I used to do it because my wife asked me to. This motivation did not work as I would either put it off until it was too late or totally forget about it, which was more often the case. One night i found a swarm of lizards (geckos), ants and all manner of insects coming after the thrash as if it was a buffet free-for-all. That’s probably when a light came on in my head and the realization that taking out the trash at night was more of a practical suggestion rather than a quirky request of my wife. Till this day, she often reminds me of this fact.

At the end of the day, our motivations will see us through. If we really believe in the importance of developing or breaking a particular habit then the desire to succeed will be stronger and hence give us a better chance at achieving what we want. After some self reflection, you may just find out that deep inside, you may actually not really want to break or grow that habit which often explains why you have not been succeeding.

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