We all had at least one time when we know we could’ve done better. Whether it was about keeping a resolution, reaching a goal, or doing better on a project, it’s important to get back on track so you set the tone for all other areas of your life.
I really think habits have a huge impact on our everyday life. They shape the way we behave on a constant basis, and are the things that eventually create the end results. For instance, overeating one day might not do much but make you bloated, but do it consistently (in other words, turn it into a habit) and you’ll see how your life changes.
This applies to positive habits as well, of course – which is definitely good news. But it’s also true that most of the time getting a positive habit to stick around is much harder than getting rid of a bad one. Right?
So if you’re here because you feel like you disappointed yourself in the past by trying to incorporate a new positive habit into your life and failed at it (even multiple times), then I’m glad to say you’re in the right place.
In this post, indeed, we’ll analyze one by one all the mistakes you might be doing when trying to form a new positive
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Step #0: FORGIVE YOURSELF
As we already said, there’s probably a reason why you clicked to read this post: you’ve disappointed yourself in the past. Well, before going on and correcting the mistakes you might have done, we need to cope with that feeling first.
That’s because otherwise you might feel tempted to use your disappointment as an ammunition to keep yourself down and stop trying to move forward.
All right, let’s get this out of the way.
First of all, consider this: clicking to read this post already shows that there’s a desire to commit inside of you. It means you’re willing to try again and do better this time. And that’s awesome, give yourself recognition for that.
This also means that you can get a chance to learn from where you fell short and do better in the future.
And I have some good news that should help you put everything into perspective: most people don’t know how to implement habits into their lives. I’ll tell you a secret: motivation and willpower alone won’t get you anywhere far. In other words, it’s not your fault you gave up and failed in the past. It just means you relied on the wrong system.
Keeping these few thoughts in mind, you should now be able to cheer yourself on and keep going.
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1. YOU HAVE TOO MUCH ON YOUR PLATE
I get it. Maybe you watched a few morning routine videos and now you can’t wait to craft your own ideal one. You get excited and start implementing 10 new habits at once. You feel so motivated that you could climb a mountain…And I hate to break it to you, but this is a guaranteed way to set yourself up for disappointment in the future.
If you have a tendency to overcommit because you want to do all the things, please reconsider doing so.
Especially since you’ve disappointed yourself in the past by failing at sticking to a habit, I recommend you try to only implement one at a time.
Because whether we’d like to admit it or not, it’s not possible to do all the things and all at once. Trust me, I’ve tried. More than once. And I know how it feels. Too much motivation can lead you to an impossible road sometimes.
Recently, I’ve tried a new approach: Done over perfect.
Focus on one thing, preferably something that could impact other areas of your life as well. For example, deciding to read 1 chapter a day everyday might have an impact on many areas of your life at once. You might read a budgeting book and find yourself budgeting and saving more, or you could read a book to set up your first business and so on.
Once you feel like you totally conquered your first habit (I’d give it a month at least) – and with “conquered” I mean you feel like it takes you little to no effort to perform it – you can go to the next one.
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2. YOU ADOPT THE ‘ALL OR NOTHING’ MINDSET
It’s actually more than common and okay to fall off from time to time. Maybe one day you’re too physically tired to exercise, or you have a scheduled appointment. It’s okay.
Just don’t let it get bigger than it actually is. You can even slack off for 2 or 3 days in a row but try not to go over that. In other words, stay on track and don’t let 5 days turn into 5 months.
I found a very helpful technique that helps me stay on track most of the time. It’s called the “Don’t Break the Chain” calendar and it’s from Jerry Seinfeld.
It basically consists in using a big wall calendar that has the whole year on one page. Hang it in a place where you’re sure you see it often. Then, with a red marker, you’ll put a big red X over each day in which you perform your desired task.
After a few days, you’ll have a chain. Your only job next is to not break the chain.
This method is designed to keep you motivated.
For example, let’s say you had an extra busy week at work and you didn’t get to the gym for 5 days in a row. You’ll look at that week on your calendar and see that you have no
red Xs on it. However, when you expand your view, your calendar looks like a blood bath.
And that’s what really counts.
3. YOU’RE NOT MEASURING YOUR PROGRESS CORRECTLY
And by “correctly” I mean in a way that gets you motivated to keep going.
There are tons of apps out there that help you track your habits and keep your routines in check (you can even set reminders). You can find the most recommended here.
Alternatively, you could try having a habit tracker on a bullet journal. You can find ideas on Pinterest to draw your own one, or you can just print existing templates.
We also mentioned the “Don’t Break The Chain” calendar by Jerry Seinfeld in the previous paragraph – which would be perfect for this purpose.
Whatever method works for you, just make sure you actually have one.
As already mentioned, having a way to track your habit will keep you going in the long run, when motivation just isn’t enough.
4. YOUR REWARD IS NOT CONCRETE, IMMEDIATE OR COMPELLING ENOUGH
In “The power of habit”, Charles Duhigg explains that all habits follow three steps: first, the cue – which can come in all different shapes & sizes (it can be an object, sound, smell, place, time, or emotion). What it does is signaling the brain that it should start the habit.
Second, the routine – which is the habit itself – and finally the reward – which is the exciting thing your body gets to enjoy for making the efforts of performing the habit.
Now, if one of these elements is missing, your routine will fall out of place. And it’s not only necessary that these elements are all present, they need to be in a particular way. Especially for the reward, it is absolutely essential that it is concrete, immediate and compelling enough.
Why? Because, you see, the reward is what really motivates your brain to go and perform the habit. Otherwise, if it doesn’t get a nice reward, it will just understand it’s pointless to keep performing the habit – which is what will eventually cause you to quit.
So, as we were saying, the reward needs to be immediate. This means you have to get it as soon as possible after performing the habit. It also means it has to be concrete.
That’s why saying “I’ll get my dream body in 1 year from now” won’t work. Because it’s not a concrete thing your body and mind can benefit from in the moment. This is why motivation fails to keep you going in the long run. You need a running system.
And that system is: clue -> habit -> reward – in this exact order. To give you some ideas of how a good reward should be, think of something that you enjoy doing.
For example, I like taking a hot shower right after exercising. My muscles get sore sometimes and warm water relaxes them. This is a great reward, because it’s enjoyable and my body actually looks forward to it.
5. YOU RELY TOO MUCH ON MOTIVATION
As we already said, motivation won’t get you far. A great example to prove this point are New Year’s Resolutions.
Around the first few days of January, people get pumped up. They write all their wildest wishes down, they dust off their gym memberships and set themselves to do a million awesome things during the year. They feel motivated.
And this is awesome, it is an amazing feeling to have. But it will only get you so far.
That’s why most of those same people end up quitting after a few weeks or a couple of months. They even forget about all the good intentions they had in the first place.
Now, I know this pretty well because I’ve been doing it for years too, before actually realizing that it has never brought me to anything concrete.
And I don’t want you to feel the same type of disappoint in yourself, so I’m here to help. And I’ll tell what works, instead. Having a plan.
Having a fail-proof plan that gets you exactly where you want to go. A plan that’s realistic enough to know you’ll be tempted to quit and fall off eventually. A plan made to keep you in place.
6. YOU WANT TO BE PERFECT
I guess this is pretty close to the “all or nothing” mindset, but differs a little bit.
Why do we constantly expect the moon and back of ourselves? Probably because we were taught to whether it was our grades, our appearances, our career choices, etc.
Here’s the good news: You don’t have to be perfect. Not to mention, aiming for perfect often leads to procrastination.
If you show up and just give it your all, then you’re already doing enough. You’re doing pretty great, actually.
You know what? The truth is you can’t have the perfect workout 3 times a week. You’ll be lucky if you get one out of three that’s pretty good.
But this is the best part of the game. You just have to show up. Especially when trying to form a new habit, showing up is all you have to do.
Try your best but if showing up is all you can do for that day, then you’re already doing better than most people would. Because most people just wouldn’t get there when motivation starts going down.
So give yourself some credit, you deserve it.
For trying. For showing up. For doing.
What do you do when you feel disappointed in yourself for quitting a habit? Do you beat yourself up over it? Please I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments section below!