A vision, by design, is future-oriented. It is where we want to go, not where we currently are. Goals are the actions that will help us achieve our vision, and often, goals involve behaviors that are sometimes displaced from the present, i.e., eat broccoli once a week, go to bed 15 minutes earlier on Thursday, go on a run Sunday morning. Behavior is changed most significantly through small, simple actions that happen in the present. These are the things we do in moment-to-moment times of our life. These are our habits. If we want to change our behaviors, we must start by changing our habits.
A habit is a routine behavior or a pattern that happens automatically and can be unconscious. These repeated practices are part of our daily operating system, and are so automatic, that we don’t use much mental energy when doing them. The trick is to maximize good habits and minimize bad ones.
Stanford scientist BJ Fogg claims that simplicity is the way to changing behavior. When you think about your vision and the goals you created to achieve that vision, think about the small, immediate things you can do to help move you forward. For example:
If I want to wake up 30 minutes earlier in the morning, I can start with not looking at my cell phone once I lie down to go to bed. No Facebook, no emails, no Instagram, as that will keep me up.
If I want to write more, whether it be a book, a chapter, or articles, I can start by writing 500 words a day, every day, no matter what. It becomes less about the quality of my writing, and more about making daily writing a repeated pattern.
It’s hard to build habits that stick, but here are some helpful hints as you begin making small immediate changes toward living the life you want right now.
- Make use of your current routines. Incorporate small, new behaviors into what you currently do.
- Discover the triggers that pull you astray. If you hit the snooze button over and over, put the alarm clock far enough away that you have to physically get up and out of bed to turn it off.
- Motivate yourself to make the habit stick by understanding why you want to make the action an automatic part of your life.
- Keep it simple. You aren’t going to reinvent yourself all at once. Small steps will get you there. Slow and steady wins the race.
- Develop a plan for when you fail. You are going to make a mistake, go back to the old behavior, have thoughts of ‘ah, screw it,’ that pull you astray. Don’t judge yourself. Instead, think about what you will do in order to keep at the new habit you are trying to form.
We are here to help, and we want to hear from you. What works for you when forming new habits? What pulls you astray? How do you get back at it? Together we can work toward being our best self.
Happy good-habit day.