“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” ~Woody Allen
Post written by Leo Babauta.
Often you’ll read an article called “The Seven Deadly Sins of” (fill in your topic here). But when it comes to changing habits, there aren’t Seven Deadly Sins.
There’s just one.
You can do a lot of things wrong when you’re trying to form a new habit — just jumping into it without a plan, not having public accountability, not having the right support, etc. But there’s just one thing you can do wrong that will cause the habit change to absolutely fail.
The One Deadly Sin of Habit Change?
Not doing the habit.
If you don’t do it, it won’t become a habit. As obvious as that may sound, too many people fail at this one thing. They start the exercise habit (or flossing habit, or filing their papers habit, or waking early habit) and they do it with enthusiasm for a week or two, and then they stop. For whatever reason — work, or family problems, or other interests taking over.
Life gets in the way, right? Well sure, but if you’re not doing the habit, the habit will never form. If you want to form the habit, you have to do it regularly.
Let’s repeat that, and then talk about how to actually do it: If you want to form the habit, you have to do the habit regularly.
That’s how habits form. You do it one day, then the next, then the next, then the next, right after your habit trigger. Soon, it becomes so ingrained that … it’s a habit.
How To Avoid the Deadly Sin
So it’s easy to state the blindingly obvious, but it’s harder to put it into practice, right?
Sure. So I’m here to help. Some tips for avoiding the One Deadly Sin:
- Just start. Not feeling like doing the habit today? Tell yourself all you have to do is take the 1st step. Usually the 2nd step will follow, but if not, at the very least you got started. And that’s what matters most.
- Do it, no matter how small. Need to exercise but don’t have much energy? Do it for a few minutes at least. Need to meditate? Three minutes will do.
- Do it, no matter how badly. Want to form the habit of blogging? Write a quick and dirty post that takes five minutes of writing, no proofreading or formatting. Quality doesn’t matter when you’re forming habits — doing it matters.
- If you fail, don’t beat yourself up – do it the next day. Let’s be clear: missing one day won’t kill your habit. Feeling discouraged about missing one day, and then missing the next and the next, is what will kill the habit. So let go of the guilt and just get back on your horse. Start again, immediately.
- If you don’t do it the next day, do it the day after. If you miss two days, don’t let yourself miss a third.
- Figure out what’s stopping you. If you find yourself struggling and missing a day or two, think about why. What’s getting in the way? How can you adjust for that?
- Plan ahead. Life gets in the way, but if you know something’s coming up, think ahead and be sure to get your habit in.
- Engineer success. Knock down the barriers and set it up so it’s harder to fail than to actually do the habit. Public accountability is a good way to do that.
In the end, all that matters is doing it. So go do it already.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” ~Aristotle