How to stick to a Habit - 9 golden rules

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. - Aristotle"

Have you ever tried sticking to a habit only to find that it fails after few days and you keep falling out of the intended habit. It can be any one of the following simple things you may have want to do

  • Drinking 6 to 8 glass of water each day.
  • Keep your home , desk , clothes organized.
  • Start your day with something positive or to appreciate 3 people day.
  • Eat healthy foods daily and avoid junk foods
  • Brush your teeth at night.

Or it could have been an habit which strongly impacts your work life, career, personal life or relationships. Whatever it may be not sticking to an habit after trying everything can be frustrating and reduce self confidence. You should keep the promises you make to yourself and forming an habit is a very good way to enhance your self esteem and confidence.

The most common reasons people don’t stick to a habit:

  • Habit is too difficult.
  • You don’t enjoy doing it.
  • Either you have too many bad habits or too many you want to change.
  • Too many other things going on.
  • Unwilling to make changes in routine or unwilling to sacrifice (eg: getting up early)
  • Not really motivated to do it.
  • You talk yourself out of it.
  • You miss a day or two and get discouraged.

There are other reasons too: people actively discourage you from changing, or you think negative thoughts about your ability to change, or you overdo it in the beginning and then run out of enthusiasm.

First pick the real reason from the above list. Now that you know what are the reasons or show stoppers, you can read the rules below and make notes which will help you stick to the next habit. Once you crack the nut and stick to one habit, you can apply the same principle to the 2nd  habit, 3rd habit and so on.

  1. One Habit at a Time. This is incredibly important — most people ignore it because they underestimate how much focus it takes to actually stick to a new habit. It’s easy to start a habit, or even 5 of them at once. Sticking to them is another story. Please note that this is one habit period — don’t think you can do one fitness habit, one social habit, one work habit, etc. One habit only. Do not break this rule.
  2. A Tiny Habit. Do not focus on results as you’re forming the habit. I recently mentioned that I’m doing 3 yoga poses every morning — doing more than an hour is too difficult for me and I tend to quit when I do long classes. Will I get a good workout with only 3 yoga poses? No! I’m not trying to get a good workout, get flexible, become more mindful, or get in shape. Eventually, yes, those results will probably come. But for now, I’m only doing one thing: forming the habit of doing yoga each day. Make the habit as tiny as possible. Whatever you think you should do, cut it in half. Then, if possible, cut it in half again. Maybe once more if your time to do it is longer than 2 minutes.
  3. Once a Day. You might think you can change your entire diet all at once. Not bloody likely. Only do the habit once a day, and again, just for a minute or two each day. Once the habit is ingrained, you can expand, but wait at least 3 weeks before you even consider that.
  4. Focus on Starting. The only thing you need to do is start. That’s the part of the habit that matters in the first month or so. Later on, you’ll run a marathon. For now, just put all your effort into lacing up your shoes and getting out the door. If you’re meditating, just get your butt on the cushion. If you’re eating healthy, just get your healthy snack (carrots & hummus?) in front of you, and take the first bite. If you’re writing, just close your browser, open a text document, and type the first sentence.
  5. Enjoy Doing It. It’s really important that you get positive feedback for doing the habit, right away. Many people do a habit they hate, which is built-in negative feedback, and then wonder why they can’t stick to it. Do a habit you love, or find a way to enjoy doing the habit. Focus on the positive aspects of it, praise yourself for doing it. Feel good about doing it. This is immediate reward, and it’s necessary.
  6. Watch Your Thoughts. If you start to avoid the habit, or do the habit but feel discouraged, or ever feel like quitting … pay attention to these thoughts. Where are they coming from? Are you rationalizing quitting? Are you giving yourself some negative self-talk? Those thoughts aren’t real — they’re just defense mechanisms your brain uses to avoid discomfort. Let them go, and don’t let them have power over you. You can beat them with some positive self-talk.
  7. Don’t Miss Two Straight Days. This is the key. If you let yourself miss a day, be absolutely sure, incredibly and powerfully sure, that you don’t miss a day again. Miss a day, and let all kinds of alarms go off: you should put yourself on emergency status and do everything possible to not miss the 2nd day. but whatever you do, don’t let yourself slip up again. If you do, you are never going to get good at habits. Don’t do it.
  8. Be accountable. Tell at least one other person about your habit change, and ask them to keep you accountable. A group of 4-5 people is even better. It increases your likelihood of sticking to the habit by about 50% in my experience.
  9. 40 day rule : if you can do a task for 40 days at a stretch it will become an habit. Try it, it really works. Ensure that you have found the motivation to change a habit and then just do the task for 40 days and bang , it’s your habit now.

Use the above rules as guidelines to open up your mind and trigger ideas on what you will do to Stick to your next habit.

As Vince Lombardi said -  "Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit". So don't quit and form the right habit you want.