How To Successfully Build Habits
2024 is upon us! The start of the new year can be a time for great positive change, a new leaf for the new year allowing us to start anew with a fresh slate.
This year, we want to put an emphasis on building habits – honing in on what we are looking to achieve and setting a clear plan on how we are going to do it.
If you haven’t heard of it before, “Atomic Habits” by James Clear explores the transformative power of small, incremental changes in behaviour to achieve remarkable results. The premise revolves around the idea that tiny habits when consistently practised, can lead to significant personal and professional transformations. Clear introduces the concept of atomic habits, emphasising the compound effect of small actions over time.
He advocates for a shift in focus from setting goals to building systems that support positive habits. By understanding the science behind habits and employing practical strategies, you are empowered to make lasting changes in your lives.
Overall, Clear provides a succinct framework for understanding and implementing effective habits that can lead to lasting personal and professional growth.
Key considerations for successfully building habits:
1. Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results:
The central idea is that small, consistent changes, referred to as “atomic habits,” can lead to significant improvements over time.
By focusing on making 1% improvements every day, the cumulative effect can result in remarkable transformations.
To put it in context, instead of committing to completing five spin classes per week from the get-go, start with one or two and gradually increase frequency. The small change is more sustainable and can lead to a consistent exercise habit.
2. Habit Loop:
Clear introduces the habit loop: cue, craving, response, and reward. Understanding and manipulating this loop can help in building or breaking habits. Identifying the cues and rewards associated with habits can provide insights into how to change behaviour
To use feeling stressed as an example, create a habit loop by replacing a potentially less beneficial response (e.g. stress-eating) with a more positive one (e.g. taking a short walk or practising deep breathing). The reward is stress relief and an uplifting habit!
3. Identity-Based Habits:
Clear emphasises the importance of identity in habit formation. Rather than focusing solely on what you want to achieve (outcome-based habits), he suggests adopting habits that align with the type of person you want to become (identity-based habits).
For example: I am someone who prioritises my health and values nourishing my body, so I make choices that support my well-being, including engaging in physical activity each week.
4. Environment Matters:
Clear highlights the significance of one’s environment in shaping behaviour. Modifying your surroundings can make it easier to establish and maintain positive habits.
Designing your environment to support desired behaviours and eliminate obstacles can contribute to long-term habit success.
To cover both exercise and nutrition habits, lay out your kit and prep all or even some of your meals the night before. This will make it far easier for you to get going the next day!
5. Plateau of Latent Potential:
Progress may not always be immediately visible, and individuals often experience a “plateau of latent potential” where results are not evident despite consistent effort. This can be particularly relevant for fat loss, as progress may not always be completely linear.
Continuing to focus on small improvements during this phase is crucial, as breakthroughs often happen after a period of seemingly stagnant progress.
Factors to be aware of when it comes to successfully building habits:
We’ve broken down some of the key considerations when it comes to how to build habits, but it would be remiss of us to miss out on some of the factors to be aware of. Some of these can pose challenges to the process, so being mindful of these can be helpful!
1. Time to Form a Habit
A widely cited study by Dr. Phillipa Lally and her colleagues suggests that, on average, it takes about 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic or habitual. However, this duration can vary widely among individuals and the complexity of the behaviour.
Be patient with yourself – it won’t happen overnight!
2. Consistency Matters
Lally also suggests that the formation of habits is closely tied to consistent repetition. The study suggests that forming a habit is more likely when the behaviour is performed in a consistent context.
Consistency really is key!
3. Initial Difficulty
The early stages of habit formation can be challenging. Once again, according to Lally, the level of difficulty in forming a habit is highest in the first few days and gradually decreases over time.
4. Social Support and Accountability
Having social support and accountability can significantly impact the success of habit formation. Sharing goals with friends or joining a community with similar objectives can enhance the likelihood of forming and maintaining habits.
Having like-minded people around you or just a friendly check-in from time to time will be hugely helpful for keeping you on the desired course when it comes to your habits.
It’s important to note that individual experiences with habit formation can vary, and the process is influenced by factors such as personality, motivation, and the complexity of the behaviour being targeted. While statistics provide general insights, personal experimentation and adaptation of strategies are often necessary for effective habit formation.
We hope we’ve given you the low down on how to successfully build habits and also the factors to be aware of from the get-go. Just know that it takes time, but keep persevering and believe you can do it!
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