How to build good habits and make them stick
Editor’s Note – Good study habits are essential for learning IT and earning certifications. Michael Aliotti, SPOTO executive coach, shared his tips for building strong habits that will last.
Imagine if you could create a habit that would last? What if you could do the work to make it happen? Since you are reading this, I believe the answer is yes. That’s why I’m sharing four strategies to help you stick with your habits.
Note: You’ll likely be familiar with some of these strategies and techniques if you have read Atomic Habits by James Clear, or The Power of Habit (by Charles Duhigg). I recommend reading these books if you haven’t already.
Strategy 1: Make it Easy
Many people fall into the trapof starting too big when it comes to creating a habit. It’s easy to become overwhelmed if you take on too many tasks at once. If we don’t stick to our habits, it won’t stick. How can we ensure it sticks?
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Training is easy when it’s so simple that it’s almost impossible not to do.
Let’s say that you want to run but have never been a good runner. You might start by walking for 10 minutes every day. You might be wondering, “How does that help me run?” Because you know you can do this consistently, it helps. It’s easy to walk for 10 minutes.
Consistency is key to creating a habit. The easier a behavior is to repeat, the easier it will be. It becomes more habitual the more we repeat it. Once you have a habit of walking for 10 minutes, you can make it a 10-minute run. You’ll soon notice that 10 minutes become 20, 20 becomes 30, and you can see where this is leading.
The first strategy to build a good habit is making it easy. It’s easy to break it down into small enough pieces that it’s difficult not to do. Then, do it again (i.e. Keep at it, and keep repeating until you have a solid foundation for growth.
Strategy 2: Make it intentional
While most people can decide what habits they want to form, many of us are not able to create them in an intentional manner. To be intentional about creating a habit, it is important to know where and when we will do it. And more importantly, why we are doing it.
This might be a way to figure out when and where you will do your habit. This is what James Clear calls an implementation intention. This works because it leverages two of the most common cues that trigger our habits: location and time. This technique was proven to be 91% more effective in triggering our existing habits. A 2001 study found that people who used it were 91% more likely than those who did not. They simply had to state what they wanted to do and when they wanted to do it. (1)
It’s important to understand why you do what you do. It doesn’t matter how deeply ingrained your habit is, there will be times when it doesn’t feel right. A strong statement of why can help you get through. This statement could be something like: “I run because I feel healthy.” This is powerful because it reminds you that you will not always be motivated to act. Reminding yourself why can shift your mindset from motivation to purpose.
We are naturally good at convincing ourselves why something is wrong. However, if we use the second strategy of making our behaviours intentional — knowing when and where — we are more likely to persevere when faced with adversity.
Strategy 3: Make it enjoyable
When we associate it with a reward, it becomes a habit (it makes us fe).