For twenty-somethings, it can be deceivingly hard to accept change. We aren’t so old that we are hard set in our ways already, but trying to form a new habit can seem like such a daunting task.
The solution seems exceedingly simple: just do it. Maybe it’s flossing your teeth, or picking up running. You tell yourself you have to jog for just one minute and walk another for a full 30 minutes. Yet, you still haven’t started either of these habits. Well GenTwenty, we’re going to let you in on a little secret: the real trick to starting a new habit is to make it so easy you just can’t say no.
Of course, most people will think that’s too easy, and tell themselves they have to do more than that. But that statement is setting them up for failure before they even begin. We think we can do more, despite past evidence to the contrary, and so we aspire to greatness. Essentially, we try to climb a mountain before we’ve learned to walk. But why oh why is this so hard for us to wrap our heads around?
You have to learn the fundamentals of habits before you try to do the advanced skills. If I could convince people of that, we could get millions to change their habits, be healthier, simplify, procrastinate less, and start creating amazing things.
There are a few solid foundations that you can lay to ensure you achieve success with a new habit:
1) Start small: This may seem like it will take forever, but if you start out exceedingly small, you won’t say no. You’ll feel crazy if you don’t do it. And so you’ll actually do it! It can be as small as two push-ups every night before bed or putting one piece of clothing away instead of throwing it on the floor.
That’s the point. Actually doing the habit is much more important than how much you do.
This changes the way you think about the acts you are trying to do. Instead of annoying tasks, they are little challenges that your brain will have a hard time saying no to.
2) Be aware of negative thoughts: A lot of people may think this step is unnecessary and will skip it. But in order to make a habit stick, this has to be done, plain and simple.
When it comes time to meditate for those three minutes, think about your thoughts for a second. Are they negative in any shape or form? Is your mind taking itself out of the action before it even started?
These very thoughts are a stepping stone to failure. As best you can, try to shut out those negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. Look for any reason to spin the situation into a better light. Believe me, it will be worth it.
3) Have a backup plan: This step is key. You need to have a plan for those days where you get knocked off track. Lots of people will be so good with their habit for six or seven days, then something happens. Something comes up, life gets in the way, and you don’t continue. Get in the habit of re-starting even when you falter.
The best way is to get some accountability — promise a friend or your spouse that you’ll pay them some amount of money if you miss your new habit two days in a row or promise to mow someone’s lawn or wash their car if you miss three days in a row. You could even tell everyone on Facebook that you’ll share your next month’s salary if you miss three days in a row (how much more motivation would you need then?).
It’s not the end of the world if you miss a day here or there. Heck, we are busy enough with school, work, activities, and our social lives. But getting back on the horse is the key that will bring you success. Be prepared for that to happen, and remind yourself that at the end of the day, we are all human.
With these things in place, you will no doubt be able to form one of those little habits that you’ve been thinking about. Once the framework is there, the rest is a piece of cake!