October 3, 2018

Developing good habits: How to get back on the wagon and sustain a habit


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Last time I talked about how I feel it doesn't matter how long it takes developing good habits, that it is more important on how to sustain a habit. 

Because even if you feel you have established the habit, if you are not careful you can fall off the wagon. As promised now I'd like to explore how we can get back on the wagon and sustain a habit. 

Most habits require us to re-commit to them on a regular basis

Once you have done it for a while it's true, it gets easier. But just as I had shared last time, if you miss twice in a row the chance that you fall off the wagon increases tremendously. 

So here are 3 tips on how to get back on the wagon after falling off and 5 tips on how to sustain the habit in the future

Getting back on the wagon

1) Review Your Priorities

Forming positive habits requires intentionality. We can't just want to establish a habit but that habit is not tied to a priority in our life. The habit needs to be tied to something that we feel is important or to a goal that we want to reach. 

Then the habit is the vehicle on how to reach that goal and is part of a bigger scheme. By reviewing your priorities in life and figuring out where this habit fits in, you will be re-inspired and motivated again to get back on the wagon and establish the habit again. 

2) Identify Your Booby Traps

Just focusing on our priorities, unfortunately, is often not enough, now we have to screen our day to day life and see, where are the roadblocks, or the booby traps. Where are the risks that would trip us and make us fall off the wagon again? 

This could be bad habits or mindless routines that we have acquired. For example, you try to do too much: Instead of trying to keep your whole office clutter free from one day to the next, commit first to clean your desk every night and only later expand out and eventually keep your whole office tidy.

Another booby trap could be if you struggle with paper clutter but you have the bad habit of printing out every single email you receive. Do you feel this is helping you getting a handle on your paper or hindering or even sabotaging you? 

3) Make Time to developing good habits

If something has priority in our life we also need to make sure we put aside enough time for the necessary tasks. So now that you know that your habit is tied to a priority in your life, your calendar needs to reflect this. 

For example, if you wanted to be up-to-date with your finances instead of freaking out at tax season, you would put in let's say 30 minutes a week to make sure your files are in order and if you do your own bookkeeping that your books are up to date. 

How much time you need for this task depends of course on how many files you generate during the week, but 30 minutes is a good start. In the beginning, you might need more time to catch up on your backlog, or once you are all caught up you might need less than 30 minutes. 

Sustaining Good Habits

1) Keeping track

By keeping track of successfully doing the task every day (or every week) you get a sense of accomplishment and after a while, you don't want to break the chain. 

If you have a nice chain of doing something for so many days, let's say 20 days, you are more motivated to not break the chain when you see this than if you have no idea how long you do it and if you did it on a regular basis or not. 

2) Find and Form a Trigger

Forming and sustaining a habit is easier if it is tied to another habit that you have already established. For example, do something right after brushing your teeth, or after eating breakfast/lunch/dinner. 

When you do this for a while, you will get used to doing the new habit right after and it needs less energy and motivation to keep it up.


3) Catch Your Perfectionism

I am somewhat of a perfectionist, I try to be kinder to myself but I remember when I was younger and I would not be able to do something perfectly, I would throw out "the baby with the bathwater" and start over or abandon the task altogether. 

For example, if I wanted to eat clean and healthy but fell off the wagon and ate something unhealthy one day, I would feel like a failure and as a result binge-eat all kinds of unhealthy stuff. Why bother since I ate already that one thing right? 


A better approach is to get right back on track and to make sure to not miss twice in a row. 

Just because I ate one unhealthy thing doesn't make the whole project nill and void, that's flat-out sabotaging ourselves. I know that but can't always overcome my perfectionism, can you relate? 

4) Celebrate Milestones & Recommit

Another shortcoming of a perfectionist is that we are never happy with ourselves, and we never properly celebrate our wins because we are already focused on the next thing to achieve. 
Celebrating is important. 

Acknowledging that we reached a milestone is important to keep us motivated to move on. It's the kinder approach than pushing ourselves constantly. 

In addition, if we celebrate our progress, we can at the same time review how far we've come and then recommit to our goal. Because we just accomplished a milestone we can use this win as fuel to keep us going. 

To do this more effectively, make sure you have small enough and frequent enough milestones to celebrate to keep your spirit up to move forward. 

5) Accountability

Get some accountability in form of an accountability partner or an accountability group. The funny thing is, that we are more likely to do something if we committed to do so to another person than if the commitment is just to ourselves. 

It's a bit sad in a way but that's how human nature is. Unless we have high self-integrity, it's easy to let ourselves get away with not doing something even though we had planned to do so. The minute you tell someone that you will do the task you feel more obligated to actually do it to 'save face'. 

There you go, 3 tips on how to get back on the wagon and 5 tips on how to sustain a habit. 

Hit reply and let me know which one of the tips resonates the most with you and also if you have any tips to add to the list. 

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