Everyone knows the struggle of new years resolutions, where most of us want to change our life’s, but end up doing nothing different. I know friends who went through the same thing and you probably do also. One of the biggest problems is that rather than changing one thing at a time we are getting more and more inpatient and always want sudden change without wanting to work for it. So what should we do to develop long lasting habits?

First step to develop lasting habits:

Have you ever wondered what it takes to make people change? “All washed up” explains it in a beautiful way with the purest people in the world: children.

This principle is called “the six source of influence”, let’s have a look how it works:

According to the study, if you take at least four out of these six sources of influence, you will be able to change, but what do the different sources mean?

  1. Personal Motivation – If you don’t want to do something just out of your own personal interest, you will have a hard time actually doing it. Make the undesirable desirable means that you should find a way to make said activity attractive for you. You don’t like going to the gym? Think about the benefits in one year, when you finally got that beach body you always wanted. Then think about the long term effects of reduced risk of back problems, heart problems and all health problems in general.
  2. Personal Ability – With your current skillset, are you able to complete the task? If not then you have to find sources to train. Meaning you need to find courses, seminars, books or whatever is needed to learn a certain skill. In the moment you have a teacher, you will be able to surpass your limits and achieve your goals.
  3. Social Motivation – Enable peer pressure in a positive way to boost your motivation. Find role models and icons to look up to and to put on a subconscious pressure to be more like them. Also try to surround yourself with people or friends with similar goals to motivate each other.
  4. Social Ability – Similar to Social Motivation you want to ask role models, icons or people in your network to give you tips or help with problems. The difference is in Social Motivation you just need people to look up to, in Social Ability you need to have direct contact to people. So if your role model is Pharrell Williams, you might want to search for Social Ability from another person.
  5. Structural Motivation – Use rewards to motivate yourself to repeat habits. For example you might say “If I study one hour today, I can have an ice cream for dinner today”. These rewards can be anything from a small snack to a vacation, when you achieved to save 10,000$(yes, financial intelligence is a skill and habit you have to develop).
  6. Structural Ability – Change your environment. Do you feel well and productive in a dark room with no airflow? No? I guessed so. Try to design your place to develop a habit in a way that it supports said habit. If you want to motivate yourself to workout more, you might want to hang up posters of fit people or sports in general. If you want to motivate yourself to learn a new language, why not hang up sticky notes on places like the fridge with the translation? Changing the environment to support your habits is easily done and super effective.

Do you get the picture? If you have any questions whatsoever, feel free to comment below or write me an email to yesitsme@frederik-witte.com!

Second step to develop lasting habits:

Applying what you have learned: Now where you got the first concept of change, you need a plan. Most people would now go out and structure their day into hours and then fill each hour with some activity. But we are not most people! If you always had the problem like me, that you wanted to change but then always went for it 2-3 days and stopped, you probably did the same thing.

To figure out what you want to change first, simply take out a pen or write in some program the habits you want to develop. For me some time ago these were:

  1. Eat regularly (yes I really couldn’t manage to eat at least 3 times per day, everyday)
  2. Do sport regularly
  3. Meditate regularly
  4. Learn a new language

Then you need to figure out which one of these you want to change first and you can simply do this by using our sources of influence model. Take each habit and try to note down as many influences as you can come up with. After you noted down the sources of influence, you can now choose one of the habits with four or more influences.

Third step to develop lasting habits:

Until now, that was fairly easy and fun, wasn’t it? To illustrate the next step I will just take my oldest arch enemy “eating regularly”. Now we want to make a plan to note down when exactly we want to eat. I have to eat at least three larger meals per day: breakfast, lunch(preferably warm) and dinner. Normally I would have taken out a pen and paper now and just written down the days and then fill in the hours to see when I eat. This can be effective, but as we learned, we should use our environment to help us achieve lasting change. So you should go ahead and download one of the following apps, I personally use “productive”(only for iOS):

Apps to track your habits and goals (thanks to BELLE for this amazing post)

What you can do with these apps is to save all your habits in the app, give them a weekday where you want to do it and then just check it as “done” once you did it. It sounds like an app like this wouldn’t make a difference, but it is a new source of influence and can help you give you that last bit of motivation you needed. Even if you already have enough motivation, you can now track your successes and at the end of the month in most of these apps you have a calendar to see how many days you did which activity. Just imagine at the end of the month you could look back and visually see “wow I really did sport 2 times each week this entire month”. Many times time flies so fast that we forget how much or what we did and making it visually can help us to grasp achievements.

Take it slow!

Developing a habit is hard work and even now where we just picked out one habit, you don’t want to fail it by setting your goals too high. When I started to do yoga, I loosely said “I will do yoga 4 times per week on any day I want”. This is way better than saying “I will do yoga seven days per week” and then end up doing nothing. You have to simply compare two scenarios to grasp the difference of these two expectations, apart from the obvious that going from zero days of doing something to seven is just doing it wrong.

Imagine it is Monday, you wake up and you know that you need to do yoga every day in this week, but for some reason you fall asleep again, because you just wanted those “5 minutes of extra sleep”. Now when you wake up and get to work you will feel really bad. It is just the first day of the week and already you failed your goal. This will pull you down, as you have no reward what so ever and you will have a negative connection to your new habit. If we just take four days out of the week, you will have three “cheat days” and this will give you enough room for comfort to work with. You have three days where you can wake up and just be like “meh” and sleep again.

To round it all up, once you achieve to do four days of yoga every single week, how hard do you think it is to go from four days to seven days?

Fourth step to develop lasting habits:

What else is left now? You now have a way to figure out your own sources of influence to develop a habit, you are able to figure out which habits you are really passionate about and you have a strategy to follow that goal. All you have to do now is to start. I can promise that if you didn’t overload your calendar and you took it easy on you, you will be able to follow your goals much more smoothly now. And the best thing, it will make you feel amazing!

All of these steps may sound like they take a lot of time and yes, they do. You don’t develop habits in one week, you also don’t develop a habit in 21 days. Depending on the “hardness” of your habit(drinking a glass water in the morning vs going to gym in the morning) it can take only 18 days but up to many months to develop a habit. You will not get around that fact, but once you develop a habit, it is like you never did anything else. The struggle to overcome that voice in your head saying “don’t go!” will be gone and it will feel natural to do whatever you couldn’t do before.

Repetition makes easy

Once you developed one of the habits with this method, you will also be able to easier develop other habits. You may wonder why we didn’t talk about procrastination when it was clearly written in the title. By really learning to develop habits, you will find ways to motivate yourself you never had before. And through this you will be able to motivate yourself to do the things necessary first, because developing habits changes your whole mindset. You will find that just getting things done makes your enormously happy and work first, rewards second is the better way to achieve your goals.

That’s it for this article, I hope it will help you to finally achieve the goals you always set yourself, but couldn’t quite get done before. I am really interested in your results and your experiences so feel free to leave a comment or write me an email whenever you feel like it.

If you like my writing and you want to receive updates on posts I write you may subscribe to it here by simply checking one or more of the topics you are interested in(this post was in the categories “Everyday life” and “Health”):

Sincerely

Frederik