Did you drink a cup of coffee this morning?
If you're like 64% of the country, you did. There's always the chance that you were just tired and needed the caffeine boost, but it's far more likely that you're one of the 150 million Americans who start the day with a cup of coffee out of habit. This article isn’t about your love of coffee; it’s about taking steps to change your life by developing positive habits.
What are habits?
Habits are reoccurring patterns of behavior formed through repetition that allow us to perform regular tasks with little effort or conscious thought. You may not realize it, but you rely on habits all day long – this includes the time you wake up, your morning routine, and even the route you drive to work… I could keep going, but you get the idea.
While long-held habits appear set in stone – they're not. The truth is you have the power to improve your life by changing what you do. American philosopher Will Durant explained it best: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence... is not an act, but a habit.”
These actions fall into two main categories: good and bad. Good habits foster personal growth, success, and wellness, including regular exercise, journaling, and getting enough rest. Bad habits, such as eating junk food, smoking, and obsessive social media use, are unhealthy and destructive to our well-being.
The ATTA Way is about harnessing the power of positive habits. So, here are three principles to help you cultivate good habits and change your life.
- Start small, commit, and grow from there
Select a habit you'd like to develop, but make sure it's realistic and attainable. Let's say you'd like to start running – committing to a daily 10-mile run is overly ambitious, and you're more likely to get overwhelmed and quit. Instead, set a smaller goal, such as jogging a half-mile twice a week for 30 days.
While choosing a distance and schedule you can manage will help you develop confidence and increase endurance, committing to at least 30 days will ensure enough repetition to turn that activity into a habit. Remember, as you gain experience and better understand your strengths and limitations, the size and scope of your new habits will undoubtedly grow.
- Use your routine as an anchor
Investing in ourselves is exciting, but sometimes the euphoria of self-improvement can cause us to go to extremes. This can manifest in many ways, including rearranging our entire life until it revolves around the new habit. That is disruptive.
Habits should not be chosen or implemented based on emotion or whim. Instead, connect them to your existing routine in a seamless way. Maybe it's going for a jog in the morning after you wake up, meditating for 15 minutes before lunch, or journaling each night after brushing your teeth.
Anchoring the new habit to something you already do – waking up, eating lunch, brushing your teeth – will trigger the action and put you on the road to success.
- Make it easier to follow through
Do you remember the Staples commercial where someone struggles with a task until they press the easy button? There may not be an easy button in real life, but this step is as close as it gets.
Making it easy on yourself by taking simple steps can make a big difference in following through. It can be as simple as laying out your running shoes and workout clothes before bed if you plan on jogging the following day or packing a healthy lunch in advance to avoid fast food when you’re hungry.
The easier you make a habit in advance, the greater the likelihood of following through when the time comes.
Success must be earned
Habits are at the core of who you are – whether positive or negative is entirely up to you. Introducing a new one is difficult, but soon you’ll forget you’re even doing it. It’ll become such a normal part of life that missing your morning run or afternoon journal entry will leave you feeling off-balance.
Most importantly, slipping up doesn’t mean starting over. When it happens (and it will), pick up where you left off. Your journey will be bumpy and far from straight, but worth it. Remember, your success is earned One Step ATTA Time, and only you can take those steps.
Mike is the founder of ATTA.