As January comes to a close, some of us are feeling incredibly good about ourselves. We are on track—going to the gym five days a week, losing weight and seeing new business ventures soar. But not all of us feel so good. Even with the best intentions and plans, failure is imminent without proper habit formation.
Regardless of the end goal, any change is the result of habits both good and bad. So while you think your goal is to lose weight, start a business or stick to a morning routine, it’s not that at all. Your real goal is to form the habits that allow you to make these changes.
If you’re having trouble getting started, here are six hacks to help you form good habits.
Break Down Larger Habits Into Smaller Ones
A good morning routine is crucial to success. Own your morning. Own your day. While routines are unique to the individual, let’s use this one as an example:
Wake up at 5:00 am, down a glass of water before your feet hit floor, meditate for ten minutes, go for an hour-long run, and be back in time to make your kids pancakes before 7:00am.
This is one routine or habit, but there are essentially four different parts. If your current habit is hitting the snooze button until 6:55, the larger habit (having this specific morning routine) may be an insurmountable task. By breaking down the larger habit into smaller ones, we create a roadmap to success.
Start With The Easiest Habit First
Drinking a big glass of water in bed takes the tiniest modicum of planning and motivation. Before you go to bed, fill a glass or bottle of water and leave it on your nightstand. Then, reach over and drink it in the morning. That’s it. It’s completely achievable even at 6:55 am.
Drinking that water is going to feel good. Not just physically, but also emotionally. Once you achieve the small goal of morning hydration, you will have new motivation and willpower to go on to the next step.
Build Up Gradually
Ten minutes of meditation is easy for many but sounds overwhelming for someone who has never meditated before. So, start with one or two minutes of meditation. Then work your way up to ten minutes. The habit will become easier and more sustainable. The same idea can be applied to the exercise component of the morning routine. Essentially, it all goes back to starting small.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up For Backsliding
When it comes to dieting, just because you eat one cupcake, doesn’t mean you should follow it up with a pizza, chips and a bowl of mint chocolate chip. We all make mistakes and miss the mark. Especially when it comes to habit formation, things happen. Your alarm doesn’t go off or your kid gets sick and you can’t exercise. But don’t allow yourself to get off track completely.
Instead of becoming upset or worse, backsliding, just make a new plan and work with what life throws at you. For example, if you don’t get out of bed until 5:30 am, you still have time to meditate and exercise (albeit less time). Or you can skip the meditation and just go for a run. The point is not to let something small get in the way of the bigger picture.
Figure Out What’s Preventing You From Achieving Your Goals
Let’s say you want to eat more healthfully, so you plan to cook dinner every night when you get home from work. You go to the supermarket and buy lots of healthy foods. Perhaps you even take the time to find new recipes. You have the best of intentions, but by the time you get home, you’re too tired to cook and end up ordering in.
Maybe you don’t need to adjust your goal, but rather you need to reevaluate the steps to achieving it. If you’re too tired to cook every night, consider a healthy meal delivery service. Or meal prep most of your week on Sunday and then reheat.
Aim For 1% Better
In Atomic Habits, author James Clear discusses how improving by just one percent can compound into exponentially better results. It might not seem like much, but it adds up fast. “The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding. Here’s how the math works out: if you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done.”
So, if you want to get out of bed by 5:00 am, but you normally hit the snooze alarm five times. Tomorrow, try to only hit it four times. Making that extra bit of effort will start to feel good and ultimately plant a seed to improve your motivation overall throughout everything you do.
Try to think about all the habits you could create if you just put in a small amount of extra effort.