10 Tips to Start a New Habit

Note: This guest post is by Scott Young

Changing a habit doesn’t require willpower. It requires strategy. Here’s ten tips to improve your tactics to make that resolution last:

  1. Commit for Thirty Days – Stick to a change for thirty days. They require 95% of the effort, so place your focus where it counts – the first month.
  2. Write it Down – Winston Churchill once said, “Plans are useless. Planning is invaluable.” The same is true if you want to make a change. Planning out what you want to do on paper can improve your odds of success.
  3. Keep it Consistent – If you want to start exercising, running one day, biking another and dancing the next may be interesting, but it will be harder to make automatic. For the first month, make your new habit consistent to prevent slippage.
  4. Make it Daily – What’s easier writing three blog entries a week or seven? Surprisingly, it is easier to adjust to doing it daily, then just a few times per week. I suggest keeping any habit daily for the first thirty days so it will stick better.
  5. Know the Benefits – If you want a change to be permanent, a little motivation won’t cut it. Engross yourself in the benefits of your new habit. On a diet? Read the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and feel the difference eating well makes in your life. Budgeting? Research the impact it will have on your financial future, until you can feel the freedom it will buy you later in life.
  6. Plan Ahead – Look for times that might upset your conditioning phase. This can be vacations, changes in your schedule or work events. The best way to keep a party from ruining your diet or a vacation from stopping your budget is to prepare in advance.
  7. Make a Ritual – Before you start your habit, it can be helpful to have a ritual. If you want to wake up earlier each day, practice the same motion of turning off your alarm clock and stretching so it becomes your automatic response to the alarm.
  8. Conserve Needs – Some habits aren’t stable. Notice when a new habit change leaves you with unmet needs. This could be eliminating web surfing and losing a form of rest or cutting television and losing entertainment. Replace the lost needs to keep you afloat.
  9. Reward Yourself – Give yourself a reward after you finish your habit. This will reinforce the positive behavior and make the habit stronger.
  10. Use “But” – A technique I learned from a prominent habit changing therapist is the “but” technique to condition new alternatives for thought habits. As soon as you start thinking negative thoughts, insert the word “but” and affirm something positive. i.e. “I’m don’t understand this, but, I’m a quick learner so I just need to find my own method.”

Scott Young has changed many habits including becoming a vegetarian, exercising daily, writing daily for his blog and many others. You can get more tips for success in making new habits in his new book: How to Change a Habit.

How to Change A Habit

Posted by in Personal Development | June 23, 2007 | Digg | Del.icio.us | Stumble | Print | 12 comments