Building Habits and Routines
Think back to Lesson 1 for a moment and remember that a habit is an automatic behavior you’ve repeated frequently enough that it occurs almost without thinking. A routine is a repeatable sequence of behaviors that occurs with conscious thinking, and routines can become habits over time. So, think about whether you’re trying to turn a behavior you already do into a habit, develop a brand new behavior, or create a sequence of behaviors to do on a regular basis. Also, keep in mind your goal and intention for this new behavior.
After considering your goal, intention, and mindset, the first steps to building a new habit and routine are to find something you like and start small. In my example from Lesson 2, I developed a goal and intention around fitness and wanted to find a new exercise routine that focuses on long-term well being and strength building. The next step is to determine what fitness activities I like to do. Just because someone in my life enjoys running, biking or jump rope does not mean that these activities will work for me. Remembering to let go of comparison and dichotomous thinking, what matters is what works for me and what I like. I really like walking, pilates, and working out at home, so that is going to work best for me as I move forward in my fitness routine.
Now, as I start my new fitness routine, it’s important to start small. A short, five-minute walk counts. A quick, important mindset aside: small amounts of movement “count”. You do not have to push yourself to exhaustion, break a sweat, or spend forty-five minutes a day doing crossfit for it to count as exercise and benefit your body. So if you are thinking about creating an exercise habit or routine, it does not have to be a huge endeavor. I mean, if you want to run a marathon or train super hard, go for it, but you can start small and find what works for you and still get the benefits, and starting small will make it easier for you to begin a new habit or routine and stick with it.
Getting back to building your new routine, start with a small activity and a small amount of time, and then build up from there. Experts recommend things as simple as walking around the block to start an exercise walk routine or completing one leg stretch a day to begin a stretching habit. It’s all about breaking it down into a manageable and small step to start and then building on that over time. Sometimes, it can be hard just to get started, so if you keep your intention and goals in mind and know that it’s only going to take a few minutes, it can be easier to complete the activity if you start small.
According to BJ Fogg, author of Tiny Habits, there are three things you need to complete a behavior: motivation, ability, and prompt. The motivation is why you want to complete the behavior. The ability is your capacity to complete the behavior. The prompt elicits the completion of the behavior. For example, in my exercise routine, I have my intention and goal for the behavior, and I am able to go for a five-minute walk, but I am going to need some sort of prompt so that I actually get up and go for the walk.
To create a prompt, I can connect the behavior (walking) to something I’m already doing, BJ Fogg refers to this as an anchor. For example, if I already take a break every day at 3 pm, I could add my five-minute walk into that break. Now, I have an anchor for the behavior, and I could also add a phone alarm for 3 pm that says “walk” so I have an extra prompt for the behavior as well.
Which brings us to the final part of building new habits and routines, scheduling the behavior into your day. It’s important to make the new behavior as easy as possible (by making it simple and connecting it to an already existing habit). It is also important to write it down, put it on your calendar, schedule it into your day, or add it as a reminder on something you already use (like your phone). This will also help you repeat the behavior, in the same way, every day. In order for a behavior to become a habit, you need to repeat it in the same way and at the same time.
In summary, to begin a new habit or routine, find something you like, something you can do, and start small. Then remember your motivation, intention, and goal, attach the new behavior to something you’re already doing and create a prompt or reminder to complete the behavior. In the next lesson, we will go over strategies for maintaining your new habits and routines.
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