Since the start of the new year, you’ve likely been sucked into a lot of conversations surrounding how you’re going to set yourself up for success this year, whether it be personally or professionally. Undoubtedly, you’ve seen just short of a million articles dedicated to the resolutions you should or can make.
But inevitably, we end up at the end of January, February, or the first quarter looking back and saying, “I haven’t stuck to anything!” What is it about a new year that gives us the energy that peters out so quickly?
Well, we would argue that it’s about creating new habits but no one is giving tips on how to create sticky habits.
What is a sticky habit?
Simply put, it’s a habit that you stick to because you make it a ritual. Soon, you can’t imagine your life before the habit.
Does it really take 14-21 days to form a habit?
Not likely. If you’ve ever fallen prey to the “just go to the gym consistently for 14 days and you will all of a sudden love the gym,” you know that this is simplified at best. In fact, in a 2009 study, the European Journal of Social Psychology said that it can take 18 to 254 days to form a new habit.
In other words, it’s not one-size-fits-all and much depends on how far of a departure the habit is from your current way of life.
So how do we get started?
Mark Twain said it best: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” But the second half of this quote is even more valuable. He continues: “The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”
Starting bite-size is essential to not feeling overwhelmed and giving up!
Therefore, step one to creating a sticky habit is breaking it down into bite-sized tasks. For example, if you want to create a habit that reduces stress or increases your sleep quality, you’ll need to stop overscheduling your calendar and create a haven for rest.
Step two to creating a sticky habit is to educate yourself. Keeping with the stress reduction equation: to truly feel motivated, you could do some research into what causes stress and what are some particularly nasty outcomes from it. Knowledge is power. There might be activities you find in your research that will be helpful to incorporate you’d not previously considered.
The key to educating yourself is that you’re digging into the real reason you need to quit being stressed out. It’s not just about relaxing—it’s about your health. Tying your habit to a long-term goal is a great way to remember to do it even when life gets messy.
Celebrate the small wins
Make a log of each day you’ve felt less stressed. Take notes of what you did. Perhaps you ate a nutritional lunch, got plenty of sleep, got outside, exercised, or got a massage.
Celebrate this little milestone by giving yourself a pat on the back. And don’t be afraid to tell others so that they can celebrate with you!
Get a buddy
Sometimes, our willpower falters. Occasionally, we may need reminding about the goal and finish line. Especially with something like stress, it’s about staying mindful and on top of your feelings.
That’s when it’s prudent to enlist outside help from family or friends. They can give you perspective about how far you’ve come and can remind you that your end goal is the focus, not this temporary mood or setback.
Got more ideas on how to make your habits more sticky? We’re all ears! Let us hear ‘em in the comments!