This is article is part of The 30-Day Challenge series. See all articles here.
Learn how to build good habits if you want to reach your goals, grow and live a great life.
We all have good and bad habits. A habit is any activity we perform often, with ease and usually automatically. Brushing your teeth twice a day is a good habit. Reaching for your cell phone as soon as you wake up in the morning is a bad habit. But why are habits important?
Why do habits matter?
When you do something new, you need to consciously make an effort to do that. That’s what it’s like to learn a new sport, learn to drive or learn a new language. It’s not easy, it takes a lot of concentration and effort and it often isn’t pleasurable at all.
But we use our willpower to do those tasks when they are important. And if we keep doing the same activity over and over again, at one point it becomes a habit. We begin to do that effortlessly. We no longer need to consciously focus on that activity because we seem to magically do that well. Think about how you can drive while daydreaming or speak your native language.
This is why habits are so powerful! Because we can do them with easy and with little effort, we tend to do them often. In fact, I think that our habits rule our days because we often live in auto-pilot.
Here’s the catch though – your habits determine the way your life unfolds. If you have good habits, your life will be great. Yet if you have bad habits, your life will be a struggle or a series of problems.
I’m sure you want to live a good life – so you need to build the right habits for that. While it won’t be easy, it will definitely be worth it!
The 4 laws of behaviour change
I discovered the 4 laws of behaviour change while reading the book Atomic Habits by James Clear (I definitely recommend reading it!). I believe that these simple laws are very useful, so I wanted to share them with you. I’ll talk about each law and give examples to help you think about ways to apply them in your life.
Buy the book Atomic Habits by clicking on this affiliate link.
The 4 laws of behaviour change are meant to help make it easier for you to do the right things:
- Make it obvious
- Make it attractive
- Make it easy
- Make it satisfying
Let’s take them one by one and see how we can apply them. I’ll use some general examples, but it will be useful for you to think about the habits you want to implement – particularly the ones that will help you reach your personal goals.
1. Make it obvious
It’s easier to do a habit if it’s clear to you when, where or how you are supposed to do that. You can set a certain time or place for your desired habit.
You can make a rule such as “I will go to the gym every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 12 pm”. This way, if it’s 11 am on a Monday, you know what you are supposed to do in an hour.
Having this type of intentions in your mind helps make it easier to do that habit because it’s clear what you want to do. You’ve made a plan in advance so there is no confusion in the present. All that’s left is for you to act on that implementation.
You can also use your environment to create cues that make it obvious what you need to do. Here are a few examples you can try:
- if you want to eat more fruits, put some on the kitchen table
- if you want to read more, always keep a book on your desk or next to your bed
- if you want to take your vitamins, put them in a visible place
- if you want to go to the gym, put your workout equipment next to the door or in a place you will see it
- if you want to work on your blog, put a note on your agenda and set a reminder on your phone
Think about a habit you want to develop and ask yourself: how can I make it obvious that this is what I want to do? It’s easier to stick to a habit that is obvious.
2. Make it attractive
You are more likely to do something that is attractive or exciting. And the habits we find attractive are often the habits of the people in our lives or the habits of successful people.
That’s why your friends and family can influence you – you want to fit in. So it’s tempting to do what everybody else is doing.
If you want to develop a habit, try to surround yourself with people who have that habit already. Here are a few examples:
- if you want to read more, join a book club or follow people who read a lot on social media
- if you want to become fit, go to a gym or get a personal trainer instead of working out at home
- if you want to become financially independent, connect with people who have the same goals or read books about that topic
If a habit will help you fit in, gain acceptance or look cool, you will want to do that. So think about the habits you want to work on and try to find people who value that as well. It’s easier to stick to a habit that is attractive.
3. Make it easy
If you want to do something, try to make it easy – or easier, at least in the beginning. If a new habit requires a lot of time or effort, you are less likely to stick to it. So try to make it easy and take it slow. The most important thing is to build the habit at first.
Here are a few examples:
- if you want to read more, start by reading just 5 pages every day
- if you want to eat healthier, try to add one piece of vegetable or fruit every day
- if you want to be more active, start by taking a 5-minute walk every day
- if you want to write a book, write a few paragraphs every day
- if you want to save money, start by saving a dollar every day
Think about the habit you want to build and ask yourself: how can I make this easy enough that I’ll want to do that every day? You’re more likely to stick to a habit that is easy.
4. Make it satisfying
Habits may take effort at first, but they can also be enjoyable. If a habit makes you fee satisfied, you’re more likely to continue to do that.
One easy way to make your habit satisfying is to keep track of your progress. Just keeping a habit tracker or measuring your results can turn this process into a challenge that is satisfying enough that you will want to keep it going. You can use a diary or an app to keep track – whatever you prefer.
Building good habits takes time and some effort. Apply any of these 4 laws (or all of them) to make the process easier. In time, you’ll see that your habits change and you are on the path to reaching your goals!
This article is part of The 30-Day Challenge series where I’ll share an article every day. I will mainly focus on goals, success and habits and I hope this series will help you have a higher chance of achieving your meaningful goals in 2020!