The Keys to New Habits – 1

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So, you’re sick and tired of literally feeling sick and tired. You want to feel better and get your life moving in the right direction, so where do you start? How do you get a new habit going and not just have another “New Year’s Resolution” experience? Is there a habit for habits? In a word, yes.

A Keystone Habit is what you’re looking for. A Keystone Habit is a habit with fringe benefits. It makes it easier to build other habits and, according to Charles Duhigg, it provides more “structure” in your life for other good habits and behavior to build on. Sounds just like what we all need, so what are a few good ones, the ones that work for almost everybody?

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Exercise is probably #1, along with developing good eating habits and meditating. Ending an addiction like smoking is excellent, too. The main idea is to start with something that truly helps or builds up your mind and body. It also helps if you can do it in some form almost anywhere or anytime and all you really need to do it is you.

A Keystone Habit will help you develop focus, willpower and a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that you can use elsewhere. It just plain feels good. So, how do you get started? It starts with picking a habit. If you’re diabetic, you know you need to work on diet and exercise. If you still smoke, you might want to start there.

I think you know what you need to start with. You just need to overcome whatever misgivings or ambivalence you have about it. If you tend to be perfectionistic,  you need to let that go and accept some imperfection, at least on a temporary basis. Anything really worth doing, is still worth doing imperfectly.

To keep it simple, let’s say you’re going to work on building an exercise habit. (The principles and the style of the plan we’ll work out here will also work for changing your food habits or anything that involves “building up”and to a lesser extent “quitting”.) If you’ve spent years being a couch potato, it’s easy to overdo, so start small. Begin by checking out what safe levels or kinds of activity are good for you with your doctor.

Now, what can you do to increase your chances of not only starting, but continuing and making your habit permanent? First, write down why you want to make this a habit. What’s your motivation? When you start trying to skip doing what you’ve decided to do, you can get this back out and remind yourself. Just writing it down, though, really helps.

Once you’re clear about why, start writing down what, where and how. The more definite you are the easier it is to follow through. You can also think about stuff that’s going to get in the way and plan around it. You’re just about ready to go.

Take your plan and go over it one more time. Think about how to boil it down to 4 or 5 sentences, and share it with a few friends or loved ones. You know the right ones, the ones that will help you stay on track. We all need a little accountability and a few cheerleaders when we’re working on something. It’s time to start…

 

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