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How To Develop A Habit: Complete Step-By-Step Guide

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Motivation is what makes you start, habit is what makes you continue.

Everyone knows habits are important. But, not a lot of people know,

  • how to develop a new habit,
  • how to destroy bad habits and replace them with better ones,
  • how to make new habits stick.

In this article, you´re going to discover answers, for these 3 questions.

Why You Need Habits?

Without our ability to develop habits, absolutely nothing would be ever created.

Habits make possible for you to do certain things on autopilot, which allows you to focus on important issues of yours.

If you were not able to acquire a habit and do certain things automatically, you would have to focus almost all your energy and attention to activities like:

  • Bind your laces,
  • Walking the stairs,
  • Or to make your coffee.

Can you imagine, how your life would be if you were not able to do these things automatically?

How productive would you be?

How much work you do?

You would spend all your precious time and energy on these trivial things. But, fortunately, you don´t have to live like that. You can develop a habit, do things on autopilot and aim your attention somewhere, where it is more needed.

More good habits you develop, more successful you are gonna become.

I know, you probably asking yourself…

What Is A Good Habit?

A good habit is something you do regularly, that improves the quality of your life.

If you have a habit to work out after you wake up, it´s a good habit, because you take care of your health, you feel better, you have more energy and you can avoid multiple health problems.

If you have a habit to sit down on a couch immediately after you come home from work and stay there until you go to bed, it´s a bad habit, because it crushes your relationships, productivity and it makes you lazy.

The important part of the sentence above is regularly. It´s not a habit when you read a book before you go to sleep once a month.

It does not make a visible difference in the quality of your life. To develop a habit, you need to be consistent.

Then, after a habit is already created, you do that on autopilot and you can focus on developing another one.

How Long It Takes To Develop A Habit?

There are elder sources, that says it´s approximately 21 days.

But, recently, University College London did a study that says, it takes approximately 66 days to fully develop a new habit.

That´s why the 67 Steps program I recommend is for 67 days. Every day, one lesson consists of 3-5 principles to find a good life from the most successful and influential people in the world.

No matter which source is right, the key for developing a habit as well as achieving anything in life is consistency.

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times. – Bruce Lee

3 Parts Of A Habit

Pulitzer prize winner Charles Duhigg in his book Power Of Habit teaches that every habit consists of 3 parts:

  1. Cue (Trigger)
  2. Routine
  3. Reward

No matter whether you want to develop a habit of reading, or you just want to stop biting your nails.

Every habit is the same.

And to develop a good habit, or break the bad one you need to understand the whole science behind it.

  • Trigger

Newton´s third law says… For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is the law that works in developing a habit, too.

There is always something that triggers your behavior.

When you ride to work, you don´t start suddenly cursing just because you want to. You start when other drivers do something that is wrong.

So, no matter whether it is,

  • Biting your nails,
  • Eating cookie every afternoon,
  • Reading a book in the morning.

Every habit starts with a trigger.

  • Routine

That´s the actual behavior you want to develop or get rid of. It´s an action you do immediately when a trigger does its job.

  • Reward

Everything you do, you do for a reason. You don´t just wake up and go to work because you have nothing else to do. I am sure, you can find a few activities, you do instead. But, you´ve got to earn money.

And this is the hidden secret of developing habits.

Every action of yours gives you something in return – a reward. 

For example, if you wake up and immediately, dress up and go for a run, it´s because you want to feel good and healthy. It´s not because you have nothing else to do.

Understanding what reward you seek is absolutely necessary when you want to develop a new, healthy habit.

What People Usually Do Wrong?

A big mistake people do, when they want to develop or change their current habits is that they focus entirely on “Routine” part of a habit loop.

They try to change their behavior in a second. But, that´s not possible.

I believe you tried it already. You wanted to change your current habit overnight, but no matter how much you try, you simply couldn´t do it.

To successfully develop a habit you need to focus on Trigger and Reward.

When you understand what the trigger is and what reward you seek from your actions, then you can easily change your behavior.

So, let´s show you how to do it.

How To Develop A Habit?

Let´s say, you have a bad habit of biting your nails and you want to get rid of it. How are you going to do it?

1. Focus on triggers.

  • Pay attention when you do what you do.
  • What time is it?
  • What were you doing?
  • Who was with you at that moment?

There are lots of triggers that can start your behavior. You just need to find yours.

The most frequent triggers are:

  • A person,
  • time through the day,
  • a feeling,
  • or a certain place.

Once you find out what triggers your behavior, you can move on to the next step, which is…

2. Find out the reward you unconsciously seek.

Again, don´t care about the behavior. You can change that easily after you understand trigger and reward.

Don´t be surprised, when you found more rewards. When you, for example, stand out from your desk in the work to go to the cafeteria, it usually is not only about the hunger.

The reward can also be just talking to someone, having a few minutes off, and so on, and so on.

The best way to find out what is the right reward that force you to take a certain action is to run experiments.

If we use an example of cookie eating, your trigger can be hunger, your routine is eating a cookie and your reward is to eat something to stop being hungry.

When you look at your bad cookie habit right now, it´s not so hard to overcome it, right?

All you have to do then is to replace cookie with something healthier.

But, you never find out it, until you discover what triggers you and what reward you seek.

How To Break Bad Habits?

The Power Of Habit explains, that you can´t just get rid of a bad habit.

You can only replace it with a better one.

Don´t try to waste your time and energy to stop a bad habit overnight. It´s not possible. What this effort brings you is only anger, lack of confidence and in some cases, even depression.

Go smarter on this. Use the science of a habit loop, you just discovered to fight your bad habits.

But, mainly, don´t forget to follow the most important rule…

Do It Step By Step

The common mistake people do, not just to develop habits, but in general, that they want to do a lot of things at a high level, simultaneously.  And that´s not possible.

If you want to be successful, you need to focus. And if you try 10 things you are not focused at all.

So, my advice to you is this:

Focus on 1 habit at the time, per area of your life.

For example, you want to become healthier, so you start developing a habit of working out every morning. Developing or getting rid of other health habits could be overwhelming for you.

So, stick to one habit until you successfully develop it. Then, when you work out every morning on autopilot, without forcing yourself to do it, then move on to another health-related habit.

At the same time, you can be developing a habit in other areas of life. In the area, that is not so related to health. Areas like your relationship, finance, self-improvement or any other.

The key is to not overwhelm yourself.

So, always focus on 1 habit per area of your life at the time.

How To Make A New Habits Stick

The question isn´t just how to develop a habit. I think, even more, important is to develop a habit and stick with it.

It doesn´t matter that you develop a habit of working out every morning when you stick with it for one week and then you let it go. That´s not a habit.

It´s scientifically proven, that you develop a habit easier and it sticks much longer when you use a strategy of small wins.

It works like this:

I use the same example, of developing a habit of running every morning.

You can say, starting tomorrow, I am gonna run every morning for the rest of my life.

You wake up, dress up and go for a run. You are motivated, so you run approximately 10 miles. You feel great.

Then, you maybe do the same exercise the next day. But, then, you start to feel tired. Your body starts to hurt and your brain starts to think… I don´t want you to suffer so much. Stop running!

Then, you start making up excuses, why you can´t run. My knee hurts, it´s raining, I feel bad,…

Suddenly, you don´t even think of running anymore.

On the other hand, there is another (and much better) option on how to develop a habit:

Let´s say, you want to develop the same habit. But, you start tomorrow, by just walking around the block.

The next day, you walk not for 5 minutes, but 15 minutes. Then, you may start to jog for a while. Every day, you do something more.

And this is the only way, how to develop habits that stick with you for the rest of your life.

It keeps you motivated, focused, happy and mainly, it will not discourage nor overwhelm you.

In Power Of Habit, Charles Duhigg back it up mentioning one research, where people wants to develop the same habit – working out in the morning.

Research showed, that people who develop the strongest habits, that stick with them for a very long time, were those, who start by dress up to their running clothes, and not going for a run.

Not those who went out and first day run the most. Not those who run for the longest period of time. Those, who make micro-steps.

So, don´t rush. You are building these success habits for life, you don´t have to (and can´t) develop them in 1 day.

Do it step by step, enjoy the process and you develop new habits with almost no effort, less pain, and more joy.

Conclusion:

Building a habit is one of the most important skills all successful people have. Without habits, you would not be able to focus on any important task throughout the day.

That´s why it´s absolutely necessary to understand how habits work, how to develop them, what are good and what are bad habits.

In this article (I hope) you found out answers to all these questions.

Now, you know that according to recent research, it takes approximately 66 days to develop a habit. You also know, 3 parts of every habit.

And last, but not least you know that to make a new habit stick, you have to develop it step by step.

So, enough of my writing, let´s build some new habits.

What is the first habit you are going to develop? Comment below! 🙂


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My name is Patrik. I live in Slovakia and I am owner of dayprov.com. Dayprov is about Everyday improvements in our lives. You will find here tips about success, motivation, personal development and anything you want. Your recommendations for new interesting blog posts you would like to read about send to patrik@dayprov.com.
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