10. Forming a new habit.

You fight yourself to change.

I struggle with forming any new habits. I struggle with discipline. I read lot of habit forming blogs and write ups on Medium, and that helped me see habits from a psychological point of view. And treating habit as such has helped me become more mindful when I am lapsing back due to routine.

Following are the things I follow to form any new habit. These can vary from person to person, and I sometimes fall back. But getting back on track is never an issue again. I anyway try not to stick to a particular routine, and keep trying and changing mine so I do not feel settled.

So here are few things I do to form new habits:

  1. Form a habit on top of another — This is one of the best methods to start. The reason is predictability. You take a habit that you do everyday. Example, brushing your teeth. You have been conditioned to do it. So for me, to form any habit, I do it before brushing. Or after it. And I try to continue for a month or two, after that I move the habit during any other time of the day, as per my needs. One key thing I have noticed is, you have to move your formed habits to other timings, so you are not dependent on your base habit.
  2. Start Small — Whenever I take up something new, I start small. I started with 3 minutes of meditation, one page of sketching, 2 things to write daily. Start as small as possible, so it doesn’t feel like a humongous task. Instead the instant gratification should motivate you to do better further. 
    Something done imperfectly is better than a perfect thing not done at all.
  3. Keep Track — Keep track of your new habits. Write down what is going good, what is keeping you back, or any other thought. Keep a journal, an excel, any app. Tracking it on a monthly basis, gives you an idea where you are skipping it, what demotivates you and other things. Also share your progress as much as possible with people who appreciate it. Better way is to share it publicly, as the chances of skipping are far less when people are watching your progress. Stay away from negative people though. They take you down with them.
  4. Don’t change environments — If you are starting to form a new habit, try to keep everything else in your life constant as much as possible. That night out might not help you get up and go back all the way to the gym. So try to follow one routine, and if it is not possible, plan in advance accordingly. Keep the things necessary with you to do your task.
  5. Keep it close — To write in a journal every morning, I’d keep mine near my head. Whenever I am travelling by Uber, I keep a notebook with me where I can sketch people on the road, and I kept Duolingo in my newly opened tabs. People who want to go to gym, keep their bags and shoes right next to their bed. So to form a new habit, keep every resource close to you that you’ll need to get going.
  6. Make it a easy on you — Any new habit is difficult to create because it is a change, that we humans resist naturally. Mostly a psychological change. So try and think of ways to make it more fun and not a burden on your mind. I keep rewarding myself when I complete something, like I am going to buy myself something when I finish this challenge. You can try the positive reinforcement method like that. It’s way better than negative reinforcement where you feel bad about skipping a day or two.
  7. Don’t beat yourself — Do not beat yourself up if you miss things for a day or two. It’s okay. No one can be perfect, as perfection is relative. What is more important is you got back on track, instead of giving up. Just keep trying. Your life should not be defined by your habits. Instead you should be in control enough to manage your habits however you want to.
  8. Don’t start with too many things— I did this mistake. I tried doing too many things. I wasn’t doing any good. So I made a rule of doing one or two things at a time. Others can wait a month or two. So start with one habit at a time, and once you are comfortable, move on to next. Also, habits are not todos that you do for a month and move on. So if you are spending time, spend on something that you really think would help you long term.
  9. Take Breaks — You can not live in a constant routine. Sometimes it is difficult to keep doing so many things. You are just exhausted. It’s okay to let go for a while. The main point is coming back to habits you formed and not get back to same old routine. You can stop doing something if you feel you don’t need it anymore, but you should be able to go back to doing it any day you want. For example taking shower. You can live without a bath for few days, and going back to a nice shower everyday isn’t a big deal. Same should be the case of your habits.
  10. Keep experimenting — People are different. You can find somethings may not work for you. You should keep trying and changing the variables of your life and routine to see what works best for you and what not. I personally don’t want to lead a perfect life, rather a fuller one. I want to keep trying and learning so my ways are inclined more towards that. Something else might work for you.

So these are my ways to incorporate any new habit in my life. Let me know if you have any other that helped you. I will try and share my progress.

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