Radical Self Improvement Means Creating Positive Habits

Our habits help to create our world to a large extent, and they can be either working for us or against us. We can use habits to our advantage by choosing the ones we want in our life.

What is a Habit?

Habits are those things we do automatically – it can be like we are performing these actions on auto-pilot. Every time I go in to the kitchen to make a coffee, I automatically open the fridge to look for something to shove in my mouth – this is an example of a bad habit.

The really nice thing about habits is it takes so little motivation to perform these tasks. I never have to psyche myself up to go to the fridge. This means than any desirable action I can turn into a habit is going to improve my life with hardly any effort. It also means that this positive change is sustainable because it requires so little effort.

Sustainable Self-Improvement

Motivation is the power we need to change our life, but this resource is not so good for sustaining this change. The problem is that no matter how motivated we feel in the beginning, we can still run out of steam later on. It is like setting off in your car with no money but a tank full of petrol – this is only going to get you so far.

The good news is we don't have to rely on strong motivation to power our positive life change indefinitely. We only need it to last long enough until the new behavior becomes a habit.

How to Form a Habit

Charles Duhigg has written a fascinating book on this topic called The Power of Habit. He says that habits are made up of three elements:

  • Cue – I go into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee
  • Routine – I open the fridge door
  • Reward – I stuff food in my mouth

An effective way to create a cue for a desirable habit is to associate it with something we already do. Here's an example from my life:

I’ve been using positive visualizations as a means to keep me motivated. The problem is that it is easy for me to forget to do regular visualizations. To solve this problem I now do this at the start of each of my two daily meditation sessions. This means I’ve associated my visualization practice with a habit that is already formed, and it acts as a cue for performing this new routine.

The third requirement for forming a habit is a reward. This doesn’t have to be anything too fancy, but it is important to have some positive reinforcement for doing the routine.

How Long Does it Take to Create a Habit

Many experts claim that it takes about 28 days to form a habit while other experts say it is more like 66 days. I suppose it all depends on the type of behavior we are trying to adopt. In the worst case scenario it means we need to stay motivated to persist with this new pattern for a little over two months before it becomes second nature – it isn’t a bad deal at all

In order to create lasting improvements in our life, we just need to stay motivated for a maximum of 66 days. I’ve found that new-agey stuff like visualization, affirmations, and even a vision board can be effective for this

Summary for Creating Positive Habits

  • Our habits create our world
  • We can choose our habits
  • Habits are actions that can be performed with minimal effort
  • If we can turn desirable behavior into habits we can create lasting and effortless change in our life
  • Habits are made up of a cue, routine, and a reward
  • We can create a cue by associating the desirable routine with something we already do
  • It is a good idea to have a reward for the desirable routine until the habit is formed
  • It takes 28 to 66 days to form a new habit
  • There are lots of tricks we can use to sustain our motivation until the new habit is created

P.S. You may be wondering what an image of a boat in the sea has to do with creating positive habits – good question 🙂 I took this photo just before dawn this morning while working on one of my new healthy habits.