Learning the skills of habit creation changed my life.
I know this sounds like hyperbole, but it’s the absolute truth. In the last few years, I’ve created the habits of writing over 1500 words a day, running regularly, doubling my veggie intake, meditation, positive thinking, organizing my house, simplifying, and drinking a full glass of water in the morning.
As a result, I’ve written four books, hundreds of articles, and three online courses. I feel more energetic, positive, and content, I’m in better shape than ever, and my self-confidence has soared.
The Power of Building Good Habits
I’m not sharing this to brag about myself. I’m no different from you or anyone else. I was just lucky enough to learn the skills of habit creation. Prior to learning these skills, I assumed that creating habits was simply a matter of willpower and self-discipline. Those were the tools I used all of my life when attempting a new habit.
Occasionally these old tools worked — usually when I had a very strong negative motivator that kept me going (ie: wake up early and get to work or you’ll be fired). But most of the time, willpower and self-discipline carried me only so far. Inevitably I would quit. Then I’d feel bad about myself and give up on the notion of creating new habits, until the following New Year’s day when I’d try, try again.
Healthy Habits Don’t Just Create Themselves
A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to work on a habits project with Leo Babauta of the top-ranked site, Zen Habits. Leo had been working on habit creation for years and had changed his entire life. He’d quit smoking, run marathons, lost over 50 pounds, eliminated his debt, became a vegetarian, tripled his income, wrote several books — and many, many more amazing habits.
As we worked together on a study about habits, I learned that forming new habits requires a very specific set of skills. The skills aren’t hard, but without them, creating new habits is nearly impossible. Once I applied these skills in my own life, it was as though I’d strapped a rocket booster on my back. I knew I could accomplish anything I wanted to accomplish.
You may not think you need to learn habit skills, but let me tell you, you absolutely do. Turning down these skills is like saying, “No thank you — I don’t want to be healthier, more energetic, happier, more productive, more accomplished, more organized, or highly successful. I’d like to just keep attempting and quitting new habits.”
Here are some of the most critical reasons you need to learn habit skills.
Why You Need to Learn to Build Good Habits
1. You control your physical health
Do you want to eat better, lose weight, get toned, start an exercise program? Health and fitness related habits have always been the most difficult to accomplish. When you know how to form habits, you are in complete control of your physical health. You can follow through on changing your diet or getting up off the sofa to go exercise, even on days you just don’t feel like it.
2. You control your mental health
If you feel anxious, overwhelmed, stressed out, or apathetic, having the skills to change your mental habits can improve your entire outlook on life. You can learn positive thinking habits, meditation, calm breathing habits, affirmations, visualization — all scientifically proven methods for better mental and emotional health (and physical health too!).
3. You improve your relationships
Create a habit of giving your spouse a long hug first thing in the morning. Or create the habit of spending quality one-on-one communication time every evening after dinner. Decide with your partner to work on a daily project together, building two habits in one — closeness with your partner and completion of a project. Learn a language together or work on organizing your house.
4. You can enhance learning and knowledge
Have you wanted to take a course to upgrade your skills at work? Thought about learning a new sport or mastering an old one? Want to write a book, play the guitar, or learn conversational Italian before your big trip? When you know habit skills, all of these life upgrades (and many more) are possible.
5. You can be more productive
When you know how to create habits, you can learn to wake up earlier every day — and sustain it. You can set the habit of writing daily goals, making your bed in the morning (shown to improve productivity), or organizing your desk before you go home for the day. You can learn to organize your emails, use an effective productivity app, or track your time.
6. You can boost creativity
Life gets so busy that taking the time for creativity, even if it’s related to our jobs, feels like an indulgence. But creativity makes us smarter, more productive, and open to many possibilities for achievement and success. You can create a habit of painting or drawing, writing, dancing, or planing an instrument. Or you can develop the daily habit of brainstorming creative ways to tackle projects or challenges at work.
7. You can improve your finances
Are you in debt, or do you find yourself overspending? Maybe you haven’t created an emergency fund, or you want to save for a new house or a college fund. Perhaps you dream of taking that trip to Europe or buying a new car. All of these require new habits around spending, saving, and money management. Set up a new habit of saving $15 a day, and you’ll have enough to travel to Europe next year.
8. You can feel great about yourself
Once you learn the skills of forming positive habits, you’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish. New behaviors that once were so difficult to establish will be totally manageable (if you follow the habit skills method). With every habit you form, you’ll be able to master subsequent habits easier and faster. The best result of habit creation is the way you feel about yourself. Your self-esteem and confidence will soar, and you’ll realize how capable and motivated you really are. Other people will gravitate toward you because you’re a more interesting, accomplished, and positive person.
Barrie Davenport is a personal coach, author of several self-improvement books, and founder of the top-ranked sites Live Bold and Bloom and BarrieDavenport.com. She is also the creator of the Sticky Habits Course, teaching the simple formula for sustainable habits.
Photo by Esben Bøg