April 24, 2020 | 12:00 AM

John Robert Powers

“Tomorrow I will start working out. I will go on a diet. I will study more. I will sleep early.” Sounds familiar? These are some of the things we want to make a habit of.

But what is a habit? How do you create one and make it stick?

If you Google this topic, you will get a lot of information and tips. Too many, actually. This article aims to bring it down to the basics. Make it simple and easy to follow. Baby steps. Just to get you started. Ready?

First, let us understand what a habit is. The dictionary defines it as something that is done regularly. A recurrent pattern of behavior. This means it is an action that you practice or perform repeatedly. Over a long period of time and not just in bursts or when you feel like it.

Easier said than done. Right? So, let’s break it down.

Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People says, “Start with the end in mind. ”

Set Doable Goals

This may sound simplistic or too easy. But that’s the point here. Start small so that it is easy to keep doing until it becomes routine. For example, if your goal is to be healthier, ditch the plan to hit the gym three times a week. At least for now. Instead, decide to do ten sit-ups daily when you wake up. You can also meditate for five minutes before going to bed. Consider adding vegetables to your lunch. Make it a SMART goal.

Specific (sit-ups);

Measurable (ten a day);

Attainable (surely this is easier than going to the gym);

Realistic (something you can sustain for at least 30 days);

Timebound (after a month you can add to the task).

If it does not require a lot of willpower or motivation, you are more likely to stick to the plan for the long haul. Whereas, bigger goals may be setting yourself up for failure, frustration, disappointment. When you have developed a pattern, you can always increase repetitions, or add another small goal.

Schedule Is Key

“Focus on the practice, not the performance,” suggests James Clear. When he was starting his website, rather than aiming for 1,000 subscribers in 12 weeks, he scheduled to write two articles a week every Monday and Thursday. No matter what. Slowly, he gained “millions of visitors, hundreds of thousands of subscribers and a full-time business.”

So instead of wanting to lose ten pounds in a month, schedule your daily morning sit-ups or your vegetable fix at lunch every day. Before you know it, you will be exercising and eating healthier and unwittingly attaining your weight goals. Daily lifestyle changes can prove to be more motivating when you don’t have to push yourself too hard to meet a deadline, but still, achieve results.

Stay Positive

Have a backup strategy to keep you on track. You can put up a calendar and tick it every time you accomplish your small goal. This is a visual reinforcement of your progress and can serve to encourage you to keep going. Make a note to yourself not to miss the activity two or three days in a row. Remember also to reward yourself for milestones.

If or when you miss a day or two, don’t be too hard on yourself. Get over it and move on. But, do try to establish why you missed your daily goal so you can avoid or work around such hurdles. For instance, if you had late night work or socials and skipped your morning sit-ups, you can make up for it with a short brisk walk on your break or after work/school.

In A Nutshell

You can create good habits for whatever aspect of your life you want to improve. The longer you can keep motivated, the better. Start with small doable goals and build on these. Set schedules rather than deadlines. Don’t let setbacks get you down. When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

About the Author

For almost five years, Blanche Mapile was an educator in Counselling and Education Psychology at DLSU Taft.  Previously she established and managed her own PR consultancy firm that serviced the consumer sector for over a decade. A BS Psychology graduate and an MBA, she wrote for a newspaper and worked for top PR and advertising firms in her younger years. More recently, she has done online PR and social media management stints for international clients. She is also a hands-on fur-mom to 18 plus dogs and cats.

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