How to Establish New Habits You’ll Actually Stick With

    How are you progressing on your goals?

    1 – Leading Thought

    Change isn't easy. Small change makes it easier and more likely to create steady transformation. — Corinna Hagen Click To Tweet

    2 – Your Choice

    In my coaching practice, I come across a lot of great people. The leaders I get to coach with are proactive professionals who take charge of their careers by taking a step to influence their development and their future. Everyone of them is working on change, because they have realized that growth comes from those changes, and from learning, awareness, stretching and action.

    Let’s say you want to change the way to approach things at work. Or, you may want to change a specific habit that has been making your life difficult. To ignite that transformation is fairly easy: When you realize you are not content where you are, you begin to desire a change. That desire sparks motivation, which sets the change in motion.

    As you begin to work on uncovering what needs to change, you ambitiously set goals for yourself. You define what needs to change. Very often, these goals are ambitious – a little too ambitious. Change is hard. Change takes time. And we are creatures of habit. So when we aim for change, we come up against old habits, things we do even without thinking.

    You may have heard the term “it takes 21 days to change a habit”. This a myth for the most part. This statement was based on a study of people who received reconstructive surgery and they adjusted to their new state within that time frame. That’s hardly habit change.

    Small changes can change in 30 days, like flossing your teeth every day. Changes that involve reversing or overcoming old thinking patterns take longer to overcome. But all of these changes are possible if you stick to them.

    How Do I Stick With My Habits?

    It turns out, starting is not as easy. Staying the course is equally hard. How can you “trick yourself” into succeeding here?

    1. Start small. Don’t plan big changes that overwhelm you or are unrealistic.
    2. Define your 1% change. Small changes accumulate over time. A 1% change over 365 days compounds to roughly 37% improvement in a year. Who wants to be 37% better next year?
    3. Set incentives and monitor publicly, visibly. Buy a wall calendar. Place it in your kitchen, where your family can see it, or in your (home) office in a place people can see. Take a big, red Sharpie and cross out each day you have stuck to your habit. The rule: Never break the chain! Set yourself a reward for staying consistent.

    3 – Way to Grow!

    Stretch challenge: Pick one of your habit goals. Identify the smallest change. Set a goal for that 1% change and track your progress.

    Related Resources:

    • How 1% Improvements Led to Olympic Gold (HBR Article) – 5 min. read
    • Making Habits, Breaking Habits (Blinkist Book Summary) – 9 min. read
    • Atomic Habits: How to get 1% better every day (Video) – 8 min.
    • Atomic Habits (Book) – 320 pages

    Here’s to making great choices!


    The Leading Choices newsletter covers three parts in each edition: 
    1    Leading Thought

    Inspiration from accomplished leaders

    2    Your Choice

    Insights impacting your leadership and career choices 

    3    Way to Grow

    Resources for your growth

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