How to cultivate (and stick to) habits that serve you

Image: @arnelhasanovic

Words: Laura Wilson

Our days and lives, to a large extent, are shaped and coloured by our habits, patterns, and routines. Some are deliberate (like always putting your keys in the same place), others less so (always putting your bag down at the first possible moment and consequently losing said keys…). Here’s some tips about creating habits that help you consistently do the things you want to do effortlessly. Here’s our top tips to create a life you love and achieve your goals with ease and grace.

  1. Choose habits that excite you

This one is super fundamental, but easily forgotten. Clarify why you actually want to create this new habit to start with. Are you doing it for a reason that makes you feel joyful and animated, or because you feel guilty, or perhaps just have a sense that you ‘should’ be doing x, y, or z? If thinking about your new habit makes you feel dread, or heavy with a sense of duty, it might be worth rethinking and considering how you can create change from a place of positivity and self-love.

  1. Be realistic (read: scale it back)

There’s a time for being ‘all in’ and committing hard, but choosing habits to cultivate is not one of them. This is a natural consequence of being enthusiastic to achieve a certain outcome, but it is unlikely to work in your favour. If you overcommit by making your goals too big, or by trying to change too many things at once, you’re likely to get overwhelmed, and struggle to create any sustainable habits. Instead, be realistic, even underestimate what you think you can achieve, giving yourself the best possible chance of success. Remember, you don’t just have one chance to cultivate your lifestyle, you can continue to make changes, create new patterns, and tweak your life.

  1. Focus on the behaviour, forget the results or outcomes

We can get so caught up on outcomes (losing x number of kilos, being able to run a marathon, or whatever it may be), but it is actually more effective, when creating a habit, to focus on the behaviour itself. Work on setting behavioural targets (for example, riding your bike to work times a week or meditating for 5 minutes per day). You can think about specific outcomes and results later, if that is something that works for you, but, to begin at least, make it all about the behaviours themselves.

  1. Be mindful of your inner monologue

You can eat all of the leafy greens in the world, but if your inner monologue is about self-deprivation, unhappiness and guilt, you are never going to thrive. The way you speak to yourself is ongoing, pervasive, and fundamental to the way we think and feel about ourselves. Because it’s so ongoing and becomes so habitual, it’s easy to stop noticing how we speak to ourselves. If you always tell yourself that you’re not good at driving, eventually you will start to believe it. So, as you attempt to build new habits into your life, be open and aware of how you speak to yourself. Imagine you were speaking to a child, or a close friend. If you wouldn’t say it to them, don’t say it to yourself. 

  1. Create accountability mechanisms

Don’t keep your new habits a secret! When you feel accountable, you are more likely to follow through with our intentions (ever wondered why we use our sparkly gold hearts during our challenges?). Tell a few friends about the changes you’re making (or better yet, find someone who can take on your new changes with you!), mark your progress on a list or in your calendar, and be accountable to yourself by sitting down for a dedicated reflection time every one or two weeks. Use this time not to beat yourself up (see point 4!), but to be honest with yourself about how you’re going, what’s working for you, and how you can support yourself as you continue to progress.

Have we missed anything? Let us know your tips to build new habits below!