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How to Build Habits That Actually Stick

Have you ever read an article telling you to give up social media to stop wasting time, then an hour later found yourself scrolling through your favorite platform? We know if our actions are benefiting us or not. Many people, regardless of their career, struggle to build good habits and break bad habits. Today, there are more sources that cause distraction than ever before. There are social media platforms, Netflix shows, short news articles, and more that are designed to keep us entertained. While there is a time and place for these things, frequently, we get lost in these mediums. Here are some methods that you can use to build good habits and break bad ones. Habit Pairing Habit pairing is as simple as it sounds. If you’re looking to build a new habit, take an existing habit and tag another onto it. For instance, if you’re trying to read every day start by doing it while you eat breakfast (a habit you already have). Habit pairing works because it leverages the trigger. Your brain will quickly begin to associate the trigger with the new habit as well. Using the breakfast analogy, maybe you eat immediately after showering in the morning. After several days of pairing reading with breakfast, your brain will associate reading with your routine. Using this technique is better than telling yourself, “Tomorrow I will read.” Making loose statements like that will make it easier for your brain to find excuses for anything but start your reading. Currently, I am doing this for meditation and gratitude journaling. I pair these two habits with reading each night.

Habit Tracking Tracking your habits, in the beginning, is an extremely helpful method for building or breaking habits. The way you track your habits is fairly personal. Whether you use a notebook, printed forum, a whiteboard, or your phone is up to you. Finding a way to track your habits helps you build momentum. Creating “streaks” is a good way to keep motivated on days you don’t want to do the habits. When you’re able to see that last week you hit your target each day, you’ll be more likely to do so this week. I create printed habit trackers to stay on track.

Identity Statements The way I break bad habits is through the use of identity statements while allowing myself full permission to do the habit. An identity statement is anything you tell yourself about yourself. As an example, “I am the type of person who does not watch YouTube.” You can use statements like these to build good habits as well, “I am the type of person who reads every day.” Your mind will want to align with what you tell yourself and others. Have you ever told someone about something you’d be doing and then not done it? When they ask you how it went, it feels pretty bad. Your brain wants to avoid that feeling. That is why identity statements work. Be careful not to beat yourself up when you don’t align with your goals. The way you talk to yourself will affect how you identify and act next time. Your mind will find ways to prove to yourself it is right. Granting Permission Have you ever noticed when you decide to quit something, it is more difficult to not think about it? So often, people take on restrictive diets and try to avoid certain foods only to come back to them a week in. This is because they are so focused on not eating the food that all they think about is the food. This is where granting yourself permission comes in. Allowing yourself to partake in the bad habit may give you power over it. You recognize you have a choice. “I am allowed to and able watch YouTube whenever I want.” Now, you are no longer thinking in terms of what you can’t have. (You always want what you can’t have). Rather you realize you have the free will to be the person you choose. “Don’t think of a blue elephant” is an example that shows exactly what’s at play here. Your brain can’t stop thinking about how you can’t have x, y, or z. Simply giving yourself permission to do the activity if you want will help you overcome this. It seems backward, but when paired with an identity statement you’ll more than likely choose the right thing. Also because you’re allowed to do it, you won’t feel guilty if you miss a day.

“I am allowed to and able watch YouTube whenever I want, but I am the type of person who does not watch YouTube.”

Building and breaking habits take time and persistence. Hopefully, these techniques help you in some way. Be kind with yourself and you’ll start working in harmony with your mind. Thanks for reading! I am an entrepreneur running a marketing business. Habits are the foundation of success. Especially when self-employed, time management is absolutely imperative. If you’re interested in more content from me, check out

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