I have recently completed a 10week meditation course and I want to share with you why this time it worked. I have tried before to create the habit of setting time aside to meditate and I have often failed. But this time was different. WHY?
I was taught how to learn a new habit! At age 46 I have learnt such a useful new skill. Below is a summarized version of how I learnt my new habit.
I have always been one of those people who say that it’s the little things that make a difference and now I know why. James Clear in his book Atomic Habits states that “Small habits make big differences”. One glass of wine each night adds up to 7 glasses in a week! A quick 4km trot around the block every night adds up to 20km per week (nice). See how quickly small things add to significant numbers. The same is true for habits. Lots of small repetitions form significant patterns of behaviour - this is how we form new habits. They are strengthened by an increase in the number of repetitions. Meaning the more you do it the more established the habit becomes. Unfortunately, that works the same whether it’s a good habit or an unwanted habit. Aristotle quotes that “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”.
Okay and now we get to how to start a new habit in three steps:
1. Select your reminder (cue).
The reminder is the trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Select an existing daily action (habit) that can be your reminder (e.g. waking, dressing, brushing teeth, eating, commuting, etc). I chose the reminder brushing my teeth (or you can also choose a certain time of the day like 7am and 7pm but remember to still have a reminder activity).
Use your chosen reminder to trigger you to perform your new habit. This habit stacking pairs a new habit with a current habit e.g. I will meditate after I brush my teeth at night, before I get into bed.
3. Reward (for completing the routine)
The reward helps provide an incentive for your brain to remember the task for the future (autopilot). A reward can be a physical sensation (the calm of the actual meditation) or an emotional payoff such as feelings of pride (placing a tick on my meditation schedule ticklist).
I get a feeling of pride when I see my 21- day tick list fill up with ticks each day (with no gaps) as I complete my 21 days. But remember the reward needs to be something that appeals to you.
Here are some super helpful tips
1. Make it Obvious (Have reminder in your environment). Your environment set up is KEY to successful habit forming.
2. Make it attractive (Have a reward).
3. Make it easy (Start small e.g. 1 min a day not 20mins).
4. Make it satisfying.
And then there is an added BONUS.
Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit found that as people strengthened their willpower muscles in one part of their lives, that strength spilled over into other areas of their lives. In other words the confidence we gain in creating a new habit influences other areas of our lives. Jim Rohn says that “Motivation is what gets you started and habit is what keeps you going”. So true because what I experienced is that when I perform my new habit without using the reminder – the autopilot turns off and I end up forgetting to do it. So stick to the reminder and then once the habit is established after 21 days it will become more natural and like autopilot in a good way.