2020 is a special time: it marks the start of a new decade, a new beginning. In the spirit of changing and improving ourselves, there are times when it feels unsurmountable and frustrating. Why? Becomes good habits don’t last.

By now, you would have been familiar that the key to maintaining a good habit is to do something consecutively for 21 days. But little did you know that that may be a myth, and new research has shown otherwise. In other words, it now takes roughly two months to form a habit and there is a whole science to it. Here’s what you can do to form habits that will help you achieve your 2020 goals.

  1. Reflect on your habits, old and new
    Some of the habits you have, do impact how new habits pan out, which is why it’s always good to reflect on whatever patterns you have. If any bad habits are preventing you from forming the ideal ones, you’d know better than to keep them, right?

Understand what’s in it for you and take baby steps to reap the rewards. Psychologists have broken down the four stages of habits, which are: the. cue, trigger, response and reward. Break habit formation down into separate blocks and start there.

  1. Take baby steps
    Our imagination tends to run wild, and we often rush toward our end goal recklessly. Habits, however, is less on the destination and more on the journey. Take baby steps instead of huge leaps to set up for success. If you have long dreamt of completing a marathon. Instead of starting with a full 24km run, why not begin with a shorter jog instead? Learn to build the momentum!

Quick-tip: There is ongoing study where taking a small piece of dark chocolate after doing a habit-forming activity tricks your brain into feeling more rewarded.

3. Record your progress
You’ve given enough thought about what’s in it for the habit you’re forming, and you’ve been making slow but steady progress. Unfortunately, you may be missing one crucial step: not tracking your progress.

Record your progress and reflect on the improvements you made daily; this gives you a birds eye’s view of how far you’ve come and helps in planning out for the future too. Let’s use the above example. Say, you’ve been jogging around two kilometres every day for the first week, and you are starting to feel comfortable with the pace. Perhaps it is time to push a little further and embark on a longer route of one and a half kilometres for the coming week? You might want to jot down the distances you have ran in your planner, and observe your improvements in the weeks to come.

Another way to record progress is Jerry Seinfield’s “Don’t Break the Chain” method, where you ‘cross out’ the days you jog. The big motivator is, as the name implies, not ending that long streak of crosses. Who knew visualising a string of crosses can be fun and rewarding, right?

Picture from https://littlewritingfactory.wordpress.com/2015/04/07/tuesday-tip-dont-break-the-chain/

However, don’t beat yourself up when you break a streak. We know bad days happen, and it is okay to slip up. Forgive yourself and get back on track as soon as you can.

Conversely, spot this red flag early during your journey of habit-forming – taking far too long for a breather. The inertia of starting up again grows the longer you take a break from your habit. Plus, you may find excuses which may eventually result in you giving up. Remember, habit-forming takes a lot of determination and discipline.

It will take weeks before your habits start to become second nature. No bodybuilder stops going to the gym after building ‘enough’ muscle, and likewise, ensure the longevity of your habit by making it part of who you are.

Habit formation is hard, but it is very achievable with the right steps and mentality. Transforming yourself is an arduous process, but it breathes new meaning to life and your sense of self, making the journey all the worth taking.

 By Lua Ker Hian

February 24, 2020 — August Berg