But, looking back, I realize that a few habits have really stuck and I've executed them on a daily basis for years. If I could just figure out why some habits were lifelong and why others fizzled away, I could change the course of my future. After a bit of reflection, I think I figured out the key to making habits a permanent fixture in your life.
The whole "21 days to develop a habit" thing might work if only we were able to stick with it long enough. That's always been my problem. I can't keep up the charade long enough to engrain it into my life permanently.
I think I figured out my biggest mistake. The fatal flaw is in trying to instill a new habit without a support system to ensure its success. It's kinda like an organ transplant situation. The new organ, although necessary, isn't well received by the body unless certain measures and precautions are taken to ensure the organ isn't rejected.
Our subconscious likes to carry out routines and patterns that take out much of the guesswork. Building new habits doesn't fall under that equation. That takes too much work, willpower, and mental exertion. It wants you to go back to the way things were. That's why we constantly fail at changing our daily habits.
Transplant recipients are given medication to prevent the body from attacking the life-giving organ. We too have to employ strategies to prevent habit rejection from taking place. Like an organ transplant, we must make our subconscious think that this new behavior is similar to our old ones. Make it believe that this is a normal part of our everyday.
The way to do this is through a VERY SIMPLE process called habit linking.
Basically, if you want to integrate a new habit, you pair it with another, WELL ESTABLISHED habit or routine. For every habit you're trying to build, find a way to link it to another logical behavior.
It's that simple.
You're less likely to reject the new habit because your subconscious is already involved in carrying out the old one. I've been trying to get myself to go to the gym for months. But last week, I went three times! How?! Well, all I did was make the connection that I could go to the gym after dropping off packages. My gym is just blocks from the post office and, I go there almost the same time every day. So I told myself to swing by the gym after leaving the post office. So far, it's worked like a charm.
It was such an easy transition. The best part about habit linking is that the habits don't have to be huge. For example, every time I drink a can of my favorite carbonated water, I add a few drops of liquid chlorophyll as a daily detox. It may seem like a small action but prior to that, I had a hard time remembering to use it. The only supplements I consistently take are collagen. Why? Because I've linked taking them with water in the morning on an empty stomach.
Habit linking is basically the art of changing your life, one habit at a time. It works because there's a build it reminder (the already established habit)to carry out your new action.
There are no more excuses about "forgetting" to take your desired action. All you have to do is follow through with what you said you would do. This method does take a little bit of willpower up front. But not nearly as much as if you were to jump into the new habit with nothing to support it.
Let's make the habit building process as refined as possible. That's what the subconscious wants, it doesn't want to exert the effort required to launch a completely new habit. It wants to operate on autopilot. Use habit pairing to make it easy so we can increase our chances of success.