Many people have many areas in their lives that they want to improve, including myself. To start to practice mindfulness and reach more people through my writing, I’d like to lift more weights at the gym and reach more people with it. These are just a few goals that I consider desirable. You probably have many more.
Even if we work hard to achieve our goals, our natural tendency to fall back into old ways is to do so. It is very difficult to make a lifestyle change that lasts.
Recent research has shown me that there are some strategies that may make it easier to make difficult lifestyle changes. However, you will see that the way to master many aspects of life is not intuitive.
Too many good intentions
- You need to learn how to be consistent if you want to master multiple habits. How do you achieve this?
- Here’s a solid psychological research finding on how to achieve your goals.
Research shows that sticking to your routine is 2x-3x more likely if you have a plan. This includes where you’ll be going and when you will do it. In one study, scientists asked participants to complete this sentence:
Research showed that those who completed this sentence were twice to three times more likely to exercise than those who didn’t make plans for the future. These plans are called “implementation intentions” by psychologists because they specify when, where and how you plan to execute a specific behavior.
This finding has been well supported and repeated in hundreds of studies across many areas. Implementation intentions, for example, have been shown to increase the likelihood that people will exercise, start recycling, continue studying, and stop smoking.
But, it is important to know that follow-up research shows implementation intentions only work if you are focused on one thing at the time. Researchers found that people who attempted to achieve multiple goals were less motivated and more likely to fail than those who stayed focused on one goal.
This is crucial, so let me reiterate: Creating a plan for when, where and how you will adhere to a new habit can dramatically increase your chances of success. But, only if you are focused on one thing.
What happens when you focus on one thing?
- Another science-based reason is to be focused on one thing at once.
It takes a lot of effort to keep a new habit alive when you start to practice it. The habitual behavior will become easier over time. Your new behavior becomes more automatic and less mindless.
- This process is called automaticity by researchers.
However, automaticity is only possible through repetition and practice. You can make automatic behavior more repetitions.
This chart, for example, shows how long it takes people to develop a habit of walking a 10 minute walk after breakfast. The degree of automaticity in the beginning is low. The habit becomes more routine after 30 days. The process becomes almost as routine after 60 days.
It is important to remember that new habits can become more or less automatic at a certain point. It depends on how hard the habit is and what your environment is like. You can also depend on your genetics.
However, the average habit can be made automatic in 66 days according to the above study. This number is not too high. This study had a wide range of results. The only conclusion that you can draw is that new habits will take several months to become habitual.
You can find more ideas to break bad habits and create good habits by checking out my course The Habits Academy. It is a top training platform for individuals and organizations that are interested building better habits at work and in life.
- You can change your life without changing your entire life
- Let’s take a look at what I have said so far, and then let’s discuss some practical tips.
- A plan that outlines when, where and how to implement a habit is 2x-3x more likely to make it a habit. This is called an implementation intention.
- Focus on only one thing. Research shows that it is not possible to implement multiple habits simultaneously.
- Research shows that any habit becomes easier to maintain with practice. It takes on average two months to develop new habits.
We have reached the end of this article.
All of the research has shown that changing one thing in your life will not make a difference to your whole life. It is better to concentrate on one habit and work hard until you are proficient in it. Then, make it a part of your everyday life. Next, you can continue the process with the next habit. Focusing on one thing at a time is the best way to master all aspects of life.