The Blueprint for Effectively Building Better Habits

Is the ability to successfully form new habits encoded in our DNA and only limited to a select few? Why is it that a marginal few are able to transform their lives while the masses fail miserably in changing behaviour patterns that do not serve them? The answers lie in your approach or blueprint for effectively building better habits.

Most of us attempt forming new behaviours with a single giant leap that has more of a shock effect to our systems. To our bodies and minds this is unfamiliar and they will fight to retain what is familiar to them.

Forming new habits is more of a marathon than a sprint. You have you be in it for the long run. It is the daily practising of new behaviours over time that brings about the desired change. It takes repeated action to build new habits. In this way we retrain the brain. The consistent pace is well worth the rewards it brings once your newly formed habit becomes second nature.

Common myths of forming new habits

Don’t sabotage your new habit-forming initiative with thoughts that only lead to failure. It is surprising how common these are:

  •         It takes 30 days or less to form a new habit
  •         We need perfection when building new habits
  •         Big changes lead to better results faster

The difficulty most of us have with forming new habits is with the transition period. After the initial euphoria of wanting a change is the waning of enthusiasm and willpower – instrumental keys in bringing about change. What sets the successful apart from the unsuccessful is never giving up.  Part of building new habits successfully is embracing the process which makes habit formation easier.

What science says about habit formation…

A health psychology researcher at University College London published a study in the European Journal of Social Psychology, which investigated how long it really takes us to build new habits into becoming second nature. The answer – 66 days.

The study also revealed another bit of startling information. Faltering in your attempt to master a new habit by missing an opportunity every now and then to repeat the behaviour does not have a significant impact on the habit forming process.

Tips for effectively building new habits

Seeing building new habits as a huge commitment hinders rather than promotes your commitment and willingness which are absolutely essential to the habit formation process. Other useful tips to include on your blueprint are:

  •          make it easy to start by starting small
  •          have visual reminders or triggers placed around you
  •          set a timer or alarm or mark on a calendar when you need to practise the new behaviour
  •          give yourself permission to make mistakes, it takes time and commitment
  •          have strategies in place to motivate you to keep on trying
  •          reward yourself for every time you actively repeat the desired habit

You have to know right up front that during this process you will be making mistakes. You sabotage your efforts when you judge yourself harshly for failing at building new habits or for poor performance.  Your level of performance improves over time.

We don’t need to be chained to our fears or bad habits that prevent us from experiencing happy and healthy lives. We can retrain the brain by practising and growing new healthier behaviours into becoming second nature. Admittedly, the process of forming new habits requires dedication and commitment. The price (in terms of time and effort) to live happier and healthier is however ridiculously cheap.


Photo credit: iStock

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