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7 Keys to Building Successful Habits That Stick and 3 Things to AVOID

Building good habits is key to having success and operating in alignment. But there are both good and bad ways to go about it.

Successful people have successful habits. To put it another way, successful people have habits that support and/or increase their chances of success. So how can we develop habits that create a ripple effect of positive behavior and achieve meaningful personal and professional growth over time?

Keys to Building Successful Habits

Habits are things we do over and over again, sometimes to the point of unconsciousness. Do you remember brushing your teeth yesterday? You probably did, but you may not remember it.

There are certain strategies and concepts you can implement to develop new habits that put you on a path towards being successful and aligned with who you want to be.

Here are 7 things you can do right now:

1. Habit Stacking: This technique involves attaching a new habit you want to establish to an existing habit in your routine. By associating the new habit with a familiar one, you make it easier to remember and incorporate into your daily life.

2. Tiny Changes: Instead of setting large, ambitious goals, focus on making tiny, manageable changes that are easy to maintain. Over time, these small improvements accumulate and lead to significant progress, culminating in large, long-term improvements in your life.

3. Consistency: Building habits is not about dramatic transformations but about being consistent. Repeating small, positive actions over time can lead to long-lasting change.

4. Environment Design: Modifying your environment to make desired behaviors more accessible and undesirable behaviors less convenient can be a powerful tool in building habits. For example, if you want to cut back on the amount of ice cream you eat, try and keep ice cream out of your home. You’ll find you almost never want to go out to the store just to get ice cream. However, if it’s easily accessible to you in your freezer, you may not be able to resist the temptation.

5. Tracking and Measurement: Monitoring your progress and tracking the success of your habits is crucial for motivation and accountability. It allows you to see the positive impact of your efforts. You can use a journal, a spreadsheet, a diagram, et cetera. Whatever works for you. But be honest. Lying to yourself won’t promote success.

Set expectations for yourself as well. What do you want to accomplish over the next 30 days? How about the next six months? How about a year? Setting expectations gives you guidance on how much progress you should be making and gives you a sense of achievement and further motivation when meeting those expectations.

6. Habit Cues: Identifying the cues or triggers that prompt your habits can help you understand and control your behavior. By recognizing these cues, you can take deliberate action to change your responses.

7. Forming Habits That Engage the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS): The PNS is a part of our autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS plays a crucial role in regulating various bodily functions that occur automatically and without conscious control. The PNS is associated with the "rest and digest" response, which promotes relaxation and recovery. It helps slow down the heart rate, improve digestion, and reduce stress hormones.

Because of this, the PNS can influence habits related to relaxation, mindfulness, and self-care. For instance, individuals who habitually engage in practices like meditation or deep breathing exercises are activating their PNS to promote relaxation and well-being. Forming habits that engage the PNS can keep you grounded and in a healthy state of mind, enabling you to have more success developing new habits and having success in every area of your life.

Understanding the interactions between our nervous systems and habits can be helpful for individuals looking to develop healthier habits or manage stress-related behaviors. By recognizing how these systems influence behavior, individuals can make more informed choices and work to establish habits that align with their well-being and goals. This leads us to . . .

3 Things to AVOID

When developing habits, there are three things that you generally want to avoid -

1. Stress Habits: The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS), another part of the autonomic nervous system, is often associated with the "fight or flight" response, which prepares the body to respond to stressors or threats. When activated, it can lead to increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.

The SNS can influence habits related to stress and alertness. For example, if a person habitually responds to stress by reaching for unhealthy snacks, the activation of the SNS in response to stressors can reinforce this habit. Some people may habitually resort to smoking, overeating, or nail-biting as stress coping mechanisms, all of which are related to our body’s stress response.

Recognize these habits when you have them and try to avoid developing new habits that engage the SNS. Your body and mind are better off when you do.

2. Large Changes: While large changes in habits can be necessary, such as when attempting to overcome a health issue, you usually want to avoid making huge changes. There’s a very simple reason for this - It’s harder to do.

If the habits you are trying to build are incredibly difficult, you are less likely to stick with them. If there is a large change you want to make, try breaking it up into smaller,easier steps. You’ll find the process much smoother and easier to stick with.

3. Building Too Many Habits at Once: Much like committing to large changes, trying to build too many habits at one time is often not a recipe for long-term success. It can cause you to lose focus and can be seen as too daunting a process to undertake.

You want your habits to be manageable and easy to remember. Having a bunch of things you are trying to learn and keep track of can overload your brain and even cause you stress, which has a negative effect on the rest of your life. Focus on a small amount of habits at a time and watch them become firmly entrenched in your routine before moving on to new ones.

Habit building is like a muscle. Repetition is key to development. If you follow the guidelines in this article, you’ll be on track to change your ways and your life to be exactly who you want to be. That is a lasting change we should all endeavor to achieve.

To Lasting Change,

The KeenAlignment Team

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