Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.
Conventional wisdom says it takes around 21 days to establish a new habit. But in reality, it can actually take much longer; one recent study reports it takes people, on average, around 65 days.
That may sound discouraging if you’re currently taking part in our 56 Days of Giving It All; does that mean when you complete your Streak, you’ll still have 9 days left over before you can consider it a success? But bear in mind the study responses fluctuated wildly; some people reported successful habit formation within 18 days, while others reported it took them a whopping 254 days for their new habit to become automatic. No doubt each person’s establishment period depended on factors like own personal discipline, the complexity of their new habit, how successfully they rebounded from setbacks, and more.
You’re already one step ahead of the game because you’ve chosen a daily task that’s actionable, specific and small enough it doesn’t feel overwhelming or impossible. You’re also working with a concrete, visible accountability tool — either our 56 Day Calendar or an app like Goal Streaks — which helps you “see” your progress in action and lets you build positive momentum.
Now it’s time to add one one more tool to your arsenal to really cement your new habit in your daily routine: a trigger.
Helping Yourself Stick to Your Habits
One of the hardest things about sticking to a new habit day after day is simply remembering to do it. We are creatures of routine, and it’s easy to go into autopilot and do the same things we’ve always done simply because that’s what we’re used to doing.
When you’re introducing a new habit into your routine, you need something to circumvent the autopilot and remind you to honor your commitment to that habit. Eventually, the habit will become automatic and you’ll do it without even thinking, but for the time being, a little nudge can help you stay on track until the habit becomes another part of your daily routine.
A trigger is a cue that reminds your subconscious brain it’s time to do something. You likely already have triggers in your current routine. Maybe the instant you step in the door at the end of the day, that means it’s time to go through the mail that’s come in and sort it into action piles. Maybe you always let your dog out right before you go to bed. Maybe you take your vitamins right before you go to bed. Maybe when your coffee is brewing, you also make your children’s lunch for the day.
We all have cues throughout the day that tell our brains, “It’s now time to do X.” So when it comes to habit formation, setting up a trigger that links our current routine to our new habit can help remind us to take action.
Examples of Triggers
So, what kind of triggers can you adopt to help your new habit stick? Let’s look at a few examples.
If your daily task for the 56 Days of Giving It All is to work out for 20 minutes every day, your trigger could be that you will work out as soon as you first get up, before things start getting hectic and time gets away from you. Set your workout sneakers right next to your slippers by your bed so they’re the first thing you see when you wake up. Have “waking up” be your trigger for working out.
If you want to stop using so much sugar, you could put a sticky note on your sugar canister to remind you every time you go to grab a spoonful for your coffee or cereal.
If you want to spend 15 minutes meditating in the middle of your busy day, you could set an alarm on your phone that will interrupt you in the middle of whatever you’re doing at noon, 3pm or whatever other time you prefer.
Getting a drink of water before bed could be your trigger to take your vitamins.
Turning on your cell phone in the morning could be your trigger to meditating by using Headspace.
Find some visual or audio cue — or some routine action you take throughout your day — that can serve to remind you of your new habit, and set it up so that it coincides with the time of day you’d like to do that habit. No more worry over memory lapses, “running out time”; you’ve fool-proofed your day so you can’t help but remember to stick to your habit.
It really is as easy as that.
Want more tips, inspiration and encouragement? If you’re not yet on our 56 Days of Giving It All mailing list, head on over here and check out the “Support for Your Streak” section for the tools and resources you’ll need to make your Streak a success.
Image source: Ansel Olson