How to Create Habits to Live Your Best Life

Whether you are someone who loves to make routines or someone who prefers to be more spontaneous, the things we do shape who we are.  Gretchen Rubin said in her book Better Than Before, “Our habits reflect our identity.”  If you see yourself as a person with good hygiene, you probably have the habit of showering daily and brushing your teeth twice a day.  If you see yourself as a person who values good health, you probably generally eat healthy and exercise regularly.

In order to set routines to live your best life, reflect on what is your best life and list habits that will help you become the person you want to be.  For example, if you believe your best life involves reading news to stay informed, then create a habit of taking 20 minutes each night to read the news.  If you believe your best life involves spending time with family and friends, then set aside time each week to see family and friends.

Of course, just because you have created a new habit does not mean that you will take action on this new habit.  We are often told “if you set your mind to it, you can do it,” but change is not that simple. Willpower alone does not cause people to make a change.  People need the motivation and ability to make the change required to start a new habit in a variety of ways.  Imagine what your life would be like if you don’t make the changes that you want to make.  This strategy called “visit your default future” is explained in Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler.  The authors provide the following example: “When it comes to your finances, calculate what you will have to live on after retirement if you continue your current spending and saving patterns and then try to live on that much for a month.  Visit your future self, taste your future meals, lounge in your future furniture, and sit in your future car.” Reminding yourself what your life will be like without the new habits you desire to create can be a good motivator to make changes in your current life.  It is difficult to give advice about how to create and follow through on a habit because everyone is different, but the best advice I can give is to find what works best for you.  What motivates you to make a change in your life?  What prevents you from following through on the things you want?  Take time to reflect on a time in the past you successfully formed a new habit and think about what supports were in place to help you make this change.

In February I formed a new habit of running four times each week to train for a half marathon.  Sometimes I wanted to skip a run, but in order to prevent this, I often employed another strategy from Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success called “tell the whole story.”  The following narrative played out in my mind: “I don’t feel like running today, so I shouldn’t.  Wait, no, I can’t skip this run today, because if I skip this run, I’ll be tempted to skip another run.  Then I’ll want to keep skipping runs and if I keep skipping runs, I won’t be prepared for the half marathon.  If I don’t run this half marathon, I’ll feel very disappointed in myself and embarrassed because I already told people I was running it.  I will feel like a failure and nothing is worse than that.” What makes forming a new habit challenging is that it is our instinct to not do the new thing that we’re doing (running four times each week).  When we pause to remind ourselves the importance of following through on our actions by considering the outcome of not following through, we are more likely to continue acting on our new habit.

What are habits you have that help you live your best life?  Leave a comment with your response!

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