How often have you tried to build a positive habit and failed? I’m no expert in the science of habit-building, but my repeated failures at maintaining strong habits have taught me that eighty percent of people fail to build habits eighty percent of the time because of the following seven reasons. Hopefully, you can use them as lessons to help you start and cultivate healthy habits.

A Lack of Commitment

The primary reason we fail to instill a constructive habit is because we don’t commit to it in the first place. In his bestselling book, The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini, purports that humans are more likely to follow through on a course of action if they’re committed to it. So, to increase your chance of success, start by making a pledge to yourself that you will keep going until you have fully anchored the habit in your life.

They Don’t Set Tangible Measures of Success

No one can build a habit if they don’t have a way to measure their progress. What do you want to achieve? How would you know you have achieved it? You want to build a reading habit? How often do you want to read? How long do you want to read each time? Where and when do you want to read? Here’s how you can frame your reading habit to answer the above questions: I will read a self-help book for at least 10 minutes before bedtime, for at least 4 days a week.

Notice I used “at least?” Regardless of effective your methods are, it’s hard to know how things will turn out. So, instead of giving yourself a specific number to follow, use a range as your target. This is important because you don’t want to overwhelm yourself all at once. Avoid overstepping the bounds you set for yourself, especially when you are just starting out. Reading for five hours Monday and missing the other four days is practically the same as not reading at all.

They Go at It Alone

Never try to form a new habit alone. We are imperfect and, at some point, doubt, complacency, and laziness will creep in. And in those moments, having an accountable partner could be your greatest asset. A study conducted at North Carolina State University found that participants enrolled in a fifteen-week online weight-loss program lost more with an accountability buddy than their counterparts did. Gretchen Rubin in her book Better Than Before also notes that accountability is crucial for maintaining and breaking habits. Whether it’s a friend, a mentor, a coach, find someone you can rely on when the going gets tough.

They Don’t Have a Structure in Place

For your habit-building endeavor to succeed, you must create a system with the cues that support your habits, all the while removing the triggers that are detrimental to your success. It’s hard to quit snacking if snacks are the first thing you see when you open your pantry. You want to start a new reading habit? Get the books at arm’s length. Before I started my workout habit over ten years ago, I made sure I had a one-year gym membership. I also bought my gym clothes, shoes, a yoga mat, a pair of dumbbells, and an abs-roller. All this made it easier to maintain my workout habit, whether I go to the gym or stay at home.

They Start Too Big and Too Abruptly

There is an excitement that accompanies the desire to form a habit which causes people to give it all they’ve got at the outset, only to see their motivation fade over time. You want your motivation to follow an upward trend, not the reverse. So, start by building momentum and increase your challenge as you go.

They Are Too Serious

A habit is a lifestyle, not a goal to be achieved. So, you must be flexible and not beat yourself up for not showing up. Just relax! I have developed a reading habit, but sometimes, I intentionally stop if I’m not in the mood to read. I find it easier to get back on track when quitting is intentional. The mindset to espouse for success is that every day is a new day. You fail yesterday, shake it off and get to work.

They Don’t Have a Strong Purpose for Starting Their Habit

It’s critical for you to know why you want to start your habit. Ask yourself: why is this habit important? With a powerful impetus, you are more likely to persist in the face of setbacks, procrastination, and boredom.

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As you may have realized, I could summarize these seven steps into the seven ways to make it easier to build a habit. We all want something better in life. Regardless of what it is, learning to show up every day is the most effective way to reach success. Hope these seven tips help you strengthen your habit.


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