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How many times have new habits been started and then you’ve let them fizzle out within a few weeks?
Don't worry, you're not alone.
Creating new habits can feel super challenging and impossible, especially if you slip up. But it really just takes patience, perseverance, and a well-thought-out strategy. In this article, we'll delve into the four most common mistakes people make when trying to develop new habits. If you identify the pitfalls, it will keep you aware. And you will learn how to overcome them and increase your chances of success on your habit-building journey.
Let’s dive in.
Neglecting to Measure and Track Your Success
If I’m being completely honest, this is one of the BIGGEST mistakes people make when creating new habits. I know I did. I would say, “I want to lose weight.”
But how much weight?
How do I quantify if I’m not losing weight if other things are changing?
How is my energy level?
If I’m not losing weight, am I gaining muscle?
You can adjust what you don’t track. Of course, you can work off of feelings but when I think of my Facebook Ad clients, we don’t work off of feelings when we are trying to scale.
We track their stats and data. Of course, I do use my intuition on some things but the numbers tell us what we can scale and what we need to change or turn off.
When you set a new habit, be it exercising, reading, or practicing a skill, establish a system to track your progress.
Consider using a habit tracker app, a physical journal, or a simple spreadsheet. For me, when I’m working on my health, I use MyFitnessPal to track my food. I use a simple spreadsheet to track my weight and body fat percentage.
For my clients, I use a Google Spreadsheet to track their numbers so we understand what it means.
These tools allow you to record your daily or weekly progress, providing a visual representation of how far you've come. By reviewing your efforts regularly, you can identify your patterns, areas for improvement, and celebrate your milestones.
Remember, tracking is not just about measuring success; it also serves as a reminder of your commitment and keeps you accountable. Celebrate your consistency, even if it's just a check-mark on a calendar or a digital badge on your screen.
Seeing your streaks grow will motivate you to maintain your new habit and reach for even greater heights. It also helps me when I fall off the wagon, because we know this is true too. But it also helps me to regain focus. I can review what worked and what didn’t work and how to adjust it too.
Making Overwhelming Changes or Taking on Too Much
A common pitfall when creating new habits is biting off more than you can chew. It's tempting to make grand plans and commit to massive changes all at once. However, that approach will lead to burnout and frustration. Ask me how I know? Well, let me just tell you.
I’m a Visionary (which I bet you are too), I have ADHD which also means I have a MILLION ideas, goals and things I want to accomplish. And I would consistently set myself up for massive failure by trying to create 2,323 goals and then attempting to create habits for each and every single one of them. I wondered why I couldn’t hit a goal to save my life. Well, it was because I set myself up for failure before I even started.
So now, I have ONE goal (which means one habit) in each core area that I’m focusing on in my life. And I only can focus on a MAX of 3 areas. So that means, I will not have “overlapping habits” in the same category so my attention isn’t being pulled in a million different directions.
I’ve seen a massive shift for myself in how I set this up and it’s so helpful for me. I invite you to focus on starting small and with one habit. And then gradually increase the intensity or frequency of your habit. For example, if you want to incorporate exercise into your routine, begin with a 10-minute walk every day. As the habit solidifies, gradually extend the duration or introduce new exercises. And of course, you can adjust it as you need to. This is about what works best for you as you’re building out your goal.s
By breaking your goal into manageable steps, you create a sense of achievement and build momentum along the way. Celebrate each milestone, whether it's completing a week of consistent effort or reaching a personal best. Remember, it's the cumulative effect of small, consistent actions that leads to significant transformation.
Overlooking the Power of Celebrating Small Milestones
We often fixate on the ultimate goal and neglect the importance of celebrating the smaller victories while we're creating new habits. I know I’ve done that a lot. I’d keep my head down and instead of celebrating the journey and wins with the mini milestones, I just keep pushing myself. We aren’t some workhorse that’s meant to just keep going. We are human. And we get to celebrate each step of the way, as we build new habits and bring more consistency into our lives.
Celebrating small milestones not only provides a boost of motivation but also reinforces the neural pathways associated with your new habit. Additionally, that creates more consistency with the habit that you’re creating.
Every step forward, regardless of size, deserves recognition. Treat yourself to something you enjoy, share your progress with a supportive friend, or reward yourself with a small indulgence. These celebrations help create positive associations with your habit and make the process more enjoyable.
Moreover, acknowledging and celebrating your progress helps overcome the inherent human bias toward negativity. It's easy to focus on setbacks or perceived failures, but by celebrating your achievements, you re-frame your mindset to focus on growth and success.
Neglecting to Create an Action Plan
Finally and probably the most important one – not creating an action plan. Without a clear action plan, your new habit is likely to remain a wish rather than a reality. Many people make the mistake of relying solely on willpower and motivation to carry them through. While these factors are crucial, they are insufficient on their own.
To set yourself up for success, create a detailed action plan that outlines the specific steps you'll take to develop your habit. Break down your goal into smaller, actionable tasks, and assign them specific deadlines or time-frames. For instance, if you aim to read more, set a goal of reading ten pages each day or designating a specific time for reading.
By having a more structured plan, you eliminate guesswork and increase your chances of follow-through. Furthermore, when you encounter obstacles or distractions, you'll have a roadmap to guide you back on track.
Healthy Nervous System Reminder With Creating New Habits
It doesn’t have to be perfect. I’m not perfect. There WILL BE some weeks where there is no progress with your habits. There will be some weeks where you’re barely making ends meet, but you can reframe it.
At the time of writing this, my dad had a horrible health scare. We were told he was dying and so of course, the habits that I didn’t have time for, didn’t show up and that’s A-OK. Fortunately, my dad IS NOT dying and that it was a horrible infection and I’m grateful that we were able to get it figured out. In these moments where I was driving 45 minutes one way to be with my mom and dad, my habits and how they showed up changed.
For example, I wanted to read each day and I was doing it before bed. The first night I got home, I didn’t read because I was so energetically and emotionally drained. So the next day on my drive out there, I listened to an audio book for 10 minutes. It wasn’t what I envisioned my habit to look like, but I was able to adjust because my body (nervous system) couldn’t add it in during this time.
You don’t have to be perfect.
It doesn’t have to be perfect.
You have permission to just start where you are.
I gave myself permission to just start ugly.
You have permission to adjust your habits as you go.
You have permission to change your habits if you find they just aren’t working or your goals change.
All of this to say, I’m human, you’re human and we’re fluid and sometimes duality comes into play. Trust yourself as you’re building out your habits.
Conclusion on Creating New Habits
Creating new habits is a transformative journey that requires intention, patience, and self-awareness. By avoiding the four common mistakes you’ll be light-years ahead of where most people are.
Remember, habits are not formed overnight but through consistent effort and deliberate practice.
Embrace the process, celebrate your victories along the way, and watch as your new habits become an integral part of your life.