I’ve been thinking about sustaining habits over the long haul as I notice some of the things I started working on in January are beginning to take root now that it is March. I’m of the opinion that a habit is a habit until you stop doing it consistently. So how do we go from someone that wants to meditate to someone who meditates consistently? Or someone who wants to write to being a writer? It means having a long-term mindset about habits.

Expect Imperfection

Marissa recently reminded me of what James Clear said in his book Atomic Habits. Inevitably life gets in the way now and again and we can’t do something that we would do again and again. When that happens, Clear says he tries to remind himself: never miss twice. This is a little anecdote we like to share with our clients which has resonated because it gives you a game plan of what to do when you miss a day. Just don’t miss two. It’s simple and easy to remember.

Start Small and Build Slowly

Unfortunately, this is one our clients often have to learn the hard way. They start putting a new habit in place and start small, experience the improvement, and boom they want to zoom right to the ideal. Which sabotages the success they’ve been experiencing. Build slowly. For example, I have been wanting to drink more water so I decided to fill up my water bottle every morning before I come in my office and leave it on my desk. I’ve easily doubled the amount of water I drink and some days quadrupled it. I’m tempted to commit to drinking x amount of water but I know that my resistance is still a bit too high for that. So I’m going to be happy to keep this positive change going before trying to make it harder.

good habits put water on desk

Take Ownership

When we do something consistently enough to call it a habit it can take a long time to think of ourselves as someone who does that thing consistently. I have clients that will say things like, I really need to be better at planning ahead or being on social media. When I point out how much they’ve improved in that area of their lives, it’s almost like they can’t see it for themselves because they are so used to not doing that thing. Take ownership of the work you’ve done. It sounds like…I am on top of my finances. I meditate consistently. I exercise consistently. Once you start to recognize the changes you’ve made and accept them as having staying power, you begin to identify with them and integrate them with who you are. That is when you will see your habits really take root.

So if you’ve created some really great habits this year. Let them take root. See how you handle missing a day or two. Have a game plan for when that happens. Let the improved actions you do consistently win over ideal actions you do seldom or never. And when that new habit does start to feel like something you can’t imagine not doing, own it.