By Leo Babauta
Changing something in your life, and having it stick, is a skill that most people aren’t good at. But it can be learned and practiced until you are good at it.
I’ve spent years practicing it myself, but in truth, I got decent at it within about six months of practicing it. The first few changes I made with this method stuck, and the more changes I made over time, the better I got at it.
What we’re after is not just the ability to make a change — anyone can do that — but to have it be a lasting change that will be a part of your life for as long as you want it to be.
You’ve already picked one change to start with — now let’s start practicing it.
1. Pick a trigger. A trigger for a habit is a physical event that immediately precedes the habit and sets off your urge to do the habit. Some examples might be stress as a trigger for smoking, or eating breakfast as a trigger for brushing your teeth, or waking up as a trigger for checking your email. You’ll learn more about triggers as you practice, but for now, pick a trigger that happens everyday without you having to consciously remember. Some examples include waking up, eating breakfast, eating lunch, eating dinner, brushing your teeth, arriving at work, drinking your first cup of coffee, leaving work, arriving home, going to bed, etc. Pick one for your new change.
2. Commit to practicing it every day this month. Tell a bunch of people about it, and ask them to hold you accountable. You can do this through Facebook, email, blogs, Twitter, our forum, or just physically telling people in your life. Fully commit to the change — don’t half do it or it won’t be important to you.
3. Put visual reminders somewhere where you’ll see it when the trigger happens. If your trigger is eating breakfast, put a note or some other cues in the area where you eat breakfast. You want to remember each time the trigger happens.
4. Practice doing the new change. Each time the trigger happens (ideally once per day), do the new change. It will have to be done very very consciously at first, but it will get easier to remember.
5. Try to string together a bunch of days. Mark your successful days on your calendar or on a log or do a journal in our forum. You should try to get as many consecutive successful days as possible.
6. Enjoy the habit. Don’t just do it to check it off your list or to get it done. Do it and enjoy it, so that you look forward to it each day, or your won’t stick to it for long.
That might seem like a lot of steps, but once you’ve picked a trigger and committed, it’s really just a matter of doing the change each day right after the trigger, and enjoying doing it.
So pick a trigger and commit to it today, and get to practicing! You’ll likely encounter a few problems, but we’ll learn how to deal with them as we practice. And through the practice, we’ll start to get good at changing anything about our lives.