Hard work is the secret to success, so they say. But along with hard work, good habits are essential for becoming successful in life. Good habits can make us "healthy, wealthy and wise." The more good habits you have, the higher your chances of success are in life. They are, in fact, short cuts to success. If you didn't have basic habits such as brushing your teeth or taking a bath, people would surely keep you at bay no matter how intelligent or hard working you are. In such a scenario, a person with basic cleanliness habits who works half as hard as you, or even less, would certainly be more successful in society than you. This simple example shows the power of good habits. This article outlines a few points which, if practiced with dedication and punctuality, can help you develop habits of your choice in due course of time.
- Have patience. A habit can't materialize overnight. Days, sometimes even months, of practice are necessary for proper development of habits. Be patient and keep trying so the habit has time to evolve. Don't leave halfway through because of frustration. Remember that hard work is not the key ingredient for developing a new habit; patience and repetition are the most important ingredients.
- Practice repetition. In order for an activity to develop into a habit, it has to be repeated a large number of times. Research claims that any activity repeated for 21 days slowly becomes a habit. I'm not sure of this 21-day deadline, but habits do develop in a month or two if the activity is repeatedly performed. It's not that habits need a large amount of effort and hard work to be formed. (We would have far less cigarette smokers if that were the case.) Habits take time to develop because the "activity" has to be repeated over and over again for it to be stored in our subconscious mind and hence become a habit.
- Tell people about your goal. Tell people around you about the new habit you are going to cultivate. They can help you accomplish your goal. For example, each time you unconsciously break the new habit, they will point out your mistake and you can correct yourself. You also want to be seen as a "man of your word" among others. Therefore, you will subconsciously avoid breaking the new habit in front of them once you have announced your new goal.
- Give yourself reminders. Write the habit you are trying to develop on your calendar and keep it somewhere you will see it. Repeatedly seeing this note "programs" your subconscious mind to remember the dream you are pursuing. Each time you tend to break this newly forming habit, the subconscious mind alerts you. If you are well determined, these reminders will help you avoid breaking the habit.
- Develop small habits first. Try forming small habits that require less effort before attempting to develop larger habits. Once you develop a new habit, your confidence improves and hence you can face newer, tougher challenges with more confidence. Attempting to cultivate tough habits in the beginning may lead to frustration. It might not be possible to realize the habit even with a substantial amount of hard work.
- Focus on cultivating one habit at a time. Having a long list of habits you want to accomplish is fine. However, see to it that you don't attempt to realize everything at once. Take up one simple habit which you think is the most important now and follow the steps above to develop it. Once you have formed a habit, take up the next one and accomplish it in a similar fashion.
- Adapt gradually to the new habit. Don't make a steep change in your present lifestyle to adapt to the new habit. If you presently drink five cups of coffee a day and want to stop drinking it (the new habit), then start drinking four cups a day this week, followed by three the following week, and so on. Steep changes in your lifestyle may lead to some health problems because they are habits that you developed over a lifetime. Be patient and gradual while developing new habits.
- Visualize your life with the new habit. Imagine a few times a day how different your life would be with the new habit. Imagine the rewards you are going to reap once your new habit has been formed. Think about the health benefits you are going to have with your new habit. These images will make your mind eager to adopt the new habit and hence it will be easier and faster to form the habit.
By practicing the above steps, good habits can be formed and bad habits can be removed. Greek philosopher Aristotle taught the following about habits: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."
I wish you all the best for developing the good habits of your choice!