Did you drink a cup of coffee this morning? If you’re like 64 percent of the country, you did. There’s always the chance you were just tired and needed the caffeine boost, but the most likely explanation is also the simplest one, meaning it’s far more likely you’re one of the 150 million Americans who start their day with a cup of coffee out of habit.
Habits are reoccurring patterns of behavior formed through repetition that allow us to perform regular tasks with little effort or conscious thought. You may not realize it, but you rely on habits all day long; this includes the time you wake up each morning, how you put your socks on, and even the route you drive to work. While they appear to be set in stone, they’re not. The truth is you have the power to improve your life by changing what you do. In fact, American philosopher Will Durant explained it best when he said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence…is not an act, but a habit.”
These seemingly involuntary actions fall into two main categories: good and bad. Good habits foster personal growth, success, and wellness—examples include regular exercise, journaling, and getting enough rest. Bad habits, such as eating junk food, smoking, and obsessive social media use, are unhealthy and destructive to our sense of well-being.
The Everyday Warrior philosophy is built on developing good habits, or what I call harnessing the power of positive habits. So, here are the three fundamental principles of cultivating positive habits and changing your life:
1. Start small, commit, and grow from there
Select a habit you’d like to develop, but make sure it’s realistic and attainable. Let’s say you’d like to start running. Committing to a daily 10-mile run is overly ambitious, and you’re more likely to get overwhelmed and quit. Instead, set a smaller goal, such as jogging a half-mile three times a week for 30 days. Choosing a distance and schedule you can manage will help you develop confidence and increase endurance, Aim for 30 days. It’s said it takes three weeks to make a habit, so a month is a tangible goal that will ensure enough repetition to turn that activity into a habit. Remember, as you gain experience and develop a better understanding of your strengths and limitations, the size and scope of your new habits will undoubtedly grow.
2. Use your routine as an anchor
Investing in ourselves is exciting, but sometimes the euphoria of self-improvement can cause us to go to extremes. This can manifest in many ways, including rearranging our entire life until it revolves around the new habit. This is disruptive. Habits should not be chosen or implemented based on emotion or whim. Instead, connect them to your existing routine in a seamless way. Maybe it’s going for a jog in the morning after you wake up, meditating for 15 minutes before lunch, or journaling each night after brushing your teeth. Anchoring the new habit to something you already do—waking up, eating lunch, brushing your teeth—will trigger you to act and put you on the road to success.
3. Make it easy to follow through
Do you remember the Staples commercial where someone struggles with a task until they press the “easy” button? There may not be an easy button in real life, but this step is as close as it gets. Making it easy on yourself by taking simple steps can make a big difference in following through. It can be as simple as laying out your running shoes and workout clothes before bed if you plan on jogging the following day or packing a healthy lunch in advance so you can avoid fast food when you’re hungry. As the saying goes, “Fortune favors the prepared.” The easier you make a habit in advance through preparation, the greater the likelihood of following through when the time comes.
Habits are at the core of who you are—whether they’re positive or negative is entirely up to you. Introducing a new one is difficult, but soon you’ll forget you’re even doing it. In fact, it’ll become such a normal part of life that missing your morning run or afternoon journal entry will leave you feeling off-balance. The most important thing to remember is that slipping up doesn’t mean starting over. When it happens (and it will), just pick up where you left off; while your journey will be bumpy and far from straight, it’ll also be well worth it—and not just for you. When you start seeing your hard work pay off, others will too. That means you’ll not only be changing your life but inspiring others to do the same.