You failed again.
You tried to make a change, but instead ended up plopped on the couch with a six-pack and pizza...sulking in your defeat.
Failure is hard to accept.
And when you try to change a habit and fail, it can be deflating—having a negative impact on multiple areas of your life.
Whether you’re trying to quit smoking, to establish a regular exercise routine or eat right, a failure can leave you feeling helpless.
If you can’t make one small change, how can you accomplish anything else?
But there’s no reason to get down on yourself.
We all fail. And if you’re going to develop a new habit, you first need to know how to do it. And that starts with these 4 steps.
1. Want change like you’re suffocating and desperately need oxygen
You want to change?
But how bad do you want it?
How important is it that you change your habit? Well, it better be damn important. Almost as if your life depends on it.
You need to want change so badly that any alternative to success is unacceptable. This is why it’s important to examine your other options. Clearly define them.
Ask yourself, “what happens if I fail?”
“What will my life look like? How will this failure make me feel?”
In any habit I’ve changed, I always examine what happens if I fail. I use this as motivation. And this inevitably leads to a desire to change.
An example. For my 2017 new year's resolution, I chose to exercise 2-4 times a week.
I need to bring my cholesterol levels down. If I don’t bring them down, then what happens? How will my life look?
I’ll be forced to go on cholesterol medicine.
As someone who is completely unreliant on any prescription pills, I have a strong desire to avoid this scenario at all costs.
I think about the extra money I’ll have to pay for the pills. I think about all the previous times I’ve been forced to take medication and how the pills made me feel—tired, spacey, and anxious.
Now, there may come a day when I may have to take these pills either way. But I want to avoid that day as long as possible.
So I’m determined to exercise 2-4 times a week to bring my cholesterol levels down.
Of course, I’m making other changes in my life to lower my cholesterol, such as eating less ice cream (big problem for me), but the exercise is a key component of lowering my cholesterol.
So whatever habit you want to change, envision the consequences. Use these as fuel to make a change.
2. Find a successful model and study their process
Years ago, I learned a lesson that transformed my life. It came from a book called Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy.
Oddly enough, the main lesson I took away wasn’t buried somewhere in the book’s main content, but instead was in the opening pages. There Tracy talks about how he became a sales master, skyrocketing his income along the way.
What did he do?
He simply learned what successful people were doing to close boatloads of sales, and then did it himself.
In other words, he found a model and then copied it.
Whatever goal you’re trying to achieve, or habit you’re trying to change, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel or waste time trying to figure it out on your own.
Instead, find a person who has accomplished your goal successfully, learn the steps they took to accomplish that goal, and then do the exact same thing—adapting their steps to your situation as needed.
And since you’re reading this blog, you’re already halfway there. You’re learning a process to follow in order to change your habit. Which leads to step 3.
3. Take what you’ve learned, and put it into action
No goal can be accomplished, no plan can succeed, no habit can be formed, unless, you take action.
Action is critical for achieving anything.
You can learn all the knowledge in the world, but it will never manifest itself in your life unless you take the next step. Unless you take action.
How do you know what action to take?
Well, you’ve already done the legwork in the last step—you adapt the action you learned from your model to your life situation.
For example, I used this same tactic in my freelance writing career and joined a writer’s community ran by the six-figure freelancer Carol Tice. This community taught me how to become a successful freelancer by learning how professionals market their services.
I learned how to network at business events, build my LinkedIn profile and connections, and send persuasive, cold emails to potential freelance clients.
After I discovered these techniques, I took action on them. I started attending 6-8 networking events a month, began adding more connections on LinkedIn, and sent out 15-30 cold emails a month.
The month I left my teaching job for full-time freelancing I made more money than any of the previous 12 months I spent in Bangkok.
Point being, once you’ve learned the steps you need to take from your model, put those steps into action.
4. Have a singular focus
In his book The Power of Less, Leo Babauta talks extensively about how important focus is in forming a habit.
In fact, Leo isn’t the only one who touts the importance of focus when it comes to effectiveness. Both Bill Gates and Warren Buffett noted that focus was the single most important reason for their success.
It’s just as important for habit.
We all know that patterns and habits are hard to change, requiring a strong, focused effort to set and keep them in motion.
This is why spreading yourself too thin is a recipe for accomplishing nothing.
When I’ve found success in habit change and goals, I’ve narrowed my focus. Instead of trying to accomplish 10 things at once, I try to accomplish one or two goals at a time.
For example, in December of the last three years I’ve created a long list of goals to accomplish in the next 12 month period, totalling anywhere from 30-60 goals.
The problem was, I noticed I was only accomplishing about half of these goals, and not the ones that were most important to me.
So this year, I did something extreme.
I gave myself two goals to accomplish. I thought about what two accomplishments would make the biggest difference in my life and decided just to focus on them: exercise 2-4 times a week and increase my salary by 150%.
How am I doing so far?
I’ve exercised multiple times every week of the year, and I’ve already doubled my salary.
So focus on less, change one habit at a time, and you’ll have a much higher chance of success.
What prize motivates you?
Think about it. What new habit would make the biggest difference in your life?
If you made that change, what would your life look like? How would it be better? What kind of benefits would you get?
For me, when I decided to start meditating again every day, I not only looked at the consequences of what would happen if I didn’t meditate regularly, but also the prize.
I’d already experienced once how meditation had improved my life a decade ago. I saw how it extinguished my anxiety problem, and gave me a clear focus and calm.
When I fell out of my weekly meditation routine, I had lost this somewhat. But I was desperate to get it back. This, as well as the consequences of not meditating daily, were what drove me to change my habit once again.
So whether you’re trying to start an everyday meditation practice, start saving money every month or eat more vegetables, let the prize motivate you.
Visualize what it will feel like when you achieve your goal. How will people act towards you? What will they say to you?
You don’t need my motivation to accomplish any of this.
All you need is to find your own. It’s already in you.
You just have to dig it out.