Earlier this week on my YouTube channel, I uploaded a video with 2 Powerful Strategies to make habit change stick. You probably already saw that because you’re subscribed and awesome, but if not, do make sure to subscribe TO MY CHANNEL HERE for more great content twice a week.
In the above video, I laid out two powerful tips on how to make healthy habits stick, but I want to offer even more tips here. Let’s be honest, habit change can be wildly difficult! We’ve all tried to change some habit in the past, had a good couple weeks, and then slowly drifted off that habit.
So if there are tricks and tips we can use to make a habit stick, we need to know them to maximize our chance of success.
Now, in the video, I did lay out two important types that I want to share again. If you already watched the video, you can skip down to point number 3.
1. Focus on one thing at a time.
Too often people try to do everything at once. This is a recipe for disaster as it actually overwhelms our decision making capacity and leads to decision fatigue.
And they’ve found this in research as well. A study found that when researchers asked participants to do just one habit change, the participants successfully adopted that change with an 85% success rate.
85 PERCENT! That’s as good as guaranteed!
However, if the researchers had people adopt two changes at once, the success rate dropped drastically to only 33% chance. From nearly guaranteed to only a 1-in-3 chance… You have better luck leaving your success up to a coin flip!
But it gets worse! If the researchers asked participants to start doing 3 new habits, only 17% succeeded.
From nearly guaranteed sticking with habits to nearly impossible! Just by adding two things to the plate.
Now you might think this seems like an easy habit change mistake to avoid, but when people are trying to lose weight, they….
- Join a gym (new routine going to work or new routine coming home from work)
- Change their diet
- Try to drink more water
- Try to sleep better
And the list goes on and on. There are a dozen different things people can do to try to lose weight, and you can see how quickly we set ourselves up for failure. People change too much when they change habits.
So the best strategy is to pick one at a time.
Which is the exact strategy I use in my ultimate fat loss program, THE HEALTH AND FITNESS REHAB! It’s a 12-week fat loss program geared towards creating sustainable fat loss instead of using every extreme method to lose fat fast (and gain it all back afterward).
Each week has a different focus that way you’re only making one habit change at a time. And when you only make 1 change, you have over an 80% chance of success! As a trainer, of course I want to do everything in my power to give you the best chance of success and sticking with habits.
2. Focus on improvement to stick with habit changes
Too often, people focus on the fact that they’re not perfect or they focus on what they did wrong.
This is a shitty place to live, always telling yourself that you’re not good enough. It’s heavy, and it weighs down your motivation to always be so critical of yourself. It weighs on your motivation…
…Until you quit.
Instead, if you focus on improvements as you change habits, that inspires and motivates you to continue. It makes the process enjoyable so you keep engaging with the habit.
An easy example of how to pivot and focus on improvements is workout frequency. When people start working out, they often aim for 5 workouts.
But changing a habit is hard, and there’s going to be times you fail along the way.
So maybe you don’t workout 5 times one week. Maybe you only workout twice. There are two ways to view this.
The most common way people view this is “Shit! I only worked out twice. I let myself down and I couldn’t workout five times.” But there’s another way you could view this. You could just as easily say “okay, I got 2 out of 5, that’s only 40%. Next week, if I get 3 out of five, that’s 60% and I’m getting better. I’m gonna try to get better next week”
Just reading those two examples, you can tell how one is soul-crushing and how one feels a bit exciting and motivating, can’t ya?
So look for ways you can continue to improve to excite yourself and motivate yourself to stick with new habits.
3. Tie new habit changes with old habits
This is an INCREDIBLE strategy I’m kind of upset at myself for not putting in the video above. We call this “habit-stacking”
It’s honestly the easiest trick to doing good habits.
What you do is simply attach a new habit to something you already do all the time. Because your old habit has a 100% chance of happening without efforts, then your new habit has a very high chance of succeeding without extra effort.
Say your habit is a simple one, like putting your gym bag in the car. It’s an important step since if you don’t remember your gym bag, you won’t work out. But you keep going to work without your gym bag and then you end up skipping your workout because you run back home to get it and blah blah blah.
In order to succeed with the habit of grabbing the gym bag, we can tie this to another super common morning routine that you do without failure: Putting on deodorant.
If every time you put on deodorant in the morning, you grabbed your gym bag and put it in front of the door, you would stop forgetting to grab the gym bag. You have YEARS of practice putting on Deodorant. Turning the deodorant into a signal to remind you to do a new habit means you have almost a 100% chance of remembering that new habit each day.
There are thousands of ways you can tie habits together. I’ve seen people who picked gym locations specifically because it was on the exact street they drive to get home from work. Physical Therapists all the time have people do an ankle rehab exercise while brushing their teeth so they remember to heal the ankle. Just half an hour ago, one of my clients said he was going to submit his progress check before his weekend workout because his workout will be easier to remember, now he won’t forget the progress check.
If you’ve already built one habit, leverage it to build a new one.
4. Shape your environment for habit change success
This one can be HUGE! And honestly, most of the time we naturally do the opposite.
One of the most common things people do when they try to lose weight is go through their cabinets and throw away all their “junk food” to reduce temptations.
This is an extreme example of shaping your environment. If there are no potato chips, you can’t eat potato chips. On the other hand, if there are a lot of snack foods around, you’re more likely to eat snack foods.
It can make or break habit change.
It goes beyond diet though. The field of environmental psychology is constantly growing, but the evidence is clear. Our environment constantly sends signals to our brain and can either bolster our good habits or create struggles to maintain.
During the COVID-19 quarantine, one client was having troubles working out while working from home with gym closures, so he started putting on his workout clothes first thing in the day. As he worked through the morning, every time he saw his outfit, it nagged at him to start a workout. And he made the decision to workout during lunch almost every day because of the signals his environment kept giving him.
How about going to bed on time? With digital entertainment, it’s never been easier to ignore how late it is. Look, I’ve been guilty of staying up until 3am watching episode after episode of Breaking Bad (ugh, such a good show).
Such a good show!
We can set up entertainment that makes our habits tougher to maintain, or we can set an alarm that reminds us to shut off our electronics at a reasonable time and help us with our sleep habits.
Whatever habit it is you’re adopting, we can craft the environment to assist. At the very least, we need to look for the ways our environment is working against our habit change and shut that down.
Those are 4 powerful ways to have a healthy habit stick longer. They’re tricks I use with clients who are starting new fitness journeys in my HEALTH AND FITNESS REHAB program to build a sustainable relationship with their wellness, as well as many others.
I’m currently looking for a few more people to join the Health and Fitness Rehab, so if you’re looking to make healthy habits stick for the long term while losing 3 inches off your waist in 90 days, head on over and sign up.
Clients that complete the Health and Fitness Rehab have been able to stick to their habits beyond the program because we use a very systematic approach paired with supportive coaching and accountability. It’s a wonderful program if you’re looking to change your habits, and I only open once every other month, so join before the doors close soon.