It’s true how at some point in our lives we’ve all set goals and good intentions for the year to come, we have these great visions and high expectations of ourselves and how the year is gonna play out. At first it’s only natural to stay motivated, excited, and essentially feel like you’re on top of the world, though little by little it appears we make it down our high mountain of success and in no time go right back to the bottom.  

Everyone goes through different cycles. One week you can be the most productive person in the world, someone who has somehow managed to have the perfect work-life balance, gets everything done on time, and is overall on their A game. Next week it’s very possible that working towards your goals may be more difficult. When our motivation decreases, the idea of achieving our goals seems to be further away than originally thought. 

So, “How can one stay motivated and most importantly commit to achieving their goals?”. My general answer: Good habit formation. Habits are behaviors which have been repeated several times to the point they become automatic. Staying motivated forever is not realistic, there will be days where it will be incredibly easy to simply go for the option that goes against achieving your goals and the truth is that being motivated despite being great, can only take you so far.

Illustration by Fursan 

Habit Stacking

Taking a series of actions everyday whilst being consistent is key to achieving your goals, this is why habit stacking is probably the best way to incorporate new habits into your daily life. The fundamentals of habit stacking are, taking a daily habit you do everyday and pairing it with one you want to adopt. This method was originally created by BJ Fogg in his Tiny Habits program and is very well explained by James Clear in his book, Atomic Habits. This technique works very well because you are already working with behaviors and patterns that you’ve been doing for a long time, which is why it is more likely that you will stick to these new habits. 

The basic formula of habit stacking is, After/Before (current habit), I will (new habit).

Illustration by James Clear

Cue

Every habit is initiated by a cue, this cue then triggers a craving that will generate a response that will lead to a reward. Someone who wants to eliminate a bad habit or incorporate a good habit should be aware of their environment and the cues around them, especially the ones that stand out. This way one can reduce their exposure to negative cues and find a way to make the cues of good habits as obvious as possible. 

Craving

As for the craving, the secret is making it attractive or somewhat desirable. A great way to make a craving attractive is by pairing an action you want to do with an action you already have to do. This can range greatly. The formula for this would look as follows: 

After (current habit), I will (new habit) After grabbing my phone, I will go on DuolingoAfter (new habit), I will (habit I want) After I go on Duolingo, I will check Instagram

Illustration by eamesbot

Response

Humans generally follow the law of least effort and the easier something is, the more likely we are to gravitate towards it. Due to this, it is highly recommended that one creates an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible and that when creating a new habit one decreases the amount of steps you have to take, in other words make the habit an easy thing to do. Additionally, it’s good to remember how in the beginning stage of adopting a habit, once you execute it, it should take no more than two minutes to do. 

Reward

Last but not least we have the reward. Behaviors that are instantly rewarded are more likely to keep occurring just as behaviors that are often punished, are avoided. In order to maintain a habit, one should feel instantly successful after completing it, after all the goal is to increase the odds that said habit or action will be repeated again. This is why starting out small is key. It can be something as simple as, today I will read three pages from a book. It takes no time, no effort, and after reading three pages you will feel instant success. From there, you grow and build on the habit.  

Illustration by iStock

Habits are very much underrated. They are actions people perform on the daily that affect their lives in both positive and negative ways. Though developing better habits can be a great way to further advance your goals, adopting only one or two habits are not going to revolutionize your life in short notice. Practicing good daily habits will get you closer to becoming the person you want to be, though because we live in a world that is constantly changing, we have to constantly adapt to our situations and make sure that our current habits align with our values and that they are serving us. 

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