How to Create Successful Habits in 3 Easy Steps

Here’s the deal…sometimes sticking to a new habit is hard.

And when the habit completely challenges your normal routine, this is especially true.

But here’s something else that’s true… sticking to a new habit that’s challenging is not impossible.

What’s more, you can absolutely do it.

And today I’m excited to share with you three simple steps to help you create and maintain your successful habits.

No more letting things slide.

No more “falling off the wagon.” (p.s. there is no wagon.)

And no more throwing in the towel.

It’s time to create successful habits that you’ll keep no matter what.

Are you ready to learn how?

Great! Check out episode 51 below, or stream it from your favorite podcasting app:

Prefer to read? Keep scrolling for the entire podcast transcript.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST HERE!

IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL DISCOVER…

  • How to frame your habits for success
  • The importance of starting, not stopping
  • My three-step strategy for habit success

LINKS FROM THE PODCAST

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How to Create Successful Habits in 3 Easy Steps (Transcript)

Hey everybody. Thanks for tuning in today. Welcome to the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast. I’m so glad you’re here.

Today we are talking about how to actually getting started making changes in your life. Whether you’re building a new habit, working toward a new goal, or simply trying something different, this episode is going to help you make those changes stick. And to do this we’re exploring the importance of focusing on what you’ll start doing to create change rather than what you’ll to stop doing.

And this concept blossomed from my podcast on strengths and weaknesses, which was episode 49 from a couple of weeks ago. 

As I mentioned back in that podcast, a lot of us tend to focus on our weaknesses. We focus on the areas that we lack. And we often have a hard time recognizing all of the value that we bring to the table. 

Negativity Bias

Well, as I’ve been thinking about strengths more broadly over the last couple of months, it’s had me start looking at things through a slightly different lens. And I’ve noticed that this focus on our weaknesses is not the only space where this negativity bias comes in. 

In fact, I’ve started noticing this a lot during different interactions with people whether I’m coaching, or teaching webinars, or just in everyday conversations. And I’ve found that it often comes up when people are thinking about making changes in their life, or their habits, or how they show up in their day-to-day.

What I often hear is something to the effect of: “I really need to stop doing XYZ.” In other words, “I really need to stop procrastinating.”Or ” I really need to stop wasting so much time on social media.” “I need to stop working so much.” “I need to stop picking fights.” Or “I need to stop eating junk food.” “I need to stop being so defensive” Etc.

The Importance of Growth

Does it sound familiar at all? Do you ever hear yourself thinking thoughts like this?

If so, you’re not alone. And in fact, you might even be thinking, “What’s wrong with that? I thought wanting to grow and change is good… I have all of these things I want to stop doing so I can make my life better.”

And don’t get me wrong. Making changes is good – I am all in. In fact, I’m right there with you trying to grow and learn and keep stepping into the next version of myself. 

Focus on Stopping

With that being said, I see a couple of hiccups with this specific approach of focusing on the negative in order to make a change. I see a few potential stumbling blocks with the way we frame our goals or talk about the habit changes we want to make.

Because as I mentioned, many of us are focused entirely on what we “need to stop doing” or “should stop doing.

Negative Self-Talk

And one of the first problems that I’ve noticed with this focus on the negative is that we use these areas of change as a way to beat ourselves up. 

We see an area that we want to change, and we keep ruminating over it with thoughts like,  “I really need to stop procrastinating.” Or “I have got to stop overspending.” Or “I need to stop yelling at my kids.” And “I have got stop being late all the time.” 

So I first invite you to think about this situation for you.

Think about a change that you want to make in your life, and think about the way you talk to yourself when you focus on it. If it sounds something to the effect of, “I’ve got to stop doing this,” or “I should know better by now, I shouldn’t do this anymore…” it probably doesn’t feel very good. And when we’re stuck in this negative emotion because of a negative thought, we’re probably not showing up the way we want to.

When we tell ourselves we should know better or we shouldn’t be doing something. And that thought makes us feel some version of frustration, or disappointment, or shame about what we’re doing. Chances are – if you’re anything like me – you’re not jumping with excitement to take action or make a change. Instead, you’re probably shutting down or staying stuck or lashing out.

We Rebel Against The Change

And in fact, this brings me to my second point, which is that many of us often want to rebel when we’re told to do something that’s in opposition to what we’re already doing. Even if we know it would be good for us. Even if on some level we want to do it. There is often another level that wants to push back. 

So if you’re telling yourself, I need to stop procrastinating, you may genuinely want to stop procrastinating on one level, but there’s probably some area in your brain where you don’t want to as well. There’s some area in your brain that rebels against being told what to do – especially when the new behavior is different or unfamiliar from what you’re used to doing.

What You Focus On Grows

Then on top of all of that, we have our third reason why this negative mindset can hold us back from getting started and making changes in our life, which is the concept that what you focus on grows. 

Now, this idea of “what you focus on grows” is pretty popular in the personal development world. It’s basically a way of saying “like attracts like.” In other words, whatever you focus on, and think about, will expand. In fact, Oprah even has a quote on this, which is “what you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it.”

Well here’s the deal, when we are focusing on thoughts like, “I need to stop procrastinating,” or “I don’t want to waste my time,” “I need to stop yelling at my kids,” your brain isn’t really hearing the “don’t.” It’s not hearing the “stop.” Instead, your brain simply focuses on the word procrastinating. It’s focusing on the words yelling at my kids. It’s focusing on wasting time.

Polar Bears

Let me give you a random example to demonstrate this concept.

Don’t think of a polar bear. Seriously. Do not think of a polar bear. 

Chances are, all you can think about right now is a giant polar bear. Because again, your brain doesn’t hear “don’t.” It just hears “polar bear.”  

What you focus on grows.

In Short

So when you want to make a change in your life, and you focus on what you want to stop doing, you’re likely up against three significant obstacles in terms of – beating yourself up, rebelling against the new goal or habit on some level, and making the undesired habit grow. Not surprisingly, you’re up against a pretty big challenge. And if you ask me, this is probably not the most effective way to create change. It’s probably not the most impactful way to see the transformations that we want in our life. 

Now don’t worry, I’m going to talk about how we can shift this practice to something different, but I want to play out the negative focus in a model first to show you how it really can impact our lives.

Stop Procrastinating Example

Let’s consider the thought, “I really need to stop procrastinating.” So maybe you are looking at your calendar and you see the projects that are due by the end of the day, and you’re thinking “I should really stop procrastinating.” 

Chances are, that thought doesn’t feel great. For me, it almost seems like I’m getting scolded. Or rather, like I’m scolding myself. 

So when I think to myself, “I need to stop procrastinating,” I feel frustrated with myself. And when I feel frustrated with myself, I don’t generally leap happily into the task that I’m avoiding. Instead, I find ways to distract myself. So I will go on social media. I will go on Amazon. I’ll text a friend, or check messages on Slack, or go to my inbox and answer emails. I basically do everything but the tasks that are on my list. 

And again, this is all because I’m feeling frustrated because I’m thinking, “I really need to stop procrastinating.” So the result that I create for myself is that I’m not doing my work. I’m procrastinating even more. And I’m reinforcing the cycle so I feel even more frustrated.

Focus On What You Will Start Doing

Now here’s the deal. We’ve all been in some version of this situation before, right?

So what can we do? How can we think about the changes we want to make in a way that inspires growth and forward momentum? 

As I mentioned at the very beginning of this episode, I really think one of the secrets lies in focusing on what we want to start doing. 

So what is the change you want to make? What habit do you want to adopt? Because that’s the same truth holds in this situation, too. What you focus on grows. So if you’re thinking about what you want to start doing, it is the new behavior where you’ll see growth.

In other words, rather than telling yourself, “I need to stop procrastinating,” perhaps instead you tell yourself, “going forward, I am going to work on the task on my list for at least 10 minutes. Even if I don’t want to. Even if I think it’s hard. And even if it’s super boring. I can at least get started for 10 minutes.” Because in that situation, your brain is focused on the concept of “working” rather than “procrastinating.”

Rather than telling yourself, “I need to stop eating junk food,” perhaps instead you focus on I’m going to start incorporating more vegetables in each meal.” Or rather than thinking, “I need to stop working so much,” maybe you think, “I’m going to start taking more breaks.” Or rather than, “I should stop being so defensive,” perhaps you think, ” I want to practice being more open.”

Small Shifts

And I know this might sound like just a tiny little shift, but it really makes a powerful difference. 

Because once again, your brain is always looking for something to focus on. Your brain is constantly running. It’s constantly looking for the next thing to think about. And when you give it something positive to focus on. When you give it something that you want to see happen in your life, you’re creating a situation where it’s much easier to make that goal a reality. 

Because as I’ve been saying over and over in different ways throughout these podcasts, whatever you have in your thought line – meaning the thoughts that you think to yourself over and over – they’re going to show up in some version in your result line. The thoughts you think will be your reality. So make sure those thoughts you’re thinking are serving you.

Okay, so we’ve talked about the bigger concept of focusing on starting and not stopping. But what else can we do to help us create these changes in our life? How do we follow through on our new habits that might feel like they’re in direct opposition to what we’ve been doing in the past? 

Now, I’ve talked about this topic in different ways in other podcast episodes, so I won’t go into a lot of detail here, but I will offer just a couple of suggestions for you to try out.

Remember Your Why

And I think one of the most powerful – and often overlooked – ways to help us follow through on the new behavior or habit that we want to start, is to focus on why we want the change in the first place.

Now some of you may have heard the concept of “remembering your why,” or “finding your why.” But for those of you who haven’t, the general idea is that you want to spend a little bit of time focusing on the bigger reason why you are adopting a new habit. Because when you have that underlying reason – that bigger picture objective – it often helps to drive your momentum forward. It often helps to provide that extra nudge of commitment and follow-through even when your brain offers a thought like, “I don’t want to do this.” Or “this doesn’t really matter.”

And I’ll give you an example of what I mean here.

Why #1

I was working with a client a couple of weeks ago who was working through some negative self-talk. And he would find himself ruminating on these thoughts that he’s been practicing over and over since grade school.

And one of the new habits he wanted to work on during our sessions together was to stop this negative chatter in his brain. He wanted to stop all of the negative self-talk.

So first we worked on shifting that perspective. So rather than stopping the negative self-talk, he decided he wanted to start practicing positive self-talk. He wanted to start thinking thoughts of encouragement and empowerment and confidence.

Now, if you have ever struggled with negative self-talk, you will know that it can be hard to change that conversation in your head. It is often quite ingrained. In fact, you might not even realize you’re doing it, so it can take a bit of work to even remember to practice these more positive, encouraging thoughts. It can be challenging.

Positive Self Talk

So I asked my client why he wanted to do this. I asked him several different questions to help him explore why it was so important to him to start embracing this different mindset. And throughout the process, he realized that his “why” – his reason for wanting to practice this positive self-talk was twofold. 

First, he has a big career goal that he set for himself, and he knew that having a more confident, empowering mindset was key to helping him reach that goal. 

And second — on a broader level — he wanted to set an example for his son about the importance of practicing positive self-talk and compassion for yourself.

And by honing in on his reason why — by really focusing on why he wants to make this shift in his life — it’s easier for him to stick with it, even when things get hard. Even when his brain wants to fight against the new practice. He sticks with it anyway, because he remembers the big picture. 

So once you figure out what you want to start doing in terms of the changes you want to make in your life, I encourage you to think about why you want to make those changes. Why are they important to you? And anytime you feel that wavering or you want to put off sticking with the new behavior, remember that why and put it on repeat.

Start Small

And the other strategy I want to remind you of when beginning a new habit is to start small. 

Now I’ve talked about how to stick to your habits and several different episodes – we talk about it in episode 6, we talk about it in episode 25 – so I won’t go into it much here. 

But I just want to remind you that when you start adopting a new habit or making a change in your life, begin by making small changes. And better yet, create a minimum baseline around it. 

Minimum Baseline Examples

And as a reminder, in episode 25 we explored the concept of a minimum baseline, which is simply the minimum amount of times that you will do your particular habit no matter what. So if your larger goal is to eat healthy, home-cooked meals six nights a week, perhaps your minimum baseline is to eat one serving of vegetables every day. 

It’s something you know you can stick to – even on the days you really don’t want to — so that you follow through on the commitment you made to yourself no matter what.

Or let’s say you’re struggling with procrastination on your book, and your big goal is to spend time 2-3 hours writing from Monday through Friday. Then perhaps your minimum baseline might be writing at least 5 minutes Monday through Friday, no matter what. Even if you don’t want to do it. Even if you’re dreading it. And even if you would rather do literally anything else. You are going to follow through for at least 5 minutes. That is your minimum baseline. Now, can you do more? Of course. But you will not do less.

And by following through on that minimum baseline, you’re establishing repetition. You’re rewiring your brain. And the pride and sense of accomplishment you get when you think “Heck yes! I showed up for myself again today” is the reward your brain needs to close and reinforce that new habit loop.

Recap

So again, if you are ready to make some changes in your life, if you’re ready tp adopt a new habit, or start working toward a new goal, begin by focusing on what you want to start doing rather than what you want to stop doing. Your brain doesn’t pay attention to the start or the stop. Instead, it just focuses on the action. So rather than telling yourself, “I need to stop being late all the time,” start telling yourself, “I’m going to start being 5 minutes early everywhere I go.”

Once you have that new behavior in mind, focus on why you want to adopt it. What is your bigger reason why? Spend some time uncovering why it’s important to you to adhere to this new behavior, which will help you stick to it on the days when you’re dragging your feet.

And then finally, create a minimum baseline for your new behavior. If your end goal is to be 5 minutes early to everything on your schedule, maybe your minimum baseline is to be 5 minutes early to work no matter what.

Start following through on these three steps, and you’ll start seeing those positive changes in your life faster than you think.

And if you are struggling with adopting new habits, or making changes, or sticking to particular behaviors, we should definitely chat. Make sure you head to imbusybeingawesome.com/freesession, and sign up for a consultation with me. We will talk about what’s going on with you and the changes you want to see in your life. We will do a little bit of coaching, and we’ll explore whether my coaching program is a great fit for the goals you’re working towards.

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