1. Try to change too many habits at once. This does not work. You really need to choose only one habit to change at a time. This has been my personal reason for most of my habit change failures—I was trying to change several things at once.
2. Make the habit change too large. Trying to start exercising for an hour a day when you haven’t done more than use your thumb on the remote control for the past several years. No, instead aim for walking just a few minutes every day at first. Or trying to start reading your Bible for an hour a day when it has been collecting dust on the shelf for years. No, instead try making your goal to read your Bible just five minutes per day. You can always increase the size of your goals for your habit change later on. Start small.
3. Don’t get any support. Try to do the habit change all by yourself—usually does not work. Instead, try enlisting the help of a close family member, good friend, find a support group or online forum or better yet find a habit change coach to give you the support you will need to succeed in your goal of habit change.
4. Don’t make any plans ahead of time for slip-ups. Every person will have a slip-up at some point or other on their way to establishing a new habit. What you need to do is to expect it and plan for it ahead of time. Think through what the triggers are for you right before you engage in your bad habit right now. Plan a way around each potential problem. For example, you know that every time in the past when you were on a weight loss diet you would totally blow it when you went to the office party after work. Plan ahead on what you can do instead—that could mean skipping the office party or eating lots of raw veggies before you go there or enlisting the help of your friendly co-worker to steer you away from the tempting items at the party.
5. Don’t tackle your self-talk. You absolutely must become aware of your self-talk if you want to succeed with your habit change efforts. Your self-talk is one of the most likely reasons for failure in changing your habits in the past. Try to catch what you tell yourself in your head and then think up positive alternatives for every negative comment you hear yourself thinking about yourself or the situation. Have those positive comments ready ahead of time.
6. Not choosing a hook activity to hook your new habit to. What really helps to solidify a new habit in your life is to hook it to something that is already routine to you. You could add something easily to your routine right after you wake up, right after you have your breakfast, when you step out of the shower, when you arrive at your office, when you get home from work, right after supper….you get the idea, just pick something that is already solidly in your current routine to hook your new habit to.
7. Be only half-committed. That is, don’t tell anyone about your intentions, don’t write it down and don’t make any plans for success around it. Obviously you need to do the opposite of that. Tell people. Write it down. Make plans for it.
Which reason has caused you to fail at your past attempts at habit change? Comments welcome.