5 Hacks to Create Powerful HabitsBy Homaira Kabir
So much of our lives are lived on autopilot. We eat, sleep, go to work, attend to house chores, try to fit in some fun or self-care, or simply wind down in front of the television. Then we begin the same process all over again the very next day.
Sure, there are moments when we consciously pay attention to what we're doing. But paying attention expends mental energy and is tiring for the brain. Sooner or later, we revert back to what comes habitually to us—because habits don't require any mental exertion at all.
However, many of our habits don't serve us very well. Most of them were set in place a long time ago, in response to what we were facing, or simply as a result of the brain's tendency to go for what feels easy or enjoyable in the moment. A bag of chips on the couch is easier than half an hour at the gym. Triple-layer chocolate cake is more enjoyable than carrot sticks. Both of those luxuries are great treats once in a while. But as habits, they don't serve us well.
If we want to take greater charge of our lives, we need to reverse-engineer our habits. Instead of letting the unconscious decide our future, we need to reflect on what we want, then consciously create powerful habits that lead to this desired future. Since this process does take mental energy initially, here are 5 research-backed hacks you can use to make your brain work for you—rather than opting for the easy way out.
Take Changes One at a Time
When we set out to bring positive change into our lives, we often try to change everything at once. This is fine if you’re changing your wardrobe or furniture, but habit change requires willpower. And we know from Roy Baumeister's research that willpower is a depleting resource. Pick the habit that's causing you the most misery, or the one that’s the greatest obstacle to your growth. Or, if you’re a first-timer in building habits, choose one that you're ready to change—but just one. You're not trying to prove yourself to anyone. Then move on to the next hack.
Consistency Is Key
Now that you know the habit you'll be working on, promise yourself that you'll be consistent with the change. Dr. Christine Carter, an author and sociologist who has researched habits in depth, says that you may want to have a BTN (Best to Nothing) for your habit. A BTN is a mini version of the habit that you’ll still engage in even if circumstances beyond your control prevent you from doing the full thing. For example, if your habit is a 30-minut