While inspiration can be a great motivator, it’s not sustainable. That’s why building habits that stick with you will make you succeed in small ways, every single day.
We all believe that habits are important. In fact, the profound impact that habits have on our lives can be the difference between being successful or not. But, are habits more important than inspiration?
You may have heard this proverb before:
"A habit is something you can do without thinking, which is why most of us have so many." - Frank A Clark.
It’s a simple statement, but it carries both truth and value. Without habits our lives would be chaotic. In fact, being able to go about your daily activities without having to think about them minimizes frustration and allows you to be spontaneous in other areas of your life.
When you wake up, do you roll over and look at the clock? Or maybe you leap out of bed instantly knowing that it is time to start your day?
If you are like most people, neither of these things happen. Instead, somewhere between the two extremes is what actually occurs.
A groggy, sluggish, sleepy eyed person stares at the clock for several seconds before they realize that it is time to get out of bed.
The painful truth is that you won’t feel inspired everyday. Yes, maybe for your first day of work you’re hyped and the excitement may make you leap out of bed.
But, after that first week, when motivation fades, it’s the good ole habits that’ll keep you going. – Well habits and an empty bank account 🙂
"It's one thing to be inspired for a week or even a month. It's another thing to have healthy habits for years at a time. The human body and mind respond remarkably well to consistency." - Naveen Jain
Creatures of habits
How do you feel when you are rushed and cannot find your keys or wallet?
For most of us, when we aren’t able to locate the things that we need, we get stressed. We have a feeling that something is not quite right and it frustrates us.
Then, we blame our forgetfulness on being unorganized. But, the truth is that we are all creatures of habit. Which is both a good and a bad thing – depending on the habit.
Notably, a ‘creature of habit’ is a person who does the same things or has the same routines every day.
“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you're inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won't. Habit is persistence in practice.” ― Octavia Butler
But is habit more important than being inspired?
Many people think that inspiration drives you. While it can be a part of your drive, the power to succeed comes from good habits. For instance, a person may be very inspired to lose weight and get in shape, but that’s simply not enough.
To focus on inspiration alone is like driving a car with no navigation system. You may never end up at your destination or at least not as easily and quickly as you could have.
Many of the most famous people of our time and history were/are not particularly talented or gifted individuals. But, they had one thing in common and that was their dedication. When it comes down to it, good habits are what make us who we are.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that inspiration is very important. But, inspiration fades. However, healthy habits allow us to become better and more effective people.
Habits produce real change. They are the building blocks of our lives. By taking the time to set up good habits, you can save yourself a lot of frustration, anxiety and sickness.
So, the next time you get inspired, follow it up with a plan to make sure you don’t lose momentum over time. You will thank yourself later.
Ever wondered why many persons who lose weight are unable to keep it off?
Most people who lose weight are unable to keep it off because many weight-loss interventions are just focused on temporarily changing behaviors and not developing lifelong habits.
That’s why habit-based interventions have been so successful. In fact, developing healthy habits and routines to create a healthy lifestyle will lead to sustained change.
Good habits allow us to function without having to think about them. It is this fact alone that makes them so valuable to us. Once you have a good habit, then it becomes automatic and effortless.
"Every day you have a choice: to be a victim of your circumstances or to take control with consistency." -Tony Robbins
List of the importance of creating healthy habits
Here’s a list of the top reasons why you should start creating healthy habits:
- They give you a clear path towards your goals
- Habits increase your productivity
- They allow you to maintain good health and reduce sickness
- Healthy habits help you manage chronic illness.
- Your self-control will increase.
- Healthy habits control or prevent toxic behavior.
List of easy healthy habits to start
Don’t underestimate the value of developing simple, small healthy habits. Not only will it directly improve your health but it will form the foundation for even greater successes and milestones.
So, even if it’s taking the stairs once a day, eating half a fruit or drinking an additional glass of water, try to stay committed and you’ll reap the benefits.
These are some healthy habits that you can easily develop that will still be extremely beneficial to your personal wellness:
- Getting enough sleep every night (7-8 hours)
- Eat an extra serving of fruit/vegetable daily
- Prepare your healthy snacks in advance
- Being physically active most days of the week
- Drinking lots of water each day
- Spend 15 minutes alone daily
- Start using sun screen when necessary
Related: Self-care tips
How are new habits formed
New habits are formed through repetition and practice. By doing the same thing over and over again, we can create a new habit. However, it isn’t as easy as just wanting to do something daily
Here are the steps that you should take:
- Identify the new habits to develop
- Understand why it is important
- Break down the new habit into smaller steps
- Create a supportive environment
- Establish accountability
- Track your progress
- Continue until the action becomes automatic
"You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine." -John C Maxwell
1. Identify the new positive habit you want to develop
Identify the problem you want to solve and then select a new behavior to help you get there. Be sure to write it down as well. This will help you remain focused.
Research shows that it’s helpful when you choose the behavior you’d like to change yourself- not your spouse or doctor, but you (Arlinghaus &Johnston, 2018).
However, you must note that it’s not only about giving up something that is bad but about developing something that’s new and healthy. Breaking bad habit are much more difficult than more new ones.
2. Develop an understanding of why the habit is important
Establishing an understanding of why creating the new habit is important will help you create lasting change. In fact, if you view the change as important enough, you’ll be more likely to push through any obstacles that stand in your way.
3. Break down your new habit
Next, break down the new habit you selected into simple baby steps that are easy to follow and understand. Establish when and where the action needs to be done.
Notably, having a long-term goal and small clear steps to achieve them will help you succeed.
Since habits usually require a trigger/prompt, try to establish the precise action that will occur before the habit. For instance, drink a cup of water (new habit) AFTER brushing my teeth (cue/trigger).
4. Create a supportive environment
When you start, be sure to create a supportive environment that will allow you to succeed. This could be anything from creating a bedtime routine or getting rid of distractions.
Try to experiment with different strategies to find the one that will work for you – given your schedule and preferences.
5. Establish accountability
Remind yourself that you are trying to build this habit for your health and well being. So, you have to try to be consistent.
Establishing accountability can be as easy as committing to a friend or family member. However, you can also use apps to help you stay on track.
6. Track your progress
Keep a journal with the date and how long it took you to complete your new habit.
Luckily, the research assessing the creation of new habits shows that missing a day did not affect overall outcomes.
So, if you miss a day or two, particularly for unavoidable reasons, don’t be too hard on yourself. Keep going, you definitely don’t have to start over. It’s important that you don’t make excuses (Arlinghaus & Johnston, 2018).
"Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. Getting 1 percent better every day counts for a lot in the long-run." - James Clear
7. Continue until you’re doing the action automatically
I know that many of you have heard that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. However, in one study participants were asked to develop a simple dietary habit.
Based on the results, the time taken to actually develop this habit ranged from 18 days to 254 days.
Actually, developing the new habit took an average of 66 days to become automatic. However, for more complex actions and behavioral change the process was much longer (Arlinghaus & Johnston, 2018).
So, it’s difficult and can be very disappointing if you feel like you’re taking too long to form a habit. It really does depend on so many factors, particularly the person, the environment and the habit that they’re trying to develop.
Challenges to forming healthy habits
The challenges of forming healthy habits are inevitable. Some of the main challenges include:
- Lack of support from family and friends
- Inability to prioritize the new habit in your schedule
- Feeling too overwhelmed by all you have to do
List of unhealthy habits
Bad habits can be just as detrimental to our well-being as good ones are beneficial. Some of the most common unhealthy habits include:
- Eating a lot of junk food, fast food, and/or processed food
- Spending too much time on social media or other sites that do not contribute to your life’s purpose
- Overspending money on things that are not important to you
- Using drugs and/or alcohol excessively
- Taking on too much responsibility for other people and neglecting your own needs
- Becoming consumed with work and neglecting relationships and/or family life
- Overindulgence in sexual activity and not taking precautions to prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
"First we form habits, then they form us. Conquer your bad habits, or they'll eventually conquer you." - Robert Gilbert
Final words on why habits are more important than inspiration
As with most things in life, the key to success is balance. While creating habits are important, inspirational moments are what drive us towards our goal.
They help us maintain our focus when it gets difficult. We need inspiration every once in a while or we become complacent. As such, being inspired is important, but it must be sustained by the discipline of habit.
When you are inspired, recognize that what you do next is just as important as being inspired in the first place! You have to create healthy habits for them to truly last. Your life will be transformed by the power of habits.
Do you agree that habits are more important that inspiration? Let me know in the comments below.
"You are what you repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Will Durant
What’s the difference between habits, routines and rituals?
Although habits, routines and rituals are similar, they each have different definitions.
- Habits are learned, automatic behaviors that can be improved by changing the frequency and duration of a behavior. They are defined as any behavior that you perform with little conscious thought. Habits usually require a cue (prompt/signal). For instance, you might have the habit of reaching for a cigarette every time you drink alcohol.
- Routines are specific tasks or activities that need to be completed regularly but require some more effort. For instance, brushing your teeth after dinner each night is a routine.
- Rituals are highly symbolic behaviors that help to define our most significant experiences, such as weddings, holidays and special occasions. They are repeated in a certain sequence. For instance, lighting candles during a holiday dinner.
How to break bad habits that affect your life?
Breaking bad habits can be difficult, but healthy habits can help with this process. If you have the habit of drinking soda every day, for instance, try replacing it with water or a flavored sparkling water.
You might also try making an effort to drink water instead of soda at specific times of the day, such as throughout your workday or even before bed each night so that you can develop the habit of drinking water.
Regardless, there are many steps to break bad habits. But, it starts with a deliberate intent to get started. Read more
Arlinghaus, K. R., & Johnston, C. A. (2018). The Importance of Creating Habits and Routine. American journal of lifestyle medicine, 13(2), 142–144.
Gardner, B., Lally, P., & Wardle, J. (2012). Making health habitual: the psychology of ‘habit-formation’ and general practice. The British journal of general practice : the journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners, 62(605), 664–666.
Cleo G, Isenring E, Thomas R, Glasziou P. Could habits hold the key to weight loss maintenance? A narrative review. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2017 Oct;30(5):655-664.