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Start Here: “The Ultimate Guide to Habits”

How to change a habit

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In my new “15 Life Hacks” ebook (free download here), I talk about the one little habit I created that boosted my gym attendance 300%.

My mentor, BJ Fogg, contributed an article about how to change your behavior around one of the most common goals — flossing.

And there are other entries from people like Neil Strauss, Mark Sisson, Noah Kagan, etc.

But what do you do when your new habits fall apart?

I got a great question from Claire who wants to know how to KEEP a habit once you’ve created it. What happens if you fall off the wagon or just lose motivation?

Check out my answer in this new video:

What about you? Once you start a habit, how do you KEEP doing it? Leave a comment below.

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  1. Whatever habit you are changing, you need to start small. BJ’s small goal of flossing one tooth made him floss the rest. You can’t switch overnight to a vegan diet, but you can remove beef one week, then pork the next and so on. In order to keep doing the new habit, it needs to become a habit through progressive small goals implements. And don’t blame yourself for failing, just keep doing it the best you can.

  2. Two things that I’ve helped me maintain certain habits:

    (1) For habits that seem to be working well, I try to improve upon them ever so slightly to not lose momentum, especially as circumstances change and pose new challenges. For example, I started eating a much healthier breakfast, and it wasn’t too hard in the morning during the summer when my two young boys didn’t have to be dropped off at school. Once school started, one thing I started doing was setting up all the ingredients, bowls, and utensils I needed on the kitchen counter the night before, at the same time I’m preparing all of our lunches for the next day anyways, so that I didn’t skip a beat while trying to get the kids ready for school (e.g., not sacrificing my breakfast in the morning just because I have a two-year-old throwing a tantrum over what color socks he wants to wear). So I’ve had to adjust and modify the way I maintain my habit slightly for changing circumstances, but I don’t completely fall off the wagon.

    (2) For habits where I DO fall off the wagon or start to, I try to make it easy to get back on track without dumping the habit entirely, by doing the absolute minimum necessary to keep the habit going. For example, I keep a time diary during work, and normally record brief but detailed comments and a 4-point “score” to help me track my performance for each task/time period. Sometimes I get really busy and simply cannot or forget to record my activities in my time diary. So instead of giving up entirely, I just record what I did in just a few words and the time I took to do it – no additional comments. This way I at least have a decently accurate record when I have to fill out my work’s formal time sheet and can easily get back to recording more comments as my time and attention come back.

  3. I’m really enjoying these videos. Informative, well-produced, and entertaining. Usually I ignore videos on other sites, but these are worth watching. Thank you!

  4. Great video Ramit! I really like the idea of putting reminders to check your systems in an automated calendar. I do similar things with my business and it has worked very well, I’m definitely going to have to try to implement that in my personal life as well!

  5. Once I start a new habit, I keep doing it by putting weekly reminders on my calendar. If life gets in the way, as it often does, I do not beat myself up for “missing” doing the habit for however long. I just start it back up again, with no recriminations, the next time I come to the reminder on my calendar. I’ve found that beating myself up for missing the habit makes it harder to re-start the habit, for whatever reason.

  6. I agree to starting small. What helps me keeping a habit ist that I only start one if I am willing to start it immediately and am willing to commit to it for one year. Then I say to myself: I will do XX for one year no matter what and THEN (not earlier) I will start to question if I like it or not. So I keep myself away from “being unsure” or asking myself daily it I am in the mood for doing XX. Developing and keeping a habit is hard in the beginning, but it gets worse if you additionally doubt it. What I also found useful is to make a habit a daily habit. So do not work out x times weekly but daily, in smaller amounts (e.g 15 or 30 minutes). You will be surprised how effective and easy and fun this is.

  7. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg is a great read for diving deeper into understanding and changing habits. Overall, great video.

  8. I think it would be interesting to study why some people are able to easily maintain certain habits while others are not.

    For example, flossing seems like the easiest thing in the world for me. I keep floss right next to my bed, and flossing takes me a couple of minutes before I go to sleep. While I floss, I am relaxing in my cozy bed. I think that newbie flossers feel like they need to stand in front of the mirror in the bathroom in an uncomfortable hunched over position. That makes their entire process painful, while my process is relaxing.

    • Just curious: My dentist told me to 1) floss for material between your teeth, 2) rinse, 3) brush your teeth and/or tongue to remove any remaining materials, and 4) rinse (with or without mouthwash). This would make flossing in bed okay, except then I’d still have to run to the nearest sink to complete the routine. Did my dentist give me bad info? And don’t you end up with bits of stuff from between your teeth on the bedding, necessitating extra laundry?

    • Susan –

      I personally think your dentist’s recommended routine is not good. Here is what I do and why –

      1. Brush teeth & tongue
      2. Rinse
      3. Floss

      By the time I have completed steps 1 and 2 there are no real bits of stuff between my teeth. If there are some bits on occasion, they really are insignificant and I just swallow them. Nothing gets on my bedding for sure.

      I believe that if you floss before brushing your teeth you are actually not getting the most out of flossing. You end up expending a lot of energy on food pieces that would naturally come out while brushing. If you floss after brushing, you can really scrape the floss against the side of your teeth to get rid of more microscopic formations. Also, another key reason for flossing is gum health and getting rid of bacteria. Just because pieces of food are not coming out does not mean that flossing is not beneficial.

      By the way, I have no dental training, but I have no cavities and my dentist always compliments my oral hygiene:)

  9. Hey Ramit, great question. Well, my answer will be one a lot of others have come up with. Think about what will happen if you don’t floss or workout regularly. Or eat a nutritious diet. Bad health, loss of teeth and crappy gums
    and lovely brown teeth.

    If that doesn’t change your habits I can’t help you. There is no such thing as momentum either. I don’t believe that. Flossing, Working Out and eating right are things you do daily as isolated activities. If that makes sense.

    The same can be said for being in business or work. Do one thing daily to get you to your goal of more cash! Don’t do a bunch of stuff or spend hours doing something. Chances are you’ll quit. Take golfers who putt for practice for 45 minutes a day. Most of you will quit after a couple weeks or a month.

    Keep putting sessions to 10 or 15 minutes a day, 3 times a week. You’ll improve and stick to the game plan.

    Sorry, I got off topic a bit.

    I hope that helps some of your readers, Ramit.

    Mark G

  10. If you discontinue a habit because you are just simply forgetting to do it, that is one thing. If you discontinue a habit because you just don’t want to do it, then you’re facing an entirely different problem and should examine your motivation for taking up that habit in the first place.