Why Building New Great Habits Is Hard And The Importance Of Small Steps
Why I haven’t posted content for the past 4 weeks and why building new great habits is hard.
For the past two years, I am running my own experimental researches over the construction of new good habits.
Here is a list of some of the great and new habits that I’ve built or bad habits that I quit since the end of 2019:
- I quit smoking one pack of cigarettes a day. I used to smoke when waking up, after eating, while drinking, with other smokers. Or it was while waiting, while working at my desk, after sex, when angry, when hungry, when nervous or sometimes I would even smoke after having smoked.
- I meditated every morning (go read the article I wrote reviewing my first year of meditating everyday). This is a game changer: starting the day by calming your body cells and your brain down and focusing on what’s around you and within you.
- I stopped drinking alcohol anytime I would meet a friend; And for my Vietnamese friends: “Yes! I include beer into this category”. I actually stopped associating hanging out with friends to go for a drink and “drink like there is no tomorrow”.
- I started to swim twice a week at least 2kms per week.
- I started to walk with my wife after dinner, even for 10 minutes, without our phones, just to enjoy the fresh air and to review our day and connect.
- I stopped working long hours. I usually do 1-3 hours work session, 2-3 times a day.
- I call or text my friends and my family regularly.
How to go from your idea into long lasting and positive actions
This is the phase when you’re looking at yourself in the miror and you’re telling yourself: “I’ve got to do something about this.”
And usually, you know what you need to do… I think we’re all similar in this way: we know what we have to do to.. “be in a better shape” or “get there…”. We know we shouldn’t watch our phones before bed. We know it’s not good to smoke, drink, sleep late, etc.
But how many of us live like monks? How many can honestly claim that they don’t have any distractions? or don’t do any type of drug (including coffee, sugar, alcohol, cigarettes) and would wake up in the morning with their perfect morning routine, spend their days without ANY stress, and go to sleep (fall asleep easily), etc.
I think the first thing to accept in our case is that: we can always do better today than yesterday.
And this happen by doing things, step by step.
The importance of small steps.
For many reasons, we love success stories that seems to happen over night. But in many cases, these success stories are the result of long term and consistent efforts.
“If I only had an hour to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening my axe.” – Abraham Lincoln (?)
I like this quote, because it reminds us about the importance of preparation that everybody tend to forget about when they see the performance.
“Wow! how amazing! He is chopping down a tree in only 15 minutes!”
Facing this, someone who’s got the bigger picture would answer: “Yes, that is an amazing performance, but he prepared himself for this.”
And this is what this article is about: if you want to do extraordinary things, start with the preparation and training. Start with small, easy and simple steps that will get you there.
The bigger the ambitions, the smaller you should chop down your goals.
If you have big ambitions, like I have, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by how big it is and instead of motivating us to take actions, it could have the contrary effect on us and lead to procrastination.
So it is important to chop that ambition into smaller goals.
- Quit cigarette one day. You can have it tomorrow, just don’t do it today. You’ve done it? What about trying to stop for an entire workweek or weekend?
- You want to write articles on your blog everyday? Start by writing one. You did it? What about writing for an entire week?
- You want to loose weight? Start by one easy step: one meal per week, cook for yourself one healthy meal. Do this for two months.
Track your wins of the week and your gratitude.
“There is no small victories” (to say that any victory is worth it).
What I do is I track my weekly wins and I practice gratitude for what I have, what I am and the people and things around me.
For example, I am grateful for this new writing habit, for this blog and for being able to write everyday about subjects that matter to me. I am proud to (this is a win) receive messages from my friends and my readers about how it has impacted them.
So open a weekly tracker; and make sure you sit down, weekly: and ask yourself: what are the victories of this week for me? What am I proud of and what am I thanksful for?
You’ve managed to say no to a cigarette? write it down. Anything that makes you feel proud, grateful and aligned with your goals and ambitions.
After some weeks, you’ll be so empowered to read this list of wins or gratitude again. And this can be useful for the moments you can be down.
What to do if you fail.
That’s exactly where I stand today. I’m facing my own failure. I set a goal to write everyday. But, for the last 4 weeks I haven’t produce anything… what’s wrong with me? Am I not able to do it? I said I would do it and now I haven’t… does that make me a bad, unreliable person?
Afterall, I failed at building my writing habi, no? I set a goal and I didn’t reach it. I didn’t write for 4 weeks!
This is easy to blame myself. And if you start failing, like it’s my case right now, it’s tempting to start looking for excuses and reasons not to continue.
But looking back to my gratitude and my wins journal, I find all my achievements:
- my first article posted
- my first subscriber
- my deep conversation with a long-time-no-see friend about entrepreneurship
- the positive feedback from my articles
- my first 100 readers
These are the reasons I do it. It’s so encouraging. These can bring me back on track in no time.
So if you are failing at your ambition, your goals or anything that you started with good intentions and positive energy: going back to your wins and your gratitude journal will help you stay on track and start again.
When you fail you don’t have too many options: forgive yourself for failing, promise yourself you can do better next time, pick-up yourself and get back to motion.
And mentally this is very challenging. So that’s why you need a “win and gratitude tracker”.
Quick take aways
- Keep in mind that you can do better today than yesterday.
- Great ambitions are cool, but focus on small goals first (ever heard of SMART goals? check it out, it’s a methodology to setup goals).
- Track your wins and gratitude. Everytime you feel proud or thanksful, put it in this tracker/journal.
- Keep going for more wins: don’t focus on the failures.. you will fail eventually, but it’s more important to stay positive and go for the win.
I am really passionate about the topic of “how we win” and “how we fail”. So if you are interested to start a conversation around this topic, please don’t forget to subscribe to my email list and we can talk.
I am also happy to share more about my “habit tracker” or other tools that may help you achieve your goals and stay on track.
Thank you for reading until the end!
Every morning, after my meditation 🧘🏽and my breakfast ☕️, I sit at my desk for one hour and write answers to my own questions, as an entrepreneur ✍️. Then I publish it on this blog, hoping to help other entrepreneurs to find answers to their questions too. And this, no matter your “level”.
To participate, ask me questions on social medias @nicolasthanhg (click on the icons below). I may answer directly or write an article about it.
Now, you can also go back to the blog page and search for articles related to your scope of interest. 🔍
Have a good day,