How To Build Good Habits That Actually Stick
When you build good habits, you build a strong business.
Every entrepreneur knows this.
Habits are powerful because they’re easy. The entire point of a habit is that it’s something you do automatically. You don’t think about it. You don’t get caught up on whether or not you’re in the mood or in the right headspace. You just do it.
Now, imagine having this kind of relationship with the types of actions that can move your business forward.
Imagine if you automatically started each day with a run to get your body energized for the day. There is no talking yourself into it. You just get out of bed and go.
Imagine if it was just a habit to make three cold calls at the start of every work day. Or to review your sales numbers every Friday afternoon. Or to close out each day by listing three things you’re grateful for.
Sounds nice, right? All that forward momentum without all the mental prep work?
But how do you get there?
Here’s what I want you to understand:
If you’ve tried and failed to build new habits, it’s not because you are inherently undisciplined. It’s only because you're not working with the right mindset and process.
Here’s how you can build game-changing habits in your life as a business owner…
...and how you can make those habits finally stick.
#1: Start Small
Your first objective is to show yourself that you can change.
This is so much more important that most people realize. But you can see the value of this step just by looking at any of your past attempts at habit building.
Let’s say you decide you want to eat better. What do you do?
If you’re like most people, you stock up on a ton of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If you cook for yourself, you might download a super healthy meal plan. You pack almonds to have for a snack at work and you give up your routine of red meat for dinner.
The whole mission lasts maybe a week. Why?
Because it’s too much too soon. “Eating healthy” isn’t actually one step. It’s many steps that take you way beyond your familiar lifestyle. You have to shop differently, learn new recipes, develop new strategies for managing hunger, and overcome cravings.
And then what happens when you slip?
Your brain decides that you must not be capable of eating better. You just don’t have the discipline.
Here’s what you do instead:
Choose one extremely small, inconsequential change. If you brush your teeth with your left hand, brush it with your right. We’re talking that simple.
Don’t worry… you’ll ramp up to the habits that actually make a difference. But this is where we start. Habits compound. The more you success you have at incorporating a new change, the more you trust yourself to control your behavior and work towards real transformation.
Start ridiculously small, earn your own trust, and once you’ve mastered an inconsequential habit, graduate to building a barely-consequential habit.
#2: Focus on the Positive
Do not think about dropping bad habits.
You probably have a few habits that are holding you back… habits you know have got to go. Trust me on this: they will go. But they will go naturally when you build a new lifestyle around good habits.
The reason you don’t want to deal with eliminating bad habits is that it’s a harder, less efficient process.
You see, your energy follows your focus. If your goal is to stop hitting snooze, guess what action your mind is constantly fixating on?
Right. Hitting snooze.
So when the alarm goes off, guess which choice is your brain going to pull towards?
Instead of giving yourself the job of resisting, choose a positive goal to pursue, like putting your feet on the floor when your alarm goes off each morning. Focus on that image, and your brain will guide you there.
#3: Commit And Go Easy
You will mess up. That’s fine. Messing up will not ruin your habit-building process.
What will trip you up is the story you tell yourself when you fall out of line.
“I knew I couldn’t make this stick.”
“I just don’t have the discipline.”
“Well, my streak is over, so I guess I’ll be someone who runs a few times a week instead of every morning.”
These stories are neither helpful nor necessary. The best explanation is much simpler.
“I dropped the ball. It happens. I’ll pick it up again tomorrow, because I am committed to this process.”
This is another reason why starting small is the strongest strategy. If your goal is to drink a glass of water before your coffee every morning and you accidentally skip a morning, you probably won’t assign much meaning to that slip-up.
But let’s say your goal is to personally check in on one client every day. When you miss a day, it’s going to feel like a reflection of your ability and commitment as a business owner.
By starting small, you give yourself room to learn how to move through your own failings with curiosity and non-judgment instead of frustration and shame.
#4: Notice And Celebrate
Did you hear that story several years back about the guy who essentially bought a house with a red paperclip?
He did it through bartering. He traded his paperclip for a pen. The pen for a doorknob. The doorknob for a camp stove. On and on until he had a house.
That’s kind of what it’s like when you build lasting habits. It’s a gradual process that happens one small step at a time. If you look at each minor improvement, you might not be impressed. But you are building something huge.
This is why I recommend doing two things.
First, notice and celebrate every single new habit you successfully bring into your life. It doesn’t matter how small it is. Again, it’s a mindset issue. You need to show your brain: “Look! We can do it! And that means we can do it again with something bigger.”
Second, step back from time to time to see the full journey… the paperclip-to-house journey. That’s when you really start to see the value of the habits you have built. You see that you truly do have the power to design a life on your terms.
That realization is going to propel you towards building new habits, not to mention give you the courage to take on bolder projects.
All of the power truly is in your head. Without the right mindset, you will never be able to build the habits you need to succeed. With the right mindset, you are unstoppable.
That said, here’s a bonus tip on building habits that’s rooted more in strategy than in mindset.
Bonus Tip: Stack Habits
“Habit stacking” refers to a strategy of attaching a new habit to a habit that already exists. While you cannot make it work without the four tips listed above, it can make the process easier.
Let’s say you want to get more movement into your day. As part of your current routine, you call your mom every day after work just to check in. So now, as a habit stacker, you’re going to take a walk while you talk to your mom.
Bam. You just married the new habit to the old habit. Super easy, right?
So much of our difficulty with building habits comes from the trouble we create for ourselves.
We get hung up on the idea that improving our routine is supposed to be about sacrifice and limitations.
We try to reinvent our entire lives in the course of one week.
And when we fail, we immediately attribute that failure to some sort of internal limitation.
But it’s really not that complicated.
Be patient, be strategic, and above all, believe.
Further Resources On This Topic:
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