The Three Keys to Create Successful Habits

February 1, 2018


We’re already a month into 2018, which marks the time that our New Year’s resolutions are expected fall flat. According to U.S. News , 80 percent of new years resolutions fail by the second week of February. The ability to follow through on creating change is a crucial life and leadership skill, but why can’t we stick out our resolutions? Why is it so hard to create successful habits that last?


In the 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, Stephen Covey defines a habit as “the intersection of knowledge, skill, and desire.” Knowledge refers to what to do and why. Skill is how to do it. Desire is the “want” and the motivation to execute. A habit relies on the intersection of all three to be successful, and we typically go astray when we fail to adequately address these areas.


What: The "what” requires self-reflection and self-awareness to determine what you want to do and why it’s important to you. It begins with realizing that a new habit would help change a specific behavior or bring you different results. It is essential to explore why you're pursuing a new habit. Is it because you want to change, or because you feel you should, have to, or need to? 


Establish "buy-in" with yourself: Why is this habit important to you? What will it help you accomplish? Why are these accomplishments valuable to you and what will they bring to your life?


How: The implementation of a habit involves planning small and consistent actions to reach a defined and measurable outcome. When striving for habits that are too big or broad, not having a proper plan, or failing to track progress, it is difficult to create a path to success. Consider what drives your behavior in order to design a plan that works well with your personality and preferences.   


As you think about how to transform your “what” into action, what tools do you need to plan and track progress? How will you know when you're successful? What is the first step you need to take to begin?


Want: Maintaining accountability, motivation, and discipline are crucial for following through on the desire for change. If your focus is on the discomfort of the process and on the inevitable roadblocks that pop up, or if an accountability method is not in place, it can be easy to lose sight of the long-term rewards. In this area, it is helpful to remind yourself why you proceeded to change in the first place and what the end result will be.   


Be honest with yourself: What type of support do you need to hold yourself accountable? What roadblocks do you anticipate getting in your way and how can you address them?


These three steps are helpful when you have a sense of what you’d like to accomplish, but what if you know that a change is necessary and have no idea where to start? Think about what you want your year to look like, and ask yourself: What is one thing I’m not doing that if prioritized would have a significant impact on my personal or professional life? How do I want to change this?





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