Posted 27 Aug

The Key to Creating New Habits From Self Improvement Tips


Blogs, podcasts, social media, and books are filled with self improvement tips. Many of them are phenomenal and could really change your life.

But it’s not that simple to turn a tip into a habit. Research shows it can take 21 days for a routine to become a habit.

Even then, that’s for smaller improvements, like drinking a glass of water every morning. Larger improvements take longer if they are harder to fit into your day.

That sounds off-putting but don’t panic. It is possible to turn those self improvement tips into habits to help you become the best ‘you’.

Read on to find out how.


The Power of Habits Lies in the Word ‘Must’

Habits form when you try out a new behavior, such as buying a coffee on the way to work. Your body likes the effect of the behavior and compels you to repeat that behavior.

Some time later, the repetition becomes so ingrained it becomes automatic. Otherwise known as a habit.

Habits are great time-savers for the brain. We expend less brain power performing tasks because we can do them on auto-pilot.

But those shortcuts lead us to feel we ‘must’ do things that way. Challenge yourself to decide if there’s a better way to do something.

Changing Habits Is Easier Than Creating Them

Changing existing habits is often easier than creating new ones. Many self improvement tips revolve around making time to read more books or learn a new skill.

You could try and create a new habit. Perhaps you’ll read for 30 minutes each day so you decide to read during your half hour morning commute.

If you enjoy the result of the behavior – you have more to talk about at the water cooler, you felt entertained, or you find it easier to slide into your work routine after reading – then the habit starts quickly.

But what if you’ve never previously enjoyed reading? Look to change a habit, rather than create one. 

Maybe you spend that 30-minute commute reading your email. Swap the email for a book and pay attention to how you feel afterwards.

Perhaps you enjoy listening to podcasts. Swap the podcasts for audiobooks. You’re not physically reading but you get the benefit of the book.

You’ll Need a Cue, a Routine, and a Reward

Many self improvement tips believe the result of the improvement is the reward. While that’s true, the human brain likes its rewards a little sooner.

So decide on a cue, a routine, and a reward before you start the habit-forming process.

Your cue is simply whatever you need to remind you to perform the new behavior. It’s based on some form of urge, whether that’s for a physical sensation (i.e. caffeine) or the fear of missing out (checking email).

We’ve looked at using a time-based cue, in the form of a commute. You can also link the new habit to an existing behavior. Try doing your new 10-minute yoga routine once you’ve brushed your teeth in the morning.

This cue helps you to build a routine. The routine may be linked to the reward. Maybe checking email as soon as you reach your desk helps you to feel organized because you can plan your day.

Buying coffee on the way to work gives you the chance to people-watch at the coffee shop. 

Work out what reward your existing habit gives you and link that to your new habit. If you’re creating one from scratch, work out what the reward will be to inspire you to repeat the behavior.

Add Self Improvement Tips to Your ‘To-Do’ List

You don’t want improving yourself to feel like another task on your ‘to do list’. But adding them onto a daily list helps you to check in with your progress.

At first, you need to ‘remember’ to perform the new action. Over time, you’ll do so automatically, without prompting from your list.

Don’t get disheartened if your habit doesn’t form by the magical 21 days number. Research shows it can take anywhere between 18 to 254 days for a habit to take root.

How quickly the habit forms depends on how complex it is, and how different it is from your existing routines.

Be fierce about that time set aside for your action. Don’t let others distract you or intrude on your space. That’s particularly true if your new habit is to spend 10 minutes meditating.

Others might think you’re sitting doing nothing. You need to let them know that you’re busy. It’s all part of deliberate living.

Ensure Your Success

The only person who can change your habit is you. So you’ll need to set some ground rules to make sure you reach your goal.

Think positively. Try our guide to positive mental attitudes to get started.

Make a firm decision that you’ll create/change the habit. Put it in writing, if you want. Writing something down, preferably long hand, makes you more likely to remember it.

Make your new action/behavior non-negotiable. The moment you skip one is the moment you have to go back to the beginning and start from scratch. You can be more flexible once it becomes automatic.

Tell other people about your new habit. Having them keep you accountable is a good support to your own willpower.

Practice visualization. You might feel silly at first, but visualizing yourself already doing the habit makes the mind more likely to adopt it.

Try using affirmations. Like visualization, these work by telling yourself something you already do, not something you will do. So “I read for at least 30 minutes a day,” is more powerful than, “I will read for 30 minutes a day”.

Persevere and Create That Habit

We’ve shown you ways to turn self improvement tips into habits. You can create new ones, or change existing ones.

Whichever method you choose, remember to keep yourself accountable. Your new habit won’t appear overnight so give yourself, and your willpower, a break if it takes time.

If you still need help, contact us to find out more about our self-development courses and become the best ‘you’ possible.