Eliminate the Little Obstacles

Do you struggle to create and keep a new habit?

Maybe it’s…

  • Eating healthier
  • Exercising more
  • Saving money
  • Creating more photos
  • Writing more

I used to, and often still, struggle with this myself. But, I’ve learned a new way of approaching it that I’ve found to be effective. And I’d like to share that with you today.

I’m a big fan of this strategy to help me persist with a habit I’m trying to build. I’ve seen it mentioned in multiple places but more recently in a post by Leo Babauta [1]. He talks about it under #1 in his list of mistakes he made when trying to make a change:

  1. Not changing your habit environment. We often rely completely on willpower to stick to habit change, but in practice that rarely works. Much better is changing the environment around you. Make it easy to do your habit, by putting your running shoes next to your bed and sleeping in your running clothes, for example, or having lots of healthy food around you, or writing out small steps you can take in your spare time to reduce debt. Make it hard to do the things you don’t want to do, by getting rid of all the junk food in your house or setting up accountability with friends with a big consequence for missing exercise or eating fast food, or put your TV in the closet or unplug your router and give it to someone to hold for a couple hours. Be smart and figure out how to change your environment so your habit succeeds, and if it fails, change your environment some more.

A recent and successful example of it in action (so far) is my wanting to bike more often. I used to keep my bike in the shed at the back of my house. Whenever I’d decide to go for a ride, I’d have to go to the back of the house, get the bike out of the shed, and walk the bike through the house to the front. These steps were enough to hinder my taking action most of the time. After I started leaving the bike in front of the house, I’m now cycling much more often than I used to.

This strategy can be applied in many places. Here are some more examples of creating an environment to facilitate a new habit:

  • Setting up automatic transfers to save money
  • Not buying junk food in order to eat healthier

It’s important to take little steps towards your goal, but changing the environment is just as important to help you stay consistent and persevere. Eventually what you do will become a habit. Consider the change in environment as training wheels.

If you’ve used this strategy or something similar before, has it worked? Let me know what habits you were, or are, trying to build in the comments.

Sources:

  1. The Biggest Reasons you Haven’t Changed Your Habits. (Zen Habits)
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