How to Build Better Habits to Live a More Purposeful Life

The ultimate form of power is building habits.

There exists in all of us the power of habit and this power can shape our future. The only question we must come to understand in its entirety is: how does one build a habit that will stick around for years to come?

Today, I’m going to share with you the steps to habit building that will inevitably change your life.

The truth to habit building is that everyone has a different angle. Some are better than others while some just flat out don’t work. What I talk about in this article works for me. It’s worked for tens of thousands of others and chances are it will work for you too. Enjoy. 😉

Small Hinges Can Move Big Doors

Building good habits in life is much like trying to understand the universe. Either we’re alone in the universe or we aren’t. Either possibility is mind-boggling. 🙂

In everyone’s lives there are a million and one distractions around every corner. At times it can seem almost impossible to build a habit that will stick around.

It appears to be remarkably easy to fall into unhealthy routines that make a life seem good, but after time it becomes clear.

I am talking about bad habits like these:

  • Eating junk food on a daily basis.
  • Watching TV instead of going to the gym.
  • Showing up to a job you hate everyday. 😉

Bad habits seem to be everywhere. Good habits, on the other hand, are more of a diamond in the rough.

To some, they try to figure out how to build a good habit by breaking down their discipline, effort, and motivation. Then they try to figure out a formula to build better habits based off their findings. Not only is this hard to do, it’s different for everyone. All of us have different interests so to write about what I love might be just the thing you despise.

A great example of something I love is reading books. However, reading for a lot of people is like nails on a chalkboard. Reading a book a day for some would seem like hell. For me it’s bliss. 😀

First thing to building some rock solid habits regardless of your discipline, effort, or motivation is to make “micro quotas” and “macro goals.”

Micro quotas and macro goals are little steps that you take to build yourself up to master the habit. For example, if you seek to become healthier and eat a better diet, what you don’t want to do is make a complete 180 flop. So, if all you do is eat terrible food and then do a 180 into eating pure natural foods (pure juice, fruits, and vegetables), you will most likely not be able to see it through.

Micro quotas and macro goals are way easier for creating a long-term habit than to try and go the cold turkey route. The complete 180 route does work for some, although not most.

You might have the desire to completely change your diet and that’s awesome, but take baby steps towards those goals. The micro quotas and macro goals are the baby steps of work that you must get done every single day to make the bigger goal become a habit.

Once you feel more comfortable with the small steps, move onto a bigger effort. A great example is writing 1,000 words a day. For myself, I try to write at least 1,000 words every single day. When I first started, I thought that 1,000 words was an impossible mountain to climb. It might well have been a million words a day. However, what I did is try to just write everyday, regardless of the word count. Some days it would only be a few hundred. Others, I would write 5000-10,000 words. 😀

My point is that I would stay consistent in hitting my macro goal of just writing everyday. Once I built that habit, I added on the micro quota to write at least 300 words daily. After that felt effortless, I bumped it to 500 and now I write 1,000 words a day.

Also, I would like to note that if you miss a day, just make up for it the next day. It’s about knowing yourself and if you think you’ve done your best, then that’s all that matters. There were times when I was so damn busy I couldn’t write everyday. When that happened, I just made up for it the following day. Writing words is something you can catch up with the following day; not all habits can work like that. For example, if you’re sticking to a healthy diet and building a habit, the worst thing you can do is go out with friends and have a large pizza and drink a few beers. The following day you’re most likely going to feel like crap and fall away from forming a strong habit of staying healthy.

Everything Takes Time

We all would like for transformation to happen overnight. To be healthy, rich, and famous. However, this thing called reality stops it from happening. Damn you REALITY! DAMN YOU! 😀
At times some things might seem like they took place overnight, but when you look deep, it’s most likely not the case. Everything takes time. I’m sure you’ve heard of the millionaire who saw success overnight, the person who lost 100 pounds in no time at all, and the famous person who just showed up out of nowhere. We all tend to look at the end result, not the time and effort before that event.

Regardless of how amazing a story may sound, they all took time. End results are fun to think about and it helps to build habits. However, the strongest habit builder is to keep pushing regardless of how hard life pushes back.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle Click To Tweet

If you want to make more money, for example, then you need to learn, read books, connect with people, and bust your ass. Yes, it’s going to take time and effort (a crap load of effort). However, the key to success is making it a habit to show up everyday. If you expect to build a habit over the weekend, it’s possible, but it’s not likely that it’s going to last.

You must be willing to play the long game.

Whenever I seek to start a new habit, I ask and tell myself this is going to take at least six months, if not more, to make it into a habit. If I can accept that, I will move forward.

To some, they give up when the road gets bumpy. What I’ve come to learn is that when the road gets bumpy, you’re maybe halfway there. Sucks I know, but it’s the truth.

Continuous effort towards anything will not only build the habits you want, it will also give you the power to become unstoppable.

We all want (and crave) the end result, that transformation of being fit and healthy, becoming highly successful, or even getting the love of your life. But that’s not what you need. You need better habits and the patience of giving those habits enough time.

Time is the teller of all things. 😉

The 4 R’s of Habit

Every habit that I’ve come to master has a four-step pattern.

  1. Reminder
  2. Routine
  3. Reward
  4. Repeat

The four R’s have set people up for success time and time again.

Step one: An alarm goes off on your phone. This is where you’re reminded of your routine. The first step is an important one because you need to block enough time out in your day in order to execute the habit you want to build. If it’s going to the gym, then you can’t be setting yourself an alarm that goes off when you’re at work or doing a different task that’s of importance.

You must block out the time needed to build the habit, so as simple as an alarm sounds, it’s not as simple as that. Everyone has busy days and if you set up your schedule right, you will have the time to squeeze in the time that you want to build a meaningful habit. If you’re one of those people who have no time whatsoever for anything, then you need to ask yourself what could be dropped that’s of less importance.

Step two: Execute. It’s easy to just hit the snooze button on your phone or push it off until tomorrow. However, ever single time you’re pushing the snooze button, you’re delaying your dreams and goals. It’s inevitable that you hold the key to your own success. No one can hand you your destiny, you must go out and work for it yourself. Dreams and goals are only as important to you as the time you give them.

When all you do is give a few hours a week to a habit, you can’t expect to become an expert at whatever you’re shooting for. You’ve heard the song — practice makes perfect. Well, I think there’s a better way to think about it because practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. With that said, you must go about your dreams and goals with ambition. Dedicate all the extra time you have towards building your habit. If, like I said, you don’t have time, then drop the tasks that don’t bring long-term value to your life. And replace it with meaningful habit building.

Step three: You start to feel damn good because you start to get somewhere. The reward part in anything, especially habit building, is important. If all you do is go from task to task without ever rewarding yourself, then you will soon stop executing. A person can only work for so long without an end. The end in this case is the reward and the reward could be feeling healthy by building the habit of eating better. The reward could be giving yourself a splurge at the mall every Sunday (for me it’s buying books, a lot of books). Building the habit of anything positive can be hard. Reward your effort.

Step four: This sounds like a no-branier, but too often people don’t do what’s working. If you have been having success, then you need to do more of what’s working. If you’re still having a hard time setting the habit into motion, then maybe you could change your schedule to see if it’s easier. For example, when I started to build the habit of writing my words daily, I tested different times. I did the time tests because I saw that I wrote better at night then in the mornings. I love to burn the midnight oil. 😀

Habits form by the four simple steps above.

The thing you need to understand is that you don’t need a phone alarm to remind you to build a habit. Using the phone for some things are nice, but it’s not ideal. For example, when a lot of people get up in the morning, they like to stretch because it feels good after laying in bed. That stretch could be the trigger to make them work out. It’s been shown in training programs that when you stretch before a workout it makes you want to work out even more. If you do stretch in the morning, then make that your trigger to work out after. If you don’t stretch, then get in the habit of stretching for 10-15 minutes before you do anything else, then once you nail that, move on to building the habit of working out. 😉

You can always make it easier on yourself by sticking up a simple note that says stretch and work out on your bedroom wall. I’ve always liked to work out in the morning, but it sometimes gets hard because I still feel a little tired. However, when I stretch it gets me into the mood and it builds my habit, which is killing two birds with one stone.

Setting up a visible reminder and linking my new habit with a current behavior made it much easier to change and morph it into an even better habit (working out). No need to remember because it’s triggered naturally when I start to stretch.

How to Choose Your Trigger/Reminder

The trigger is an important part to building a habit. A habit that I’ve come to do without thinking is opening the door for other people. I first started doing it because I like to help others. Even a small gesture like the opening of a door can open up new doors for you. 😉

Everyone’s trigger/reminder will be different depending on what you’re seeking to build a habit from. For example, when you go to sleep at night, you brush your teach, turn off the lights, and go to bed. You could start to build the habit of flossing with the trigger of brushing your teeth. Take a moment to think about your day-to-day schedule and I can bet you can start to implement some habits based off your current habits.

Another great example which everyone should be doing is washing their hands after going to the bathroom. The trigger is going to the bathroom, the habit is washing your hands. I am kind of a germaphobe and I can’t stand to see people go to the bathroom and not wash their hands! 🙁

Another great habit to start forming is to say thanks before you go to sleep. “When I lie down to go to sleep, I say one thing that I’m grateful for today.” That’s the type of small behavior that could blossom into a more grateful outlook on life in general. Building habits out from your current habits makes for a much easier process to build new habits.

In the beginning of the article I talked about “micro quotas” and “macro goals.” Each little step you take towards your habit will start to snowball. Don’t worry about performance in the beginning. What you should put your effort towards is showing up and trying, no matter how small or insignificant it seems. If you want to be able to read a book a day, then read 10 pages of a book a day. Once you have that down, bump it up.

Small steps, time, and consistency is what makes all habits stick.

Thanks so much for reading; please leave me your comments below in the comments section. Share with me some of your habits that you’re working towards. What are some of the steps you’ve done to make them become habits? Would love to hear your story.

Scott “never give up” Hurtado