How do you create a new habit?

So I’ve been listening to Eben Pagen’s “Wake Up Productive” seminar, and early in the program he speaks about the fact that willpower is a finite resource. There was apparently a study done in which people were told to watch movies and told to actively repress their emotions while they watched them. Another group did the same thing, but was free to express emotions. They found that when given complex problems to solve after watching movies that the group that had to repress emotions did worse. The conclusion of this study and some other studies is that people only have so much willpower to go around.

The fact is that we don’t have complete control over our life. We engage in habits that we consciously wish we didn’t have, and we have a hard time implementing new habits.

Eben says that when trying to implement a new habit there are basically 3 stages. The first stage is active aversion. So say I decide that I want to make it a point to exercise everyday for 30 days after never having been on a consistent exercise routine in my whole life. If this is a brand new habit, or even starting a habit after a long lay off there will be strong resistance. The first 10 days, I will have to fight a feeling of completely not wanting to do said activity. The next stage for the second 10 days will be a passive resistance to said activity. I still don’t feel like doing it, but the resistance will not be as active and fierce as the first 10 days. The final stage is acceptance, where you start to turn the corner on making your habit natural.

Developing this new habit is the same as a rocket trying to leave the earth’s atmosphere. Most of the energy is used in escaping the earth’s gravity, but once you make it out of the atmosphere, it is smooth sailing. We all have to fight this gravity. Momentum is so huge is creating something. Once you get going, it becomes easier and easier to keep going.

I made it a habit to start playing soccer a few months ago. The first few times I had to really force myself to get outside and work on my skills. I found that the more I did it, the easier it was to get myself to do it some more. It got to the point where now I really look forward to doing it. This isn’t the greatest example because soccer is fun and some of the habits I want to implement aren’t necessarily that much “fun”. However, the point remains that if you want to start a habit, you have to do it every single day.

Eben recommends that you don’t try to start more than one habit every 30 days because you only have so much willpower to go around. Each day you have a finite amount of willpower, and you need to put all of it into making sure you do your new habit that day.

I feel like I have a long way to go when it comes to being truly productive. I can see the untapped potential I have each day. I have to realize that most likely I will only be able to add in one new habit each month.

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