Why Habits Matter More Than Motivation or Willpower

Motivation is big these days. Motivational quotes, tips and articles crowd our social media streams. I love them. I produce them, consume them and share them. Motivation is important, but there’s something that may be much more important,  and that’s habit-building.

Why Habits Matter More Than Motivation or Willpower: Create great habits for success without (quite as much) effort

Ever noticed that it’s harder to make decisions toward the end of the day? You’re too tried to even decide what to have for dinner or what to watch on TV, never mind which important projects to focus on. That’s because we all have a finite amount of decisions that we can make in any given day.

Knowing that helps us prioritize. We can cut out a lot of decision making by implementing daily habits and routines. That way we save our finite decisions for the important stuff.  This frees brain space for more creative and productive thinking. Habits and routines are a great tool that simplify our lives and cut out a lot of our daily stress.

The main thing you’re doing when you create strong, healthy habits is you’re removing the need to motivate yourself. You’re removing the need for willpower, and that’s really important.

The Inverse Relationship Between Habits and Willpower

It’s hard to keep up willpower for any length of time. Yes, we can do exercise we hate for a while, until we run out of willpower. We can work on our new online business by firing ourselves up with motivational quotes, but until we develop good work habits it won’t feel effortless.

Tasks become habits when they are so ingrained in what we do and who we are that we do them without thinking about them. We don’t consider skipping a day or a week. We don’t have to make a conscious decision each day to brush our teeth, shower or drive the kids to school. It’s just what we do – a habit.

Habits don’t require motivation or willpower. In fact, there is an inverse relationship between habits and willpower. When you first want to build a new habit, it takes a lot of willpower to get it done day in and day out. As you start to establish that habit, it becomes easier and easier to do until you’re on autopilot and you don’t require willpower any more.

Just being aware of this process helps us stick it out. We know we won’t always have to make such a big effort to write this week’s blog post, do our marketing chores, or call our clients. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. We know eventually it will become a habit that won’t involve effort.

While we’re in that transition from willpower to habit, there are a few things we can do to help stay on track. Once we’ve formed those habits, willpower becomes unnecessary.

How Long Does It Really Take To Create A New Habit?

There’s a common belief it takes 21 days to create a new habit. But we all know it’s not as simple as that. It doesn’t take that long to form a bad habit. And sometimes no matter how hard we try it takes us a lot longer to form a new habit.

So how long does it really take to create a new habit? The answer is, it depends. It depends on your mindset and it depends on how big of a change it is from what you are doing now. If you’re writing one blog post a week and you want to up it to two, that’s easier than deciding to post every day.

When we ask that question, what we really want to know is how long do we have to tough it out before it gets easier. When will this new behavior become automatic?

While it will be different from one person to the next and from one habit to the next, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • It’s easier to change a habit than to break one. Whenever possible, try to replace an old habit with a new one. For example if you’re wanting to give up coffee, brew a cup of herbal tea in the morning and throughout the day when you would usually reach for your cup of Joe. If you’re trying to only check email twice a day, resolve to start brainstorming ideas for your blog or business every time you feel like opening your inbox.
  • Habits will form faster if you stick to the same time and environment each day. Instead of going for a walk whenever, keep your sneakers next to the door and schedule your walk every day at 6pm, right after dinner. Instead of writing or working on your website when you feel like it, do it every morning, as soon as you get to your desk.
  • A constant reminder of why you’re trying to change your behavior is also helpful. Put up a picture to remind you that you’re working to develop good habits in your online business so you can one day purchase your dream home. Keep your reason why you’re changing front and center and then be prepared to stick it out. Yes it will take some time to make new habits and replace old ones. But it will be well worth it in the end.

Using habits rather than constantly trying to find willpower and motivation will really impact your productivity long-term. Need a ton of productivity tips for one very low price? Check out The Savvy Solopreneur’s Guide To Productivity.

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