What I learned from Hal Elrod about creating a new habit and how I created four new life-transforming habits.
The beginning of a habit is like an invisible thread, but every time we repeat the act we strengthen the strand, add to it another filament, until it becomes a great cable and binds us irrevocably, thought and act — Orison Swett Marden
Remember that moment you decided to stop eating McDonald's or any fast food, or on new year’s eve when you held that last lonely cigarette and took the last deep breathe while savoring the smell emanating from the smoke as you promised yourself it was your very last? then two days later you said, “Screw it!!”
Sounds familiar? That's right. I can’t even count the number of times I decided to start a new habit and quit even before I started.
I know you must be nodding your head right now and saying “Me too!!”. If you’re not, then count yourself among the lucky few born with a DNA of self-discipline.
What makes us quit just after few days of starting a new habit?
After reading the book the Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, I finally found the answer I had been searching unsuccessfully for quite a while.
In this article, I will share with you exactly what you need to know every time you embark on the challenging yet highly rewarding journey of creating a new habit that can definitely transform your life forever.
But before we get to the cream of the article, let me provide a lucid response to this question that must be spiraling in your mind.
How long does it take to develop a new habit?
Depending on the articles you read or the experts you listen to, you are going to hear compelling evidence that it takes somewhere between a single hypnosis session, 21days, or even three months to incorporate a new habit into your life.
I’m no expert, but based on the timeline specified by Hal Elrod, it takes approximately 30 days to concretely develop a new habit.
Of course, I didn't take his words as gospel so I decided to try for myself. In the next section of the article, I will tell you exactly how long it took me to develop several habits.
But for now, let us agree and set our timeline for permanently creating a new habit to 30 days as suggested by Hal Elrod’s based on his many years of experience working with hundreds of clients.
So whatever habit you want to develop in your life; maybe it’s reading a chapter of a book a day, or running 4 miles every morning, your mind should be fixated to a period of 30 days.
Okay good! Now to our real question of the day.
How to permanently develop a new habit?
Why do we fail 98% of the time we decide to create a new habit?
Pause for a second to ponder about this question. Think deeply why for example you have never truly stopped smoking cigarettes even after promising yourself, or why you have not started eating more veggies instead of KFC.
Here is the reason.
When your expectations before committing to develop a new habit doesn't align with what you are experiencing when you begin the process, frustration sets in and you quit.
Let’s take, for example, you’ve been waking up every day for the last 10 years at 10:00 am, then you decide that you’re going to start waking up at 5:00 am.
Or you’ve decided after one year of no sports to lose some weight. The very next day you hit the road with excitement aiming to run for 5 miles. But just half a mile away, you are breathing like a dying horse.
Your chest, your knee, every muscle, and fiber of your body hurts. You are in excruciating pain. You feel like you might collapse and die.
What do you do in such circumstances?
You simply quit. You tell yourself it’s too hard, it’s not worth it and scuttle back home with your tail between your legs in utter frustration and disappointment.
The real question to ask yourself is; What did you expect? To run like Usain Bolt after one year of no sports? Come on! Who’re you kidding?
Now, here is the ultimate game-changer approach to creating a new habit that has revolutionized the way I develop new habits and I believe it will also transform how you approach the development of your own new habits.
I have used this technique to develop not only one but 4 daily habits and it has been a life-changing experience.
Now I wake up at 4:55 am every day including weekends instead of some arbitrary hour around midday. I write every morning. I read a chapter of a book every morning and I do sports every morning. All these are done before the clock strikes 9:00 am. The time now as I write this article is 06:19 am.
I changed my approach based on what I learned from Hal and everything has been a roller costa experience.
Now let me explain to you what you need to do to permanently develop a new habit. The secret might not be what you expect.
Successfully building a new healthy habit within a period of 30 days boils down to breaking it into three phases. Understanding these phases and mentally preparing for it, is the critical part of the entire habit creation process.
Phase 1: The First 10 days
In his book, Hal calls this the Unbearable phase.
This is the phase that marks the beginning of something new and exciting. However, it is the stage where your body is going to resist the change, your mind is going to resist it. In fact, every fiber of your being will resist and reject the change.
Let us assume you have decided to lose some weight by waking up every morning and hitting the gym. Note you ain't an early morning person. So, the next morning, you wake up early and excited to start something new.
But as soon as you do five pushups and situps, you are done and dusted. Feels like hell itself. You feel excruciating pain around your collar bones.
This is the phase where over 95% of people fail and simply give up. What they don't realize is that this is temporary and it gets better. They just slip right back into their old habits.
You and I know better. The secret is that this is only temporary. Keep this mind, in fact, write it in bold and plaster it on your wall to remind yourself every time you start a new habit and feel like your drowning in pain.
It does not matter the habit you wanna start or quit. Maybe quit smoking or drinking alcohol. You’ve got to be mentally prepared. It feels unbearable but it’s only temporary.
I felt so much pain in my arms after I stopped doing sports and especially pushups for more than 6 months. My arms hurt and my body ached for about four days. But every day I knew the pain was fading away and kept on despite the pain.
I couldn’t do 20 pushups without collapsing on the floor like a log of wood. Now just 2 weeks after, every day I do a minimum of 100 decline pushups, in 2 sets. 60 pushups on the first round then followed by 40 immediately after. This seemed impossible when I first started.
You’ve got to know it’s going to be freaking challenging but you are prepared to pay that price just for a few days so as to be on the other side of success.
Phase 2: 11–20 Days
This is the period Hal calls the Uncomfortable phase.
At this phase, your body is beginning to adjust and accept the new changes. You are also beginning to witness the benefits of surviving the challenging 10 days and your confidence is building up.
This is good, but you are not out of the woods yet. Some wolves are still lingering around and you need to be extra careful.
Adhering to your new habit will still feel uncomfortable. Don’t listen to that small voice within that tells you to take a day or 2 off and chill.
Let’s say, you decided to quit smoking cigarettes, you might be tempted to say “well let me just have at least one. It’s not like it’s gonna kill me”. Well, after smoking one, you might as well have the entire packet.
Please Don’t!! Stay committed, you almost there.
During my uncomfortable phase of doing pushups, my arms and collar bones did not hurt any more hours after finishing the routine. However, I still dreaded the exercise every time I wanted to start. It was the same experience I had waking up early.
Phase 3: 21–30 Days
At the end of 21 days, you then enter the final phase of your journey to a new lifestyle. This is what Hal calls the Unstoppable phase.
After the first 21 days, the last 10 days is my favorite part of the new habit creation process because you begin to derive pleasure from doing whatever you have been doing for the last 21 days. And you feel proud of yourself.
The first two phases have not been fun at all but during this stage your identity changes. If you were a smoker, you can proudly say “I am not a smoker!” while finishing off the last 10 days.
Remember, it is also highly tempting to want to take some days off during this stage, but you know better. This stage determines your new identity, who you have become.
Ask yourself this before thinking of taking a day off. Is it worth risking everything I have worked for so hard the last 21days just for a single moment of “pleasure”?
It is important that you take the time to reap the rewards of your new habit during these last 10 days because that is essentially the feeling that is going to make you continue practicing your newly founded habit.
Developing a new habit is more about developing mental strength than doing the actual activity. I had no idea about this and that is why every time I wanted to create a new habit I failed miserably and felt worse than I was before.
Understanding the three phases involved in creating a new habit and the number of days you need is critical for successfully quitting bad habits or creating new ones.
So before you engage in this journey of self-transformation, you need to tell yourself, repeat it in your mind that, the first 10 days are going to be unbearable, the next 10 days are going to be uncomfortable, but the last 10 days are going to be enjoyable.
Using this strategy I have developed more than 4 new habits. I wake up now every day at 4:55 am sometimes before the alarm clock goes off. I write every day, I read a chapter of a book every day and I do sports.
Now, I look forward to waking up every morning and doing these every day as nothing is more thrilling than the feeling of giving my life structure and working on things that are important instead of sleeping and letting life pass me by.
Sometimes unforeseen circumstances will force you to take a day off your routine. Feel free to do it, but get back into the groove as soon as possible.
You too can do it and I promise you that, you’ll never want to go back to your old life ever again.
So let me ask you this…
What new habit do you want to develop right this moment as you are reading this article?
Leave a response in the comment section and I will gladly encourage you to keep going as there is joy at the other side of pain.
Thank you for Reading!
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This article was originally posted on my blog beltus.github.io