Wouter Kleinsman

Wouter Kleinsman

8 Easy Steps for Learning New Habits

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Do you want to become the best version of yourself? Then it is important that you create positive habits. These are habits that help you achieve your goals and dreams twice as fast. Pay attention now! In this article, I’ll show you how to integrate any habit you want based on eight simple steps.

# 1 Why do you want to learn a new habit?

Learning a new habit will only succeed if you have a burning desire, an incredibly important reason for wanting something real. You then link this to a long-term goal.

I’ll give an example to make it clear with an example of a desire and a burning desire.

Desire: To train in the gym to look good for summer.

You go to the gym from the beginning of the year because you want to look good in the summer. It may seem like a burning desire, but it isn’t. It is only a temporary and external reason that expires when summer has started or maybe even earlier because you think oh why am I going to all this effort, I look ok as I am!

Burning desire: To train in the gym to increase your daily energy.

You notice that you never have any energy anymore no matter how much sleep you’re getting. In one of my articles you read that you have to produce energy to have energy. You decide to go to the gym at least three times a week because you want to experience more energy. The additional benefits are that you become more productive, you feel better and you become more successful in your overall life. This is easy to keep up even on those days you don’t feel like. This burning desire comes from an internal source.

Do you see the difference between a desire and a burning desire?

The basis for a burning desire always remains valid. If you go for a temporary purpose, you will soon be tempted to quit in the process of learning the new habit. This can be when it gets difficult or because you think you have already reached the goal.

# 2 Focus on one new habit

Learning a new habit takes a lot of willpower. In the beginning it is easy because then you are still optimally motivated. After a few days you will see that you need more and more willpower to keep up your new habit. Therefore, focus on one new habit at a time, which is easier to maintain.

See above that learning a new habit takes about 66 days. After this period, new willpower will be available to you again. With this willpower you can then learn another new habit.

That means you can create a new habit every 66 days on average! That quickly becomes about five to six new habits a year.

But…, how do you last those 66 days?

# 3 Consider the thermostat

What is the task of a thermostat?

A thermostat is a device that is set at a certain temperature and its job is to keep the room at that set temperature.

Are you aware that you also function as a thermostat?

The big disadvantage of this thermostat is that it stops the development of a new habit, because it is after all its task to keep the temperature the same. If you like to drink a glass of wine regularly, that is the identity that your thermostat sets. When you start learning a new habit (new identity), for example stop drinking alcohol, you will soon see that your current identity tries to withdraw you. Oh well, that one glass of wine doesn’t matter. The existing thermostat setting, so your current identity, does not care that you go outside your comfort zone. It wants certainty and familiarity. 

Therefore thoughts will soon run through your mind that you are better off quitting that new habit and before you realize it yourself, you are back to square one.

You can change this thermostat process in two ways:

  1. Boost the temperature – If you don’t want to fall back into your old patterns, boost your activities. By increasing your activities, you are less likely to fall back into old patterns.
  2. Create Discipline – Discipline is a muscle. The more you train that, the stronger your discipline will become. That makes it easier to integrate the new habit and thus leave your old identity.

# 4 Do it for 66 days

There are several theories about the number of days it takes to learn a new habit. The time it takes varies from person to person.

One can get into a habit in 33 days and the other takes an average of 66 days to do it. My advice is to take 66 days into account. Better to bet “something over the top” than after 33 days allow yourself to stop learning your habit for a few days with the chance that you will revert back to your old patterns.

# 5 Replace your existing habit

Habits are often linked to triggers. This means that when a certain situation takes place, your habit is triggered in that moment. You probably know Pavlov’s experiment, classical conditioning. Dogs salivated before they were fed. Pavlov rang the bell every time before feeding the dogs. Eventually, the dogs also started producing saliva when they heard the bell, without being fed. So they replaced an existing habit with a new one. You can also apply that for yourself.

Example trigger -> habit: you are busy writing an article and suddenly you have a mind block as to what to write. You get annoyed and before you know it you close the laptop, grab the mobile phone and start scrolling mindlessly on social media.

In this situation, the trigger is that you get irritated. And the habit is that you grab your mobile phone. You can overcome this by replacing your old habit with a new one. You must then become aware of the trigger and the associated habit. Only then can you replace the old habit with a new one.

An example: One of my high performance clients quickly reaches for chocolate when he is stressed. By first realizing his trigger and current habit, he was able to swap the chocolate for a five-minute meditation.

Don’t you have a negative old habit? Then follow the following advice:

# 6 Link your new habit to an existing one

A few years ago this was an important tip for me. When you want to learn a new habit, link it to a certain situation or current habit.

Suppose you want to go to the gym right after work, then getting in the car is the first thing you do after work. Make sure your bag of sportswear is in the car, so that the new habit is activated to go to the gym first and then go home. When you have done this a number of times, seeing a sports bag in the car is the trigger to start exercising first.

Another example: Suppose you want to be more in the ‘now’ when you come into contact with other people. You can then choose a door trigger. Every time you go through a door, you ask yourself, what grade am I giving myself right now when it comes to being in the now? And how can I increase this score?

This way of linking an existing habit to a new one is a smart tactic to learn a new habit faster and easier.

# 7 Reward yourself

Did you, for two weeks, perhaps reluctantly, keep up your sports schedule? Reward yourself, for example, with a wonderful massage. Or take a nice walk when you have written your new article.

Rewarding is extremely important! Not only when learning new habits, but also when you have achieved a certain goal. By rewarding you train the “reward system in your brain” which makes you feel good every time you perform a habit.

#8 Have an accountability partner

If you have someone who holds you responsible and keeps you accountable, you can speed up the process of learning new habits. Do not choose a friend. Why not? You know the saying, Don’t mix business with pleasure…? They want to be your friend and do not want to hurt you, but they also have to keep you to your agreements. That often does not work and can cause strain on the relationship.

Find a coach with the skills to stick to your own goals. My business coach and high performance coach clients give me the feedback below:

“I am very pleased that I report my actions to Wouter every day so that I can keep to my own goals and learn new habits faster”

“Wouter not only keeps me to my actions, he also pushes me as a coach so that I can reach my goals faster and also realize that I have so much more in me than I think.”

“Wouter gives me new strategies and teaches me the right habits so that I can reach my goals faster”

A good accountability partner

  • keeps you to your actions no-matter-what and if you do not do it you will be informed immediately;
  • pushes you to go beyond your current identity and realize that you can achieve and do so much more than you do now;
  • gives you a strategy you can rely on to help you reach your goals faster.

Whoever you choose, ensure that your accountability partner meets the criteria of all three of the above.

Time to learn the new habit!

Alright, you now have the strategy that I apply monthly in creating my new habits. It is now up to you to apply this strategy in practice.

Note: I can’t repeat it often enough, just by reading this article you won’t get there. Apply the successive steps immediately to make this a success!

Do you want a coach as an accountability partner?