Raise your hand if you have tried to start a new habit only to have it fall to the wayside months later.
When I started thinking about personal finance and what I was going to write about on Cash for Tacos, it became clear to me that a lot of personal finance is simply finding ways to establish different money habits.
It’s about finding ways to stick to our shopping list or making budgeting part of our weekly routine. A lot of personal finance is all about being inspired to make a change and figuring out how to make that change stick.
So how do we create new habits and actually stick with them?
I’m no expert, but I am fascinated by the different reasons we are able to stick to some habits while struggling immensely with others.
One Monday night during a yoga class, the teacher talked about two ingredients that every habit needs to be successful. And how success can only be achieved by balancing these two ingredients.
This idea completely made sense to me and I started to wonder how these two ingredients affected my own ability to create and stick to new habits.
So let’s take a look at the two ingredients every successful habit needs and how to use them to get your habits to stick.
THE NECESSARY AND NEVER-ENDING CYCLE OF HABITS
So what are the two ingredients that every habit needs? Inspiration and commitment.
My yoga teacher explained that inspiration and commitment go hand in hand—you can’t successfully create a habit with only one and not the other.
Let’s take a look at how this typically plays out when trying to form a new habit (at least for me).
In my experience, habits start with some sort of inspiration. Something that energizes me and pushes me through the early adoption phase of a new habit.
But like most things, this excitement tends to fade. I now need to make an effort to keep the ball rolling. Here is where commitment comes in to carry me through the next phase.
This works for a while until I feel myself start to become bored or complacent. So I can either let the new habit fade or keep it going by fueling the habit with more inspiration.
If I choose to reignite the inspiration, I’ve chosen to continue the cycle of inspiration and commitment.
And this cycle continues on and on until I decide that this habit is no longer serving me or until I break the cycle and stop fueling it with inspiration and commitment.
In order to fuel our inspiration and commitment, it’s helpful to know where to find inspiration and how to evoke commitment. Let’s look at some techniques we can use to help us fuel this cycle of inspiration and commitment.
FIND INSPIRATION FOR YOUR HABIT
Sources of inspiration are all around us.
Finding that initial inspiration is usually the easiest part of starting a new habit. But becoming re-inspired after you’ve moved on to the commitment stage can take a little work. So knowing where to look for new inspiration can help.
Books are an inexpensive way to find inspiration.
I love checking out a ton of books from the library on a subject and paging through them to see if any of them resonate with me. If I find one that I really love and think I can find continued motivation from it, then I’ll consider purchasing it for the home library.
There are a ton of blogs out there. This means that you are bound to find a blogger that you resonate with.
Blogs are full of personal stories. And the best thing about blogs is that every blogger has a different point of view to share—a different story to pull inspiration from.
3. FACEBOOK GROUPS / INSTAGRAM HASHTAGS
This may seem like an odd one for finding inspiration. But I’ve found that by being part of Facebook groups that are focused on the habit I’m trying to create or following an Instagram hashtag that relates to my new habit can be inspiring.
When I see others creating new habits or having the same struggles as me, it helps inspire me to keep going.
4. ATTEND A CONFERENCE OR A RETREAT
When you really need a good kick in the butt, there is nothing like a conference or retreat with like-minded people to get the juices flowing again.
Making connections and having a shared experience with others is nothing but inspiring. (It’s also exhausting for some of us introverts, so remember to always be kind to yourself)
5. LOOK INSIDE OF YOURSELF
This one may be the hardest, but deep down inside each of us probably lies the inspiration we have been looking for.
Two techniques I like to use for finding the inspiration inside of myself are journaling and meditation.
Both of these are great ways to uncover some of those deep down desires.
The tough thing about journaling and meditation is that often our desires/inspiration don’t jump out at us and say “hey, look at me over here”.
It can definitely take some regular practice to unearth that inspiration. But in my opinion, the inspiration that comes from within us is typically the most powerful
Now that we have some go-to sources of inspiration, let’s look at some ways to evoke a little commitment.
TECHNIQUES FOR STAYING COMMITTED TO A HABIT
Finding a way to stay committed to habit is just as important as finding your inspiration. But, unfortunately, it is often the more difficult ingredient to figure out.
It can take quite a bit of trial and error to find a method of commitment that works for yourself and your desired habit. So here are a few ideas on how to commit to that new habit to get you started.
1. FIND A WAY TO MAKE THE HABIT SIMPLE
Keeping it simple when starting a new habit is a great way to build momentum.
If your new desired habit is cooking at home more, then starting off with recipes that require advanced cooking techniques may not be the best choice.
Find ways to make your new habit simple. That could mean finding a phone app that automates some of the processes or makes it easy to find resources to start your new habit.
I’ve been trying to stick to a daily meditation practice for the past few years. One thing that has helped me is finding an app that is my one-stop-shop for meditations. When I don’t have to search for meditations, it’s so much easier for me to simply wake up and do a quick meditation.
2. SET ROUTINES FOR YOUR HABIT
“Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.” – James Clear. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
One of the best things I learned from reading James Clear’s Atomic Habits is how attaching a new habit to a routine can help the new habit stick.
This worked for a while with my morning meditation practice. I tacked my meditation practice on to my morning routine of getting up, going to the bathroom and chugging a glass of water. So after chugging that glass of water, I headed right back upstairs for a short meditation practice.
3. TRACK YOUR HABIT
One of the easiest and most powerful techniques for getting myself to stick to a new habit is tracking my success.
Recently, I was on a 100-day streak for meditation. One of the reasons I made it to 100 days is because my mediation app tracks consecutive days of mediation. I loved seeing that number increase and was motivated to keep going. I did not want to break the streak!
But it all came crashing down when I left my phone at work one day and couldn’t log a meditation into the app.
Sure I could have still meditated and “kept” the streak going in reality, but with my phone no longer showing 100+ consecutive days I lost my motivation.
I’m sad to say that I’ve struggled to be consistent with my meditation practice since that 100-day streak on my phone vanished.
So for me, finding a way to track a habit is very powerful.
To track your habit, you can write it down in a notebook or find a habit tracker app to help you.
4. FIND AN ACCOUNTABILITY BUDDY
This commitment technique is one of my favorites.
Find someone who is working towards a similar goal and agree to check in with each other on a regular basis.
I was recently struggling to get back into a daily meditation practice again. As stated, I had fallen off the wagon after 100 consecutive days and was having trouble making it a daily habit again. My routine wasn’t working anymore and I needed another method.
To help push me, I found accountability buddies in the personal finance Twitter community including TwentyFree and Financial Pilgrimage. Each day we check in with each other to let each other know how our daily mediation went.
This is a relatively new thing, but so far I think it’s helped all of us get a meditation in when we may not have otherwise done so.
5. FIND A COMMUNITY
This one is similar to finding an accountability buddy, but instead of enlisting a single person, you surround yourself with a group of like-minded people who are trying to form similar habits.
Community is powerful. Finding a space where you feel like you belong and are supported is so important for our mental health. But it can also be a great way to help you stay committed to that new goal.
This is probably why programs such as Weight Watchers and group fitness programs work so well for some people. When you have a group of people trying to tackle similar hurdles, the sense of togetherness can fuel commitment.
For me, I’ve found a community of personal finance bloggers (mostly through Twitter) that have helped me continue to meet my financial goals as well as help me stay committed to the blog. This blog has been hard work, and knowing others feel the same helps us push on through together.
6. CREATE A PLAN TO AVOID YOUR HABIT-SABOTAGING TRIGGERS
We all have them. Things that wedge themselves into our plans for greatness and create havoc.
Things like the donuts a coworker brought into the office, the makeup aisle at Target or the beer garden across the street.
The best defense for these triggers is identifying them and then creating a plan to avoid (or enjoy them in moderation) them during your quest.
For example, I have a weakness for snacks. Sweet snacks, savory snacks, it doesn’t matter. I love them all. So since I know this about myself, I do my best to keep them out of the house.
Just simply identifying this as something I struggle with helps me prevent my urges from sabotaging my eating habit goals. But believe me, this is still one of my biggest struggles.
BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER TO STICK TO A NEW HABIT
Let’s now look at how this could possibly all play out for creating a new habit such as tracking your expenses.
Initial inspiration: You are tired of feeling strapped for cash each month. So you google ways to start saving money and you find several blogs that indicate that the first step is understanding where your money is actually going. This inspires you to want to track your expenses.
Commitment: Now that you are inspired to track your expenses you need a way to commit to the habit. After some more googling, you find that there are some amazing apps to help make it easy to track your expenses. You then download the one with the best reviews and start tracking. You are feeling great!
A few months roll by. You’ve done well tracking your expenses, but it’s starting to feel tedious and you are often falling behind on entering your expenses into your app. Now is time to either decide to continue the habit or let it fall to the wayside.
Inspiration: Here is where reigniting your inspiration comes into play. By refueling your habit with some new inspiration you can prevent your habit from dying. You don’t want your habit to die, so you find a Facebook group that is focused on budgeting. There you see other people working towards the same goal and you again feel inspired to continue.
Commitment: You now have the desire to continue tracking your expenses, but need a new way to stay committed. In addition to using your expense tracking app, you now also set up a routine where every morning when you are enjoying your coffee you open the app and verify all of your expenses are properly tracked.
At some point, you may find yourself struggling to stick to the habit again and will need to decide again whether it’s in your best interest to keep the habit going. If it is, then you go right back to finding your inspiration again to fuel that habit. The cycle of inspiration and commitment continues.
YOU GOT THIS
With your techniques for finding inspiration and committing yourself to your goals, you are now armed with the skills and resources you need to continually fuel your habit.
When you find your new habit falling to the wayside, it’s easy to feel frustrated and give up.
But if you recognize that all you need to do is throw some more fuel on the fire in the form of inspiration and commitment to keep it going, then all won’t be lost.