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Build Better Habits

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Visualize Your Progress and Stay the Course with a Habit Tracker

The most effective form of motivation is progress. When we get a signal that we are moving forward, we become motivated to continue down that path. When it comes to building better habits, a crucial step is to visualize the progress you’re making and to be able to see yourself move forward. Perhaps the most straightforward way to visualize your progress is with a “habit tracker.”

A habit tracker is a simple way to measure whether you did a habit. The most basic format is to get a calendar and cross off each day you stick with your routine. For example, if you meditate on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, each date gets an X. As time passes, the calendar becomes a record of your habit streak.

I attached a couple of Habit Trackers that I have created and used. You are welcome to use them, stick with a calendar or create your own.

Once you decide on your habit tracker, the mantra to remember is “Never break the chain.” Once you start tracking your habits, you don’t want to break the chain of crossing off each day or filling in each cell.

“Don’t break the chain” is a powerful mantra. Don’t break the chain of stashing money away in your savings account every month and you’ll build wealth and gain peace of mind. Don’t break the chain of meditation, and you’ll gain focus and more control over your internal state. Don’t break the chain of reading every day and you will finish 20+ books yearly. Don’t break the chain of practicing guitar every day and you’ll gain mastery faster than expected.

There are other forms of habit tracking outside of using a calendar or a written sheet. Track how many pages of a book manuscript you wrote each day by adding a hairpin to a container after finishing each page. Track each set of push-ups by adding marbles to a jar. Track how many sales calls you make with paper clips. No matter how you do it, these strategies provide proof of your progress. One glance at the X’s on the calendar or the marbles in the jar, and you immediately know how much work you have (or haven’t) been putting in.

These visual signals of progress can be particularly powerful on a bad day. When you’re feeling down, it’s easy to forget about all the progress you have already made. At this stage of the challenge, you may feel like you’re putting in a lot of effort without seeing many results. Habit tracking provides visual proof of your hard work—a subtle reminder of how far you’ve come and how consistent you’ve been.

Let’s discuss how to integrate habit tracking with the other methods discussed in this challenge. You could start with an implementation intention for tracking.

For example:

· I record my set in my workout journal after I finish each set at the gym.

· I write down what I ate for dinner after I put my plate in the dishwasher in the kitchen.

· I record how I slept in my sleep journal after I turn my alarm off in the morning in bed.

· I put an X on the calendar after I take my medicine and vitamins in the kitchen.

· I write down a moment I shared with my kids after I put them to bed at 8pm in their bedroom.

The completion of the behavior is the cue to write it down. Of course, even with a clear intention, there will be sometimes when you fall off the challenge. Whenever this happens, try to remind yourself of a simple rule: “never miss twice.” If you miss one day, try to get back into it as quickly as possible.

Missing one workout happens but commit to not missing two planned workouts in a row. Eat an entire pizza but follow it up with a healthy meal. You can’t be perfect, but you can avoid a second lapse. As soon as one streak ends, get started on the next one.

The breaking of a habit doesn’t matter if the reclaiming of it is fast. The first mistake is never the one that ruins you. It is the spiral of repeated mistakes that follows. Missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new habit. Too often, we fall into an all-or-nothing cycle with our habits. The problem is not slipping up; the problem is thinking that if you can’t do something perfectly, then you shouldn’t do it at all. Never miss twice helps you overcome that pitfall.

The key insight of this step is to visualize the progress you’re making each day. If you have to wait for the number on the scale to change, or for your bank account to increase, or for a sense of calm to wash over your life, then the feedback loop is often too long for you to maintain motivation.

If, however, you’re focused on tracking your actions – whether that be the number of workouts you perform each week, the number of sales calls you make each day, or the amount of time you spend meditating each morning – then you’ll have immediate visual proof that you are showing up and living out the habits that are important to your life and goals.


· Rather than having some linear relationship with achievement, habits tend to have more of a compound growth curve. The greatest returns are delayed. Temptation bundling and commitment devices are two helpful strategies that may enable you to get over the hump and build a habit that lasts.

· External rewards are one of the best strategies we have for maintaining motivation while we’re waiting for long-term outcomes to arrive.

· If you have to wait for long-term rewards, then the feedback loop is often too long for you to maintain motivation. If, however, you’re focused on tracking your actions, then you’ll have immediate visual proof that you are showing up and living out the habits that are important to your life and goals.

Progress Check-In

By now, you will have a simple two-minute habit, a clear implementation intention that helps you identify when and where to perform the habit, an environment that is optimized for your particular habit, and a series of strategies that can provide additional incentive during periods when you lack motivation or feel like you’re sliding off course.


Change Your Habits, Change Your Life Welcome to the 30 Days...


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