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The AIA Running Track along Riverside is a great place to start, if you want to run regularly in Phnom Penh. Photo: Supplied

“We first make our habits, then our habits make us.” – John Dryden

“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” – Warren Buffett

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle

Let’s be honest. All of us have had that small voice in our heads going “I’m going to be healthier/better/smarter this year!” and yet, we never really seem to act on it to see it to completion. What exactly is the dilemma that we all face on a daily basis?

A best seller – “The Power of Habit” explains how the key to the success of individuals and businesses is credited to their ability to: identify bad habits, break them and then restart the journey and maintain good habits. A simple introduction of cues, routine and reward will be able to get good habits instilled in you.

Whether your desire is to maintain an active lifestyle by working out consistently, learn a new language, or expand your hobby into a career, everything boils down to turning small acts into a habit. The idea is to start the wheel running on good habits and keep it going. Like a hamster, the moment we get the wheel running on small acts that lead to our goals, it will be difficult to break the loop.

For example, if you’ve been building the habit of jogging every evening, and you miss one evening’s run, you will feel an annoying itch – like a part of you is incomplete. Here are some easy steps to help you start good habits today!

Start small. Do not overwhelm yourself with big goals. You can incorporate little changes in your life, like doing 10 sit-ups during your TV time, or challenging yourself to walk up a flight of stairs starting today! Once you’re doing it consistently, you can double that amount to intensify it.

In an exercise regime, start small first. Photo: Supplied

Immerse yourself deep into what you are doing. If you’ve just taken up yoga, read more about the movement. If you are starting to run regularly, try running at a dedicated track with others – AIA Running Track along the Riverside, behind Hotel Cambodiana is a great place to do so, for free. If you’re learning a new language, watch a TV show in that language. The more you immerse yourself in what you do, the more satisfaction and love you grow for it, and the easier it is to make the habit a part of your life.

Plan your day out and be disciplined. Allocate a specific time to that habit each day and make it your priority. Treat this as your sacred time and make no excuse for it. Be disciplined in spending time each day to build that good habit, and soon it will be part of your daily routine.

Get a diary or a smart phone application to track your progress of your habit. If you’ve managed to exercise 5 days out of the week, scribble each date down. If you’re learning a new skill, write a simple sentence each day on what you learnt. Plot your progress in a graph. What you are doing is visualising your progress. Be as honest as you can because you’ll see how much you’ve achieved, and it will give you motivation to keep at it and progress even further.

It’s much easier to stick to a habit whenever we have company or a friend – this way you can keep each other in check and at the same time, push one another forward. As you progress in building your new habit, make more friends with like-minded people, so if your initial training buddy does pull out, you are more likely to continue on. Having a group of people to journey alongside you in your new habit also keeps you accountable to reaching your goal.

Every milestone is an achievement. Set milestones and reward yourself if you manage to achieve them. For example, get yourself a treat when you’ve completed your beginner’s level language exam. Or go for a foot massage when you’ve managed to run 5km for 5 days in a row. It’s all about marking your journey to your good habit with positive reinforcement!

These 6 steps will hopefully guide you to build your habits consistently, thus helping you to achieve your goal. Some people may find one or two of these steps particularly helpful in helping them build the habit and choose to focus on those to keep them motivate. Find something that works for you, and build your good habits consistently.

All the best!

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